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Atmospheric groove metal - 78%

gasmask_colostomy, December 9th, 2014

Every time I think of this album, I am completely averse to it. Yet every time I listen to it, I find it enjoyable for the most part. I think my problem is that the first time I heard it I just remembered the ugly intro to 'The Frontlines' and I was weirded out. 'The More Things Change...' isn't as noticeably thrash-influenced as 'Burn My Eyes', but nor does it touch upon the nu metal tendencies that would follow on the next two albums: there are a few songs that sound like a concrete Exodus, notably 'Bay of Pigs' and 'Blistering', though my attention is drawn to the slower, creeping tempos on 'Violate' and 'Down to None' that are unusual for groove metal in having a guitar tone and air of menace that is actually doomy.

Maybe that's why I don't mind this album - it's the only Machine Head album that has atmosphere. It doesn't have atmosphere in the way that a Candlemass or Burzum album has atmosphere, but the production and attitude have a definable quality to them that I will call dirtiness. That snorting bass sounds like a pig rolling around in the mud and comes clear through the mix, having many moments in which it dominates. That takes the attention away from the drums, which don't do a lot to stand out despite a solid performance, mired in mediocre fills and standard patterns as they are. The guitars are odd even for this type of music, because they sound much better at a crushing pace, though Machine Head do play fast. This means that the riffs groove heavily and in a good way a lot of the time, since there are some of the slower riffs on 'Ten Ton Hammer' and 'Down to None' that ooze power and have no need to speed up. There are some more generic grooves thrown in, like the chorus of 'Bay of Pigs', but the solos totally surprise, sounding almost 70s in tone.

This reason why this groove metal album works is Robb Flynn's voice, which is not normally what I would say about Machine Head's output. There is something darker and less direct about the way he sings on 'The More Things Change...' that makes the whole thing more complex and intriguing. There are a few less convincing moments, like the clean chorus of 'Take My Scars', but there is no predictability to be seen, nothing seems forced, and the songs' messages are less overt and more sensed. This album seems to come rinsed of the positivity and fighting spirit that other MH releases (especially post-'Supercharger') have been saturated with, while the "city in crisis" theme of 'Burn My Eyes' is not pushed so relentlessly and allows the songs to breathe on their own. In addition to a soaring twist on his usually rough bark, Flynn sings softly and menacingly on 'Violate', which has an intro that - excessive length aside - really shouldn't work, yet is almost justified by the nuance in its delivery. Coupled with the oblique and melancholic guitar parts (the middle section of 'Spine', for example) that don't appear on any other MH album, these vocals give the album enough atmosphere to mark it out clearly - it sounds old and distant in the way that the cover image suggests.

All of the songs on 'The More Things Change' are discernible from one another, which is a good start from the band's point of view. There is character in each composition - which MH have occasionally neglected to include - and diversity in the mixture of styles and tempos that the band have combined into their signature style. There is pure heaviness and ability in 'Blistering', catchiness in 'Ten Ton Hammer', menace in 'Violate', and 'Blood of the Zodiac' almost has an ethereal quality that I would say is the defining trait of this album. There are weaker moments and poor choices, but no song is completely dispensable, making this one of Machine Head's best efforts and an enjoyable listen.

Directionless and hard to pay attention to - 37%

The_Ghoul, May 1st, 2014

I love how people paint Machine Head's transition into the mallcore found on The Burning Red and Supercharger as an instantaneous thing, where they went from flawless groove metal to complete shit overnight. While Robb's vocals turned mallcore overnight, as did the band's sense of aesthetics, and the change of guitarist notwithstanding, it's pretty clear here what Machine Head were gunning for in their career future. While there are some more respectable songs on here, such as the surprisingly (given the context of the rest of the songs) energetic Bay of Pigs, or the ambitious offerings of Violate, the majority of this album seems to meander around with muddy riffs and snail's pace drumming, with the first few songs coming off as an obvious omen to where Machine Head were heading. We have more clean vocals, which I have no problem with, but they're often paired with soggy, lazy riffing playing nauseatingly contemporary (at the time) music. Flynn's gruff shout from Burn My Eyes is still here in full, and prevents one of the singles, Ten Ton Hammer, from being a complete waste of time, and we have a few faster sections in some songs, but I get a strong lazy vibe coming from this.

