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It's unusual for a band so deep into their recording career to suddenly have a moment of clarity, but Machine Head's 2011 album sure was an oddly organized way to condense the bands strengths and ambitions into one discrete package. The most shocking part seems to be that the band finally found a songwriting style that didn't piss off about half their listeners, as can be evidenced from the generally positive reviews for Unto the Locust, as opposed to the love it/hate it reactions that the other albums have received. I bought this album soon after its release and wasn't immediately pleased with it, which probably on reflection comes down to the more complex touches and slightly random insertions that mark this out from the long (yet not progressive) The Blackening.
Following on from the tendency of The Blackening not to do anything too simply where complexity is possible, the songs here all last more than 5 minutes and many feel like they carry something extra in their length. 'I Am Hell' brings with it a silly crooned intro and that annoying '(Sonata in C#)' addition to its title, 'Darkness Within' could have done with cutting some of the plainer acoustic work to streamline the song, 'This Is the End' simply doesn't need an acoustic opening, and 'Who We Are' commits the mortal sin of using a children's choir. The latter example also clearly begs the question, do Machine Head think they are a children's choir? A ponder-worthy question, I think. However, also following on from The Blackening, the band bring some good riffs to the table and haven't forgotten that Phil Demmell and Robb Flynn are really good at solos when they think carefully about them. The band's continuing affiliation with contemporary musical trends continues, though thankfully they have been leaders rather than followers since Through the Ashes of Empires, here pursuing more technical and melodic ideas alongside the familiar groove and metalcore elements.
One feature that does somewhat annoyingly remain in Machine Head's music is their tendency to mash together creative content with some completely uninspired sections, so that songs can topple from captivating to redundant in a matter of seconds. For example, the largely fresh and exciting 'This Is the End' wisely boots its introduction out of the way with a sparkling melodeath tremolo, giving way to a technical groove thrash riff, then the first riff returns with slightly offputting clean vocals for the chorus; the cycle repeats and another kind of melodic thrashy riff opens the door to a slow contemplative riff replete with signature MH harmonics; for a few seconds it breaks into downtuned groove chug fills and then the solo bursts out over the top of similar riffing, which, by way of a brief melody, fits back into the chorus. That's quite a complicated description, so suffice it to say that everything is nice except for the clean vocals (though not horrible and not too intrusive) and the random chugging build-up to the solo. The same thing happens in most of the songs here, the larger pieces tending to be made of silver or gold, while transition elements or short parts seem to solder everything together with tin, leaving obvious weak points.
Aside from this occasional sloppiness, Unto the Locust throws out some surprises that work incredibly well. 'Darkness Within' is an unthinkable song in the context of the band's discography, yet the simple acoustic verses are very effective, while the growth of the song from pop ballad to soaring anthem is awesome to behold. Of course, that doesn't stop the band throwing in a metalcore breakdown after the solo, but we always knew that Robb Flynn's ambition is separated from his reason. 'Locust' also twists itself into a multitude of shapes, starting out with a deceptively simple bass riff and shuddering groove heaviness before hammering things home with one of the best choruses from MH and a lead full of light and shade, reminiscent of 'Master of Puppets'. The most surprising thing might actually be the venturing of 'Pearls Before the Swine', 'I Am Hell', and 'Who We Are' into real thrash territory, which surprises on two counts: that MH have always dallied with thrash without actually getting there, and that those thrash parts sit alongside many more typical metalcore parts than before, with proper breakdowns in several songs.
Even five years after first hearing it, Unto the Locust still seems unexpected to me and remains a little strange. It strikes me that the strangeness might be a result of MH suddenly becoming leaders of modern metal again, since the success and popularity of The Blackening put them back in a position that they hadn't been in since the release of Burn My Eyes, which was followed up by the weird The More Things Change. Whatever the reason, some of the songwriting could have been further tweaked to run all the good ideas together more smoothly, as well as excess detailing cut to allow the exciting parts to dominate. However, the overall quality is strong and the songs fairly consistent, if not the absolute best of the band's career. I'm still gaping, but I'll shut my mouth now - just in case a locust flies in.
