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The Blackening has gotten a lot of hype, it was heralded as a big comeback when it came out, and five years later it is still talked about. I'm not quite sure what they're coming back to, they were never very good and this album is loaded with awful nu-metal shit, going overboard with chugging and still revolving around the terrible nu-metal shouter who sings worse than Anders Friden's worst croaking. Much worse. What they're trying to do here is a monstrosity - dragging out the same old nu-metal shit with flavor of the week thrashmetalcore and a lot of really bad lead guitar playing. All of that is end-to-end, which explains the four songs that add up to ~40 minutes. It's awful. Machine Head are a very crude sum of their components, and a bullet-point list offers better organization than any song on the album.
-Nu metal chugging that's not even catchy, devoid of the catchy grooves that anchor the genre as their main hooks.
-Leftover mallcore riffs reworked into weak metalcore grooves that that could pass off as extras from an early Chimaira album.
-An occasional piece that sounds like some sort of unoriginal metalcore/thrash like Trivium.
-Lame radio rock choruses with a singer that doesn't even have the charisma of a typical butt rock singer, sort of like Puddle of Mudd but less memorable. Read everything that All That Remains' detractors say about their singer in the last five years, this is as bad as people say that is.
-Completely aimless random melodic noodling, often harmonized, that goes nowhere. It's not a guitar solo that grabs the feeling of the song and soars with it, it's more like an amateur chopping through 16th notes at a moderate pace with no idea where he's going with it, nor any idea where it started.
These components have been slapped together by a lot of alternative hard rock, nu-metal, and groove/metalcore bands, but the songwriting here is a major detractor. Two songs are over ten minutes, another two are over nine, and they go absolutely nowhere really slowly. "Halo" drags on whole hopping between a nu metal groove and a wussy chorus until they're both worn out, then an extended noodling section that brings you to the halfway point. A third of the way into each song I'm begging for it to be over, and halfway through I don't know what they could even be trying to do. There are also a handful of long, distant sounding intros/outros that rival the intensity of an opening band's soundcheck. They might be going for something atmospheric, which is a very poor decision when the intro could wear out the welcome of a song that would be terrible without it.
There are a few good moments on the album. "Aesthetics of Hate" starts out with some decent riffing, and the final track has a decent melodic section buried over six minutes in. One of each done well in over an hour, contrasting with the rest of the album that's no good at all. A broken clock is right twice a day, but apparently they couldn't sort out any of the mediocrity which fills most of the running time. The vocals are unforgivably awful throughout the whole album, but it seems that Robb Flynn could do better, as it sounds like he actually tries to sing on the Iron Maiden cover that's a bonus track - on all of the album tracks, he whines like he belongs on the Family Values Tour.
The most glaring failure of this album is that the veteran nu-metal band isn't even good at being nu-metal. They don't have the funk and swagger of Korn or E.Town Concrete, who borrow it from hip-hop. They don't have the driving feel of Static X or Powerman 5000, who chug on one or two power chords like they mean it, and also know when to end a song. They don't even have the obnoxious and truly offensive waggle of Limp Bizkit. Machine Head are delusional about being a shitty nu metal band, they're not even good at it, and by throwing all the shit they want to be into the mix, they put together something that's in the basement of nu-metal with Kittie, though at least they seem to embrace the spectacle they put on. It's not shameless like that, it's shameful nu-metal that tries to not be what it is, it tries to be something else that it can't be at the same time, and it comes out in these awful ten minute misadventures. They're too concerned with mixing in some Pantera-aping and throwing in lots of solos that they couldn't do a single one of them well.
Ten minute nu-metal songs, what the fuck?