Part of the blame must go to the riff sewage we hear a lot of. I'm talking about stupid 0-1-0-0-0-1-0-0-0-1-0-0- riffing with sloth-like drumming behind it. I hear a few glimmers of McClain's talent here, but this whole thing sounds restrained as fuck, a huge waste in every sense of the word. I also don't know how Logan Mader, as well, managed to lose his ability to move a song forward with the guitars. The guitars drag everything down with their sluggish pace, and then cut out occasionally to expose the repetitive bass grooves, and then come back in with an unrelated idea. While Burn My Eyes had its share of riffs here and there, we are riff starved here, with aural excrement passing off as guitar riffage, and even when those aforementioned faster sections come, by then the songs are starved of momentum for the most part, and this makes the more uptempo parts seem even more out-of-place, often due to their randomness and brevity, much like the little dingleberries that turn a fart into a shart. You may notice all the references I've been making to poop and waste, and that's because the production literally sounds like shit. Not shit-ty, but literally like a trip to the waste water treatment facility. It sounds like amorphous brown gunk with few riffs rising above the (brown) water.

This album suffers not because its inherently shitty, but rather because it doesn't know what it wants to do, and ends up wandering around aimlessly like the driver is asleep at the wheel. The Burning Red, as horribly trend-whoring as it was, knew what it wanted to do. The More Things Change... does not. This album can't decide if it wants to be aggressive groove metal or limp-wristed mallcore, so it comes off sounding like limp-wristed groove metal. It's not mallcore, and gets a lot of points for simply not being a huge amalgam of cliche's, but it's not much better. Like I said, there are moments of genius scattered around this mess, and Robb's reliable workmanlike vocals get the aggression across when the guitars and drums can (don't even get me started on that murky rumbling disguising as bass guitar) but overall this album is a mess from beginning to end. This is not Machine Head's best moment, nor its worst, but it is a clear omen of bad times to come.

And it also reeks of the 90's in the same way "Nothin' For A Good Time" by Poison reeks of the 80's. Any negative connotations the reader would infer from that statement are probably correct.

Bay of Riffs - 85%

Tjler, December 10th, 2013

First of all, the defining factor of how much I like the songs on this album is defined in the intro, because they're all absolute trash. The intro to almost every single song is either droning, high-pitched and/or incredibly boring, though the music that comes after the intro is spectacular.

The bass work in this album is intense and groovy and gives the music on this album an edge over their two latest studio albums, which lack that important component. All of the instrumentation is tied down together with the bass to create a very headbangable and entertaining musical ride. The entire album is full of memorable tracks that, when boosted with an amazing sound system, will blast a crater into your neighborhood. One track that has an extremely crushing main riff is Ten Ton Hammer; the track gives us listeners a taste of the whole album.

Rob's vocals are the good old thrash shout they've always been and in this album you see the improvement from the first, and with a close listen you can really hear the influence of early-mid '90s vocalists like Jonathan Davis (Korn) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour). Speaking of Korn, there's a riff that has come straight out of the nu metal king's repertoire, but I'll leave that for you to find.

The overall sound of the album is a nice 50/50 mix of groove and thrash. Some tracks are cataclysmic in the amount of aggression in the instrumentation and vocals, whereas some songs/passages show just how well Machine Head can compose music with an extreme emphasis on groove. Like I said earlier, the intros are complete and utterly terrible, and almost every track has a ridiculously boring and stretched out intro that is painful to the ears, but the music you find after the intro is definitely worth the wait.

I would and have recommended this album to a lot of friends and I recommend giving it a listen and sharing it with your mates.

Opening Up The Machine - 83%

psychoticnicholai, June 10th, 2013

The second album by Machine Head, The More Things Change... was when the band decided to make their sound much more streamlined and accessible. This led to a simplifying and reorganization of Machine Head's sound to make an album that relied more on consistency and more complex instrumentation instead of just raw emotion and rage. The More Things Change... is not as angry as Burn My Eyes and actually shows some other emotions from time to time. The More Things Change... also showed both sings of maturity, yet also foreshadowed Machine Head's fall into nu metal mediocrity. The More Things Change..., while a decent release, was also a troubling sign of things to come.