One thing I remember about this album in regards to its release is the controversy it succeeded in causing amongst many Machine Head loyalists who were admittedly hoping for a repeat of "The Blackening". Unlike other releases from this band, the opinions were very split, with a large portion of the band's fan base viewing this album as the perfect follow up to the masterpiece that was, "The Blackening". On the other hand, the slight departure from the groove metal genre left many other fans rather disappointed. However, time has only proved on many occasions that sticking to the same musical formula can eventually become repetitive and just flat out boring. In my opinion, the more melodic-thrash like approach that Machine Head had taken with this album was a great alternative to their previous 90's groove style.
The standout track on this album is easily the part title track, "Locust". Its safe to say that this is probably the only track on the album that rein acts their old, groove-oriented style while still managing to maintain the more melodic approach that they were obviously going for. It is a track that meets pretty much every requirement in order to achieve a modern metal masterpiece, such as constant changes in time signatures and melodic crossovers that just fitted in so well.
The really great thing about this album is how each track is so incredibly unique in its own way. I honestly see this as Machine Head's most experimental, creative release to date, and not just because of Robb Flynn's infamous decision to feature a kid's choir in the final track. There were so many other unique features to this album that were rather uncharacteristic for Machine Head, such as harmonic backing vocals in the all out thrash attack, "This Is the End" and eerie acoustic intros that would progress into a doomy distortion fest with "Darkness Within".
I suppose the only thing preventing this album from a higher rating were times when the band tried to be as aggressive as possible with the instrumentals and as a result it seemed like Robb was having a hard time keeping up with his vocals that didn't seem to have much of a correlation with the instrumentals. However even this was a rather rare fault.
In conclusion, I can't exactly guarantee that this album would appeal to an audience who are crazy about albums such as "The Blackening" as well as earlier releases, as with the exception of the title track, the band had migrated from their signature sound.
Given the wild success and rapid growth and maturation with The Blackening it seems it would be hard for Machine Head to stay atop this mountain they scaled with that album. Most people would say they put all of their energy into that one release and that it couldn't be matched. Well I'm here to tell you that's wrong. Unto The Locust for the most part measures up to The Blackening. It seems Machine Head have finally found a sound they can stick with and improve on. They really seemed to try and step up their game on this one.
Everything has been pushed up to even more grandiose heights than with The Blackening. The use of melodies and thrashing as opposed to chugs is increased beyond anything they've done prior. The riffs and songwriting have gotten more epic and virtuosic. The band has trained more with their instruments and Robb with his voice. Lyrically, themes of inevitable mortality, questionable morality, and the various crises that everyone must face and question show up often in this album, replacing the older themes of respect and toughness with something more mature. In fact this whole album just feels like the most intelligent album they've ever released.
Unto The Locust kicks off with the monumental I Am Hell, a brutal charger that starts off with angelic Latin chanting that sets the atmosphere of glory continued on Be Still And Know. They descend off that high note into a raging inferno with the heavy hitter, Locust. They finally descend further into and emerge triumphantly out of the impressively operatic sounding Darkness Within. These songs constitute the very best of what this album has to offer and for a while had me believing that this would trounce The Blackening simply with it's sheer grandiosity.
Later on in the album, it starts to lose it's luster. Pearl Before The Swine is alright but is rather flat with less dynamics with the same rumbling riff playing in the background for most of the song. Who We Are ends the album on an unfortunately sour note starting with the weird, creepy sounds of children in an elementary school chorus singing off key into the song. Lyrics that bring less to mind Machine Head and more to mind Shinedown are sung here. Seriously, the lyrics remind me of Shinedown's "Bully," which was an extremely mediocre song. Who We Are also manages to sound absurdly poppy with it's harmonized chorus and "uplifting" feel that just isn't as strong here as it is on the other, less cheesy songs. It's a stupid conclusion to an otherwise great album, thankfully it's at the end.
