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As I am a Machine Head fanboy I will try to be as unbiased as possible. Hellalive is one of the greatest live albums, ever. It confirms that Machine Head is at their best in sold-out stadiums. Although Machine Head was going through their "mallcore-stage" of their career, with Ahrue Luster on guitar and the creation of nu-metal-esque CDs: The Burning Red and Supercharger, they surprisingly and effectively make a fantastic album. Also, during the early 00's Machine Head was getting a large amount of criticism because of their earlier releases. Now to the album itself.
Hellalive was recorded at Brixton Academy, London on December 8, 2001. The sound and production of the live release is phenomenal. What I sometimes hear is not enough of the sound/response of the crowd. Or the other way around. However, with this release Machine Head were able to come up with the perfect volume for the crowd. This creates a Flynn-Crowd yell and response thing going on. I find this to be the best part about the album. I love everything about it. Through this the listener is able to feel as if they are there at Brixton Academy. Overall, the production greats a fantastic atmosphere.
The set-list chosen for is album is great. It has a lot of tracks from their early days. This includes Old, None But My Own and I'm Your God Now. These are great additions to the set. The songs from Machine Head's "mallcore stage", that are on the set, are only "the cream of the crop." These include The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears, American High, and Bulldozer. These are hugely improved while performed live. However, the inclusion of Supercharger, Crashing Around You and Nothing Left are incredibly dumb. Especially finishing off their live-set with Supercharger. Most Machine Head shows are finished with the incredible Davidian. Instead, on this night they finish it off with the crappy Supercharger. After Davidian the listener is left very satisfied, but with the inclusion of Supercharger the listener is left on a sour note. Then there is the song Crashing Around You. It is nor bad or good. However, on Hellalive I feel forced to say that is bad. Not because the performance is mediocre. Honestly, I think it is a vastly improved version of the song. To be able to listen to this sub-par song you have to sit through a very annoying Robb Flynn rant that is approximately 2 minutes and 20 seconds!
Hellalive is an aggressive, fast and intense album! It is a fantastic achievement for Machine Head, since they were "in a rut" at the time. They are able to persevere through the tough times and make an incredibly unique and good live album. Hellalive, also, shows Machine Head's passion towards music. For example, Flynn's very intense and loud calls to the crowd. Robb Flynn's great ability to fully interact with the crowd is shown with this CD, as well. Overall, any groove metal fan, thrash metal fan, Machine Head fan, live CD connoisseur or someone just looking for one aggressive CD should look no further then Machine Head's Hellalive. It is HELL, in a good way, at Brixton Academy when Machine Head is around!
Best Tracks: Bulldozer, Ten Ton Hammer, Old, Take My Scars
In the end, the MH baiting just gets fucking boring. Since 1995, a ridiculous amount of metalheads have hounded and heckled this band unceasingly, as though endless whiny bitching is the way to ensure that another album like ‘Burn My Eyes’ comes out. What can really get on the nerves is the fact that if they did release something in that vein, people would moan about the repetition of the formula Well, stick this in your fucking pipes and suck on it – ‘Burn My Eyes’ has gone. Cherish at as the classic it is and leave it at that.
Now, not for a second am I suggesting that the sun shines out the arse of much of Machine Head’s post ‘Burn…’ material, but then to disregard it all simply because it does not reach those lofty standards is a bit of a daft attitude to take. And nowhere can this point be more solidly proven than on the ‘Head’s first live recording, ‘Hellalive.’
Opening to the roars of the crowd and the strains of the infamous Omen film soundtrack, the band waste absolutely no fucking time. Crashing into ‘Bulldozer’ with a thunderous, pile driving drum fill and squealing, shrieking guitar, the ‘Head spend the next 7 songs tearing the Brixton Academy a new arsehole. While the likes of ‘Old’ and ‘I’m Your God Now’ are as viciously anthemic as many have come to expect from them, it’s the material of latter albums that offers a kick ass surprise – tracks such as ‘Crashing Around You’ and ‘The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears’ are granted a lease of new, bastardised life and sound 10 times more heavy than they ever could on record. The former, especially, sounds just like its fucking title is coming true, the meandering half-ballad becoming an epic monster of a song in the live arena.
And therein lies the album’s greatest strength; it’s ability to soundly assure the listening metalhead that a live arena is truly the place Machine Head belong. While Rob Flynn’s (heavy, heavy) guitar does occasionally drop out, he more than makes up for it in his competent attempts to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Dave McClain and Adam Duce prove themselves to be one of the tightest, most pounding rhythm sections of modern times, and even the archetypal mallcore guitarist Ahrue Luster manages to make it through the set without spoiling proceedings.
Of course, the album is far from perfect – much of the set after ‘I’m Your God Now’ sees a considerable drop in quality, and simply plods along with nothing worth mentioning. Except for ‘American High’ of course, which frankly sounds fucking abysmal, and interests tapers off as fast as expectations of a kick-ass ending.
But, astoundingly, Machine Head pull through with fists raised high in the final round. ‘The Burning Red’ is a power ballad like no other – immense in its beauty, pensive and raw rather than soppy and teary, it’s a perfectly prelude to the crashing finale of THAT track, the absolutely mammoth ‘Davidian’. Heavy as all fuck and akin to a sucker punch to the throat, this bastard track should by rights have finished off the crowd rather than ‘Supercharger’, which, while acceptable, simply doesn’t make your brain feel like it’s been crushed into dust like ‘Davidian’ does.
So that’s that: ‘Hellalive.’ Besides some stinking piles of shit here and there, the glowing gems make this an album any ‘Head fanatic can be proud to have amidst there metal collection.
Suck on that, indeed.