The More Things Change... shows more addition of modern and alternative elements to their music. The increase in melodic singing is a welcome addition and breaks up the monotony of the usual shouting. The bass is also more prominent in this album, allowing for heavier riffage and more engaging rests, breaks, and intros in the songs. The signature drilling guitars are still here and work decently to bring out the ideas of the songs. The lyrics, are unfortunately dumber than the ones on Burn My Eyes. Some good examples of dumb lyrics on this album include the "COME ON, COME ON, COME ON, COME ON!" at the end of Struck a Nerve and the hilariously idiotic "I DON'T CARE 'CUZ I DON'T GIVE A FUCK" on Blistering. Nearly everything except the lyrics have improved and all in all.

The More Things Change... has more of the songs sounding rather similar with definite beginnings, middles, and ends for all of them. The very best songs are the crushing intro song Ten Ton Hammer plus the five songs afterwards. All the songs move at about mid-pace with blistering thrashing to build tension and more melodic parts to release tension. This allows for them to feel driving without being monotonous. The More Things Change... has consistency and complexity on it's side to let the songs flow well and dispense their rage.

The More Things Change is a good, but not extraordinary album. It has great songs across the board, but fewer standout songs than Burn My Eyes. Where I can see myself going back to many tracks off of Burn My Eyes, There are only a few songs on The More Things Change... that are truly interesting when it comes to remembering and replaying them. It starts off great and then just goes back to okay instead of Burn My Eyes' mixture of crushing songs. All in all, it's a more accessible release that works to deliver the goods and keep things mostly interesting.

...the more they stay the same. Or maybe not - 91%

NWOAHM666, December 8th, 2011

When one listens to the lines "The more things change, the more they stay the same" on the song "Struck a Nerve", a feeling of irony comes to mind. After all, Machine Head kept changing and changing through all of their career while still retaining their identity, and this album in no exception at all.

The More Things Change... is the only album between their glorious masterpiece Burn My Eyes and the highly nü-metallish The Burning Red. As such, opinions are expectantly polarized in two groups: the ones who say that this album was their last album as the enraged groove thrash band that gave us "Davidian" and the ones who say that this was the beginning of their nü-metallish era that would tragically culminate with 2001's full-fledged disaster Supercharger. From my personal point of view, however, nothing like that happens. This album is positively unrelated to the one that preceded it and to the one that succeeded it. Truth is, the material in question sounds like it was made by a band younger than the Machine Head of 1994. While I would never classify it as nü-metal, there's a sense of youth close to many alternative metal and grunge bands of the same era. And yes, this album stands below Burn My Eyes. Fault? The fact that Chris Kontos left the band, replaced by Dave McClain (ex-Sacred Reich). While I admire McClain's talent as a drummer, he is undeniably slower and less technical than Kontos.

As a direct consequence of McClain's entry, much of the technicality that marked Burn My Eyes is lost, replaced by fast hardcore-like moments of speed and angry grooves. While this album is almost as brutal as its predecessor, a major difference can be felt; if 1994's Burn My Eyes is an expression of rage against social disorder, then 1997's The More Things Change... is still an expression of rage, but a different one that's less social and more political. The lyrical themes now center around inner rage and struggle, devoid of any sociopolitical concerns, and the music becomes somehow more accessible...without, however, becoming weaker by any terms.

Musicianship is, as I said before, less technical than in 1994, starting with the drums. The opening track "Ten Ton Hammer" shows such changes from the beginning; the sense of precision is somewhat lost. Even in the über-fast "Struck a Nerve" or in the slow anger of "The Frontlines", the listener gets the feeling that the drums are lower in standard than what Kontos used to do.

The very same feeling continues to an extent in terms of guitar to the point in which the precise grooves of past are replaced by a (successful) attempt at sludge metal ("Blood of the Zodiac"). The good point here is that the less technical style actually works to a great extent because Mader and Flynn did not waste the aggression of old ("The Frontlines" at 0:40), combining it wisely with the new, grunge-inspired sludges. It's a formula that pretty much works, in fact. Here I admit that some link between their older style and their later style can be felt, however I would not call it important enough. Adam Duce's peculiar (and brutal) bass lines continue to be nearly the same as they were in Burn My Eyes, helping to bring up the decibels (e.g. "Take My Scars") when and where they are needed.