Unto The Locust is overall a nice album, except for the last song. It's one of the stronger entries in Machine Head's catalog, but does not outdo the Blackening on terms of their respective strengths and weaknesses. With more strong tracks it could have easily beaten out The Blackening as their best effort if not for the lackluster ending track. Unto The Locust is still a memorable piece that will easily please fans of late-era Machine Head. I could easily recommend this to you if you were on the lookout for this or wanted to introduce someone else to either Machine Head or Metal music in general.
To be honest, I didn't really like The Blackening. Aside from some riffs here and there and Aesthetics of Hate, I always thought that the whole fuss about it was not of any actual content. Unto the Locust, though, is a different story.
The songs in general are still longer than those on Burn My Eyes, yet are, thank fuck, shorter than the ones on The Blackening. As a result, the epic tone of The Blackening is retained and in the meanwhile, the songs represent a more mature band than most of their earlier stuff does. Yes, it does indeed make sense, however not many bands release such killer material 17 years after a killer debut album. The production makes a crucial contribution to the overall essence of the album, thus endowing the band with a gigantic sound that retains their edge while becoming huger than it was on their previous efforts.
So, what are the ingredients for the band's success? The classics, of course. You can hear influences from a variety of styles so wide that the only genre this band can be said to belong to is heavy metal. The obvious ones are early thrash acts like Metallica, Heathen, and Forbidden, classic heavy metal acts like Iron Maiden, and of course the groove metal style that they themselves created alongside Pantera. Another obvious influence is Deep Purple, which is the first commercially successful hard rocking band to write songs in this fashion - long, yet heavy-hitting. Damn, they even got their name from DP's album, what did you expect? What makes this album unique, though, is the less obvious stuff. Fourth track "This is the End" perfectly depicts the group's genius of blending different styles. The song starts with an acoustic intro that makes you sure that the song will evolve in a thrasher like Metallica's "Battery", yet the band takes the patent one step further with riffs that bring to mind stuff as diverse as Emperor, Atheist, and even Hacride (funny fact, "hacride" is derived from the Greek word for "locust"). The riffs themselves are sometimes thrashy, sometimes mid-paced and heavy, sometimes shredding, and sometimes melodic and direct (such as in "Locust", for example). This plethora of styles leads to the aforementioned sense of listening to pure heavy metal.
Flynn's vocals have evolved and improved. The harsher vocals sound more aggressive and less forced and the cleaner vocals are simply light years ahead, as shown in "Darkness Within", where Flynn's words could even be claimed as sounding like Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor. The drumming is also influenced by a variety of styles, featuring double bass parts that have their roots in Obituary, thrashy parts, and maybe even some d-beats. The bass is huge and clean cut, punching your stomach with every hit of the strings.
The only complaints I have is about the children choir in "Who We Are" that sometimes sounds stupid, and about the introduction of "Be Still and Know" that is reminiscent of "Now I Lay Thee Down". Well, there's also the first fast riff on "I Am Hell" that sounds like "Aesthetics of Hate", but that one is fucking killer so I don't have any objections concerning this matter. Otherwise, "Unto the Locust" is probably the best mainstream metal album of 2011, blowing away Opeth's "Heritage" and Mastodon's "The Hunter". It emits infinite heavy metal majesty which I believe renders it an instant classic. METAL UP YOUR ASS!
One reason reviewers even write is to open people’s eyes to new album releases and hopefully give more of an incentive to check it out. It pleases me when I get to write about rare albums like this, an album that starts another chapter in a band that has as much history on the music scene as Machine Head does. From their debut Burn My Eyes to Supercharger, they brought forth an unrelenting thrash assault onto the same stomping grounds Metallica and Slayer are from and almost singlehandedly invented a brand new chapter in thrash metal. Through The Ashes Of Empires and The Blackening marked the re-invention of the band into a whole new metal behemoth. Unto The Locust is the beginning of the third inception of Machine Head.
The first thing I noticed was that this album has only seven tracks (ten if you count bonus tracks), which is unusually short for a Machine Head album. Based from my interview with Dave McClain [drummer] earlier this year, he stated that they have increasing difficulty writing songs under six minutes, and only one of the songs on the new album Unto The Locust is under that time.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of elements from their old releases. By listening to this without any indication, you can still tell this is the same exact band, but their sound covers a much broader spectrum than ever before. I’m even inclined to say that there is a more progressive element in the songwriting structure as well. Before you even say it, no, The Blackening is not progressive in any way. It’s straight-on heavy metal/thrash with really long songs. Song length alone doesn’t make a band progressive.
