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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. While I like it overall a little better than Burn My Eyes, It has better songs across the board, but fewer standout songs. 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 awesome songs and crappy ones. All in all, it's a more accessible and coherent release than Burn My Eyes that works to deliver the goods and keep things mostly interesting.
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.
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.
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"
After their 1994 debut, Burn My Eyes, Machine Head had to prove to the metal world that they could live up to their previous achievement of a monumental record, and I, along with many other Machine Head fans, believe that they did just that.
The most noticeable difference between The More Things Change… and Burn My Eyes, is the tempo. While Burn My Eyes had its share of heavy songs, it also had a number of faster, aggressive songs. It seems as though on this album, Machine Head just wants to slam you with their Ten Ton Hammer and kick as much ass as they can. They do this by using slow, crunchy, heavy as hell riffs. Machine Head took groove metal to a new level with this album. Every song on the album is heavy as can be, but also features aspects of groove metal. Even Robb Flynn’s voice is crunchier and deeper than it had been on Burn My Eyes, but he also uses his clean singing voice more than before.
This album is also the first with Machine Head’s current drummer, Dave McClain. He had a lot to live up to after the performance on Burn My Eyes by Chris Kontos, but in my opinion he is a better drummer. The drums on the album compliment the heavy riffing very well, with tom grooves, double bass, and intricate fills.
The record starts off with “Ten Ton Hammer”, a mid paced song with very groove like verses and heavy choruses. Next is “Take My Scars”, with slamming guitars and drums, it is quite possibly one of the heaviest groove metal songs every recorded. Then comes the fastest song on the album, and my personal favorite “Struck a Nerve”. I can’t listen to this song without turning the volume up and wishing I was in a moshpit. All three of these songs are Machine Head classics today, and are frequently played at live shows.
Next comes “Down to None”, which starts with an eerie guitar riff that transforms into a bone-crushing riff. The song is then kicked up by a tom-filled groove beat on the drums and vocals, then switches back and forth between quick and slow for the rest of the song. This song is followed by “The Frontlines” and “Spine”, which are both very groovy, heavy tracks.
Then Machine Head takes a break from the slow and heavy with “Bay of Pigs”, which is similar to “Struck a Nerve” in a way. “Bay of Pigs” has very fast intense verses and is then slowed down for the chorus. Next is “Violate”, probably the slowest and most emotional song on the album, which has a guitar crunch and tom groove the whole song, with Flynn’s clean vocals laying on top. “Blistering” then brings back the energy, with heavy choruses and odd time signatured verses. The album closes with “Blood of the Zodiac”, another slow, crunchy song.
Although in my opinion this is not the best Machine Head album, it is probably more different than anything else they’ve done. They took groove metal to a new level with this album, but somehow abandoned the sound they had created with their next album, and since then, no one else has ever made an album that is comparable in sound to 1997’s The More Things Change… by Machine Head.
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.
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.