Robb Flynn's vocals give the final touch to this album. Ironically, his voice sounds younger in 1997 than it was in 1994, probably because now he uses a more melodic vocal style ("Ten Ton Hammer", "Take My Scars"), which is still combined with his 1994-ish aggressive thrash metallish yelling as well as his more moderate vocals such as in the verses of "Spine". If I had to pick up one of his vocal passages throughout the whole album and elect it as his triumph, I'd definitely pick "Blood of the Zodiac", more specifically his last minute of incredible melodious shouting. It may as well be one of his best performances ever.

A lot of controversy will always surround Machine Head, especially since 1999. The constant evolution of their musical style is the main reason, and many of their fans will argue that their first 2 albums were their finest hour, including me to be honest. Other people will say that this album was the beginning of their failure. I must disagree. All they did was pick their groove thrash style and make it more accessible and not necessarily worse. In fact, it features a lot more variety than Burn My Eyes. Machine Head would only fail after this, especially four years after, under the period in which they had Ahrue Luster on guitar. I highly recommend this album to fans of '90s metal/groove thrash and especially to people who are starting to get into metal. It's no Burn My Eyes, but it is still an excellent album.

Escape from metal goodness. - 34%

hells_unicorn, March 21st, 2010

I remember catching Escape From L.A., the rather lackluster sequel to one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, a couple weeks ago and that famous cliché line Kurt Russell keeps repeating about how “The More Things Change”, and I couldn’t help but notice a huge parallel between that film and this rather unfortunate album. Unlike “Escape From New York”, “Burn My Eyes” was not a terribly enjoyable experience, but otherwise the analogy fits quite well. Regardless to whether or not Robb Flynn lifted the title for this off of that quote, essentially you’ve got the same story, but without the power of a few generally good ideas. This sounds like a watered down, dumbed down, less metallic version of the overt mishmash of Pantera grooves and “Sound Of White Noise” atmosphere, with more of the flaws and less of the charms to boot.

Some are pretty quick to start pointing out the KoRn influences, but objectively speaking, this isn’t a whole lot more mallcore sounding than the previous release, which will become the case upon the advent of future releases. There is a tiny bit more reliance on poorly placed harmonic notes to give that irritating, nails on a chalkboard sound associated with the various enemies of metal. We also have a really obvious rip-off of the aforementioned mallcore pioneers first radio hit “Blind” in “Struck A Nerve”, which copies the general riffing concept of the former, but superimposes it on a groove based format where the guitars have slightly, and I emphasize slightly, more gusto to them. But the principle offender here for all those wanting something metal-based is still that grungy goodness that all of the sweaty lawnmower men get off to, particularly the cases of Flynn’s really cheap John Bush imitation clean vocals and on those slow atmospheric sections where the groove shifts completely to the drums and the bass, while the guitars all but fade into an ether of limp-wristed chord outlines.

The primary thing that really sinks this album is the lack of distinction between songs, as the band keeps going back to the same well of 2 or 3 ideas over and over. A couple songs like “Ten Ton Hammer”, which falls short of what its name implies by about 9.5 tons, make vain attempts at incorporating elements of what gave the first couple of songs on “Burn My Eyes” a little bit of punch, but they tend to fall into the same trap of morphing into softball grunge rock at key points, and put a lot more emphasis on banal, 2 note rhythmic drones, rather than finding a signature riff like the one that kicks off “Davidian” and really ramming the point home. “Violate” and “Blood Of The Zodiac” are served slightly better by being longer in length and managing to find a few good ideas in their epic meandering. What emerges from these ventures a tiny bit closer to sludge territory ala Crowbar, which is a step up, but still well below where it could be. Ultimately, listening to this entire album is an exercise in differentiating between the weak and the utterly atrocious moments, though generally things tend more towards the former.

This can still be categorized as groove metal, though it sometimes has trouble maintaining the second half of that label. There’s a few good guitar solos here and there that avoid the wretched, effects smothered drivel put out by Sepultura at around this juncture, but they become fewer and farther between than were the case 3 years prior to this. If nothing else, it indicates that Flynn seems to have the desire to fully jump on board with the rest of the Fred Durst crowd, but just can’t quite make the plunge at this point. As the Escape From L.A. quote goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, and here the resulting sameness is another mediocre offering from a band that is changing in its levels of bringing on the boredom. There’s nothing more to see here, so please move along.