With the substantial force of the opening of “I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)” calling your undivided attention, it then goes into a full thrash onslaught with plenty of impressive guitar work that will make any guitar lover listen in awe. This is about as close as you will get to hearing their “first” inception influences (Burn My Eyes-era). If you’ve heard the so-called “advance mix” of the “The Locust,” then you pretty much know what to expect. Not really, as it sounds much heavier than the fancily titled demo track. There are a few parts that stand out over the demo; the sound spectrum placement of the drums is different and there are more guitar parts spread out in the song. Overall it’s a good fit to be the title track, as it properly sums up the entire album.
The standout track is “Darkness Within.” Usually I will say why this is the standout to me, but I will leave that Easter egg for you to discover. I will say that I love this song and it’s a very different take on Machine Head that I’ve never seen.
There have been a few albums released this year that really bummed me out, but I always know I can count on Machine Head to deliver a delightful and enthralling album that (yet again) leaves me wanting more. Although I knew it would be extremely difficult for them to ever top The Blackening, they still did an excellent job.
In my previous review of Machine Head's "The Blackening", I called upon listeners to give what is undoubtedly this California based post-thrash quartet's best album a strong chance, and rightfully so. I don't feel like I need to repeat myself on what exactly "The Blackening" did right that makes it a worthy listen, but among it's many flaws, it was an album that left me with a lot of questions. Where exactly was Machine Head going to go after "The Blackening". After hearing how positive of an effort that album was, I liked to believe that Machine Head had found a musical blueprint they could build off of. Well, it's been a few years now, and now Machine Head is upon his again with another full length album.
I have no idea where Machine Head's sudden fascination with etymology emerged from, so I'm going to give my own thoughts on what exactly this album should've been called. It should've been called, as a sequel to "The Blackening", "The Mess Up". There is no other way to put it, this album is a pure mess up. What Machine Head did with "Unto the Locust" is take some one staple ingredient from "The Blackening", long (by average song standards) song lengths, get rid of nearly all the progressions and melodies that made the music on that album so strong, and instead replace it with a whole lot of worthless guitar harmonies and bouts of monotonous chugging that absolutely does not work. As a result, "Unto the Locust" seems absolutely senseless.
I don't understand that after creating an album that was so progressive and actually a reasonably thrashy outing how Machine Head could become so mindless. This is without a doubt one of the choppiest albums I have ever heard, and not in that overly technical or progressive way that is somewhat alright. No, this is choppy in a manner that make most of the songs sound unfinished. Most of the progressions are completely overbuilt up to, and for the most part they absolutely suck. And then they end up shifting into something that sounds absolutely mindless. This is not a problem for just one song on Unto the Locust, it's a problem for every song on the album. No where is this worse then the intro track I am Hell. This track sounds like an unfinished song left off The Blackening's final cut, because it contains most of what that album's songs contained, except for the good things.
Also, there are way too many moments where Machine Head just tries to get into these dark, droning, moody passages. Admittedly, some of these bits are fine, but most of them go on for way too long. The intro harmony to Be Still and Know initially had me paying attention at first, but when it started going on for longer than twenty seconds I started losing interest. That whole introductory harmony section to that particular song goes on for a grand total of forty seconds. That is so long that the harmony wears itself out. Pity, because that's the best part of the song. The same can apply to the title track, which has a clean section that just goes on for way too long and just makes the song sound stale.
The musicianship has also degraded significantly from The Blackening. The riffs of Robb and Phil are far more rudimentary on Unto the Locust. They feature a lot of palm muted chugging and not much else. Yeah, there are some cool sounding harmonies here and there and some of the riffs that aren't just complete two chord chugging sound okay, but nothing really stands out here from the absolute viciousness that was the riff work on The Blackening. Also, the guitar solos have also fallen off massively. Most of them are far too short to be any bit memorable, and they're about as rudimentary fast as they come. Just a lot of tremolo picked pentatonics, which absolutely bores the snot out of me. Adam Duce is Adam Duce, a supporting bassist who really deserves no merit.