The Echo of a Creative Abyss - 58%

JamesIII, January 3rd, 2010

Bay Area metal band Machine Head came onto the scene pretty strong in 1994 with their debut Burn My Eyes. It became a success in Europe and America, and the band even recieved praise from Kerry King (something he would rescind a few years later.) It only seems natural that Machine Head would seek to duplicate this sound, as if it worked once, and it will work again.

The problem with The More Things Change is that it is caught between two worlds. On one side, we have Burn My Eyes, which was a solid post-thrash offering. On the other side, we have a gravitational pull towards mallcore, which drags down the album considerably though this is not to be confused with nu-metal. Some stylistic commonalities are there, such as more bass prominence in the mix, though the bass itself is never degraded to that slap bass technique nu-metal is known. Another problem is the guitar tone of the album, which is horribly muddy. This was a common thing in the 90's, as a number of bands did this, including Ronnie James Dio on "Institutional Man" a year before. It creates an interesting sound, albeit one that grows tiring after about seven minutes into the album.

Concerning the music offered, we have three categories of songs. Each of these categories contain roughly the same number of songs, although the last one I'll discuss has four. Since that one in particular is the lesser of the three, you can imagine the end score isn't going to be spectacular.

The first category are those songs that scale back ambitions and long winded song lengths. These songs work the best, exactly the same way Burn My Eyes played out. "Ten Ton Hammer" is the first, and the lesser of these three and showcases the added melody in the band's music. "Take My Scars" begins with that awful introduction but otherwise plays out in good fashion. "Blistering" is the last of these, and again, establishes itself as one of the better songs here. Even with these three, its apparent Rob Flynn's baritone singing voice is both forced and strained, as it does not come off as fresh as it did before.

The next category are those songs that are longer and/or have obvious flaws in them. "Spine" comes to mind here, as its a good song with more energetic moments but it comes off sounding like a medley of two unrelated songs. This is bridged only by a mid-section that meanders a bit much. "Violate" is different and slightly better, as it slowly builds over seven minutes to a thrashy end section. This plays out very similarly to how "A Nation on Fire" did on the debut, albeit it takes too long to get there. "Bay of Pigs" is a thrashier number and shorter, but it sounds rushed and fails to grab me in the way "Blood for Blood" did.

The final category is the least of these and unfortunately holds the most songs. "Struck A Nerve" belongs here, as it is the most disappointing track. It begins well, starts to manifest itself into something worthwhile then simply ends. To boot, Flynn's "come on, come on, come on" is hovering awfully close to mallcore tough guy posturing. "Down to None" is a complete throwaway, it meanders and never becomes anything worthwhile. "The Frontlines" is slightly better, but again, nothing worthwhile. The closer in "Blood of the Zodiac" also fits here, and while its better than the other three in this particular category, it too suffers from structural meandering. I generally like it when closers add a final sense of climactic energy in a song, or better yet when it compiles previous songs' ideas into something of a well written mixture of the album itself. "Blood of the Zodiac" does this to some extent, but given that this album is marked by a decline in songwriting and stagnation, its no wonder the song ended up like this.

I can't throw this album under the bus as it has some redeeming moments. I tend to enjoy some of these songs still, although as a whole I don't listen to it much. The problem is simply that Machine Head was torn in two different directions here, looking for something new while wanting to remain in a comfort zone. Such outings rarely manifest into anything incredible, unless well written and executed, which this is obviously not. For fans of Machine Head and/or post-thrash, this is something to look into just be wary of the flaws I mentioned earlier in this review. Its still a good album, but its far from anything excellent.

Tops: "Ten Ton Hammer," "Take My Scars," "Blistering"

Change isn't always bad - 100%

markendust, December 6th, 2006

Out of every Machine Head's albums, this one is the least talked about. Even its two follow ups get more attention though not always favorably. This album had it rough since its predecessor Burn My Eyes was so loved and breath taking to many, the follow up had a lot of expectations to meet. I think it actually met those expectations.