But perhaps the most disappointing musical drop-off is that of drummer Dave McClain. After putting on what I thought was one of the best all around drum performances I have ever heard on a metal album, McClain's drums now stink. Most of the beats just plod along lifelessly with the guitars and have no zest or punch that they used to. There just is sense that all he wanted to do was "play along" and there are no moments where the drums propel the songs forward like they did on The Blackening. All in all, a very boring performance compared to The Blackening.
The one aspect of Unto the Locust that I do find redeemable is the vocal performance by Robb Flynn. It actually is better than The Blackening's vocal performance. A lot of the purely clean vocals were dropped from Unto the Locust, and it benefited Mr. Flynn as a whole. His voice sounds a lot more guttural and vicious then it did on The Blackening, less pissed off and more like legitimately possessed at some moments. Yeah, it's that deep and that clear at the same time. Some of the moments where things do get a bit more operatic per say, they sound a lot better. The operatic sections don't sound as melodramatic as they did on The Blackening, they just seem to ring out more and echo louder than they did in the past. The lyrics aren't as terrible either. They're more introspective and abstract than the in your face banter of The Blackening, and I think it works. One problem though is that a lot of the vocal patterns are not particularly catchy, so these are not exactly memorable lyrics in that regard.
As far as the mix goes, it's not as good as The Blackening's mix was. It's simply too dry. Most of the time I can hardly even tell that there is bass present in the mix, and the guitars have no real punch to them the way they did on the previous album's mix. The drums sound okay, though they sound more like plastic then they did before and I don't like that. The guitar solo tone is improved to degree, but not that much to make me really say it's that amazing. The vocals do get a nice treatment though, and they're pleasing in that regard.
So all in all, Unto the Locust is not a good album. It tries to replicate the success of The Blackening without doing any of the things that made The Blackening such a good album, and in that regard it falls flat on it's face. Machine Head will have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to their next album, because this one is nothing but a mess up.
This is one of my favorite ones off 2011's metal classics. Some say that the bay area thrash movement is the only successful one in the mid-1980's, but for me old school thrash metal bands are keeping their musicianship in their recent achievements, like the formation of Damnation (Testament) & Death Magnetic (Metallica) and the recent Exodus one as well.
But I always relate the music to new production values and Machine Head's fits in that groove perfectly, completely filled with explosive guitars, solid grooves, thumping bass, and pounding drums. Although thrash metal doesn't sound as convincing as death metal, MH use many death metal-oriented riffs. Modern, yet traditional, Rob Flynn & Co. sound unadulterated right from the first note of 'I Am Hell'. The album takes you through a wild and thrilling ride of superb thrash metal with rowdy riffing, perfectly timed breaks, dazzling solos, and boisterous vocals. MH is pushing the boundaries of thrash metal that the titans Metallica, and Megadeth will have to match this intensity and power to prove their relevance.
Although the album starts with an irritating chorus ('I Am Hell'), the music progresses into a flashy guitar intro with a stunning voice running behind and impressive licks in between with a perfect climax as in the next one, "Be Still and Know", with machine gun guitar leads & chorus despite the fact that MH's single from this album, "Locust", needed some improvement musically. This remastered version is in fact the new wave thrash with a death metal chorus and groovy licks running all the way through. Many bands try to slow down the tempo in between their songs, kind of like Metallica's style followed by a deafening guitar solo. MH seem to have absolutely made justice to the this style of songwriting. And next comes my favorite track off this record. "This is the End" starts with kind of a "Battery" start (probably Metallica fans would recognize) and is followed by a death metal riff and the solo's the best part of the song. Slow track "The Darkness Within" really sets up the atmosphere for the rest of the album, though I didn't embrace the acoustic version of this track in some bonus editions. 'Pearls Before the Swine' is most likely filler with a repetitive chorus. 'Who We Are' starts with children chanting and MH taking over for a perfect ending to a thrash masterpiece.