This album does live up to the change bit in its name but it isn't that drastic of a change. Machine Head slowed the tempo down a bit but still kept the powerful heaviness that existed on the previous album. Robb Flynn also experimented with his vocals more, such as more singing and this is the first album we hear his trademark "YOW!" screams. This album is hardly mallcore. There are more riffs here than what any mallcore guitarist could ever write and more than any mallcore album combined. There are plenty of guitar solos and the song structures are more inspired and worked into. I don't care if a band is "groovy" or what not. Black Sabbath didn't play at a million miles an hour and Tony Iommi played far more power chords than noted riffs. Doom metal is loved a lot by metal heads, even when the tempo is pretty slow and Blind Guardian's Imaginations From the Otherside had songs that weren't all just speedy guitaring and drumming. Even in Metallica's Thrash-era, their songs like "The Thing That Should Not Be" and "Seek and Destroy" had mid-tempo rhythms. Testament's "Souls of Black" on the title track was pretty mid-tempo and so was "The Legacy" on that album. Sepultura wasn't the first to start going a bit groovy and I've heard plenty of Sodom songs that weren't break neck fast. I also care about a good guitar tone instead of worrying how fast or complex I'm playing. But make no mistake, I'm not dissing thrash (nor doom metal and power metal). My favorite band is Testament and they have awesome guitar tones. I just don't think liking groove metal makes you un-metal and that speed should not matter when it comes to metal. Just as long as you have the passion for playing it and your heart is in it, that is all that should matter.

Riffing highlights would be found on "The Frontlines" with that monstrous riff that stomps in after the long screeching wah-wah lines. The opener, "Ten Ton Hammer", has a pounding intro and a great shout along chorus. The following track, "Take my Scars", has a mean groove and a crazy solo. The vocal harmony in the chorus is undeniably good as well. "Down to None" has a unique dark and melodic intro. The best track, "Spine", allows each band member to shine. It begins with Adam Duce playing a creepy and dark bass solo which is followed by Robb and Logan Mader churning out surging and heavy riffs. Dave McClain, who was new at the time, beats the skins like a mad man in that section and during the melodic verses, plays a Sepulturian tribal beat. Robb sings low and emotionally but shouts wildly in the chorus with my favorite lyrics on the album (I see right through your soul! Can't help but feel this cold! But this city made me so!). The bridge is massive and features many chameleon-esque passages that you would never find in any mallcore album. It starts doomy, churns up a bit, and births out an atmospheric and melodic solo above a groovy rhythm. After the solo, it calms down though after a long while, the doomy riffs kick back in and a wicked solo ends it.

The shorter songs on this album make up in punch for what they lack in length. "Struck a Nerve" has fast stop-go riffs with the bass being used a fill in the manner a drum fill would do. "Bay of Pigs" is the most intense in terms of speed. Unrelentless riffs, guitar squals, double bass, and growls come at you non-stop during the verses. The chorus is a bit anthem-ish and the bridge has a great whirling groove. "Blistering" has some awkard lyrics (I don't care because I don't give a fuck!) but the freakin heavy riffing and drumming saves it.

"Violate" is the darkest, most progressive, and personal song on the album. It is Robb reflecting on someone who abused him and how he desires revenge for it.
It goes from a grueling riff to a melodic chorus, repeat, and than flat out chaos for the rest of the song. The final track, "Blood of the Zodiac", shows Machine Head's melodic side very well and ending the album in a different way. It started heavy but ended with the beast finally founding peace.

This album is a treasure for metal heads who don't mind having groove here and there and see that sound is more important than speed.

Keep changing, keep changing - 15%

UltraBoris, August 13th, 2002

This album loses even more of the riffs and turns into a dangerously groove-filled environment. Lots of Korn influence on here. The last album couldn't be called thrash, this one barely struggles to be called metal. A lot of the features central to mallcore can be found here, and I don't just mean rapped vocals - the general idea where the guitar is de-emphasised and "atmosphere" is attempted through the use of slowing down the song and inserting some whiney vocals.

The drumwork is actually the saving grace of the album, and what keeps it barely metal. There is some decent double-bass to be found here, and if it weren't so damn emphasised in the mix at the expense of the guitars, it would be a nice backdrop.

A highly questionable album. This band just gets shittier and shittier. Insert here the obligatory note of how Vio-lence is so much fucking better.