Some other album versions include two bonus tracks, which are, needless to say, two classics: "The Sentinel" by Judas Priest and "Witch Hunt" by Rush. Rob manages Halford's aggression in his vocal range, but not really Geddy Lee's. The Priest cover is the best of the two.
---Originally written to http://headbangersherald.blogspot.com-------
The first thing I’ll say about this album is that the production (which was handled by Mr. Rob Flynn himself) is phenomenal. Coupled with the fact that Machine Head seem to have stumbled across the ultimate metal guitar tone, the production immediately makes …Locust stand out amongst this year's other releases before the music is even considered. Every instrument sits perfectly in the mix, clearly audible but never overbearing. A case could be made that the snare could be turned down a tad, but I dig it.
The record opens with some good old Rob Flynn a capella, which admittedly doesn’t seem to bring anything much to the album other than sucking the listener in before the devastating opening breakdown of “I Am Hell” kicks in…and there’s that guitar tone I was talking about. The band just sounds so threatening in this moment. The lyrics are a bit silly (“come take this bloodshed, constant need to kill you”) but Rob Flynn spits them with such venom that is utterly undeniable – sounding as visceral and pissed off as on previous, spite-filled declarations such as “Clenching The Fists” or “Aesthetics Of Hate.” The breakdown gives way to the onslaught of “I Am Hell”'s main riff and the ensuing thrash dominance.
“Be Still And Know”, along with the album’s title track, are the band at their melodic best – the former’s crushing middle section another nominee and likely winner of riff of the year. In fact, ...Locust is a much more melodic outing than its predecessor. “Darkness Within” is virtually a power ballad, propelled by its awesomely uplifting chorus, the awesomeness that is Rob Flynn’s vocal tone (I fucking love that man’s voice), and one of the most awesome melodic solos in recent memory (awesome!). Anthemic closer “Who We Are” even features a choir of children and a cheesy power metal section in the middle, complete with the lyric, “Into glory we will ride”, but is such a well-crafted and passionately delivered piece of music that the band not only gets away with it (as perhaps only they could), but completely owns it.
..Locust is a heavier, more melodic (albeit horrendously-titled) album than The Blackening, more in kind with From The Ashes Of Empires, and for all that it lacks the intent and progression that has made it perhaps the most acclaimed metal album of the new millennium, I actually find it to be preferable. I in no way dislike The Blackening, but I have always viewed the “Scandalous” and “A Farewell To Arms” to be weaker points on that record, the former a repackaging of the superior “Descend The Shades Of Night” from ..Ashes, another record I prefer over The Blackening.
…Locust, however, is devoid of any. Perhaps “This Is The End” (that main riff always finds me reminiscent of The Black Dahlia Murder) could be considered the least strong track on the album, but that is only by comparison to the six unparalleled songs that make up the rest of the album.
If there is a band out there at the moment with more musical and songwriting talent per head that operate as well as a synchronized whole as Machine Head, then I haven’t heard them (maybe Opeth). As with much of the band’s back catalog, these are the kinds of songs that the band could walk out onto a stage, play, throw down their instruments, and walk off, the unsaid (and unanswered) challenge being “follow that.”
It's a curious thing, writing off a band as being unworthy of further consideration. Often times it's a safe venture provided one knows what one is looking for, but if not done with a level of care, it can lead one to the awkward state of having to admit error. Even in the case of Machine Head, which is among the safer bands not to bother with if something at least attempting to resemble thrash metal, surprises are possible. And while it is important not to overstate the incremental improvement in metallic sensibilities, it is with a confident inflection that I say surprise, thy name is "Unto The Locust".
This seventh studio endeavor by Robb Flynn's infamous post Vio-Lence outfit doesn't so much shift gears in overall style as it simply downplays the inherent weaknesses of it while accenting where any strength can be drawn from. This is an album that could be qualified as textbook half-thrash in the sense that it spends almost half the album within the thrash metal paradigm, while the rest sort of dances between the slowed down modernism of "Burn My Eyes" and the metalcore tendencies of "The Blackening". It ratchets up the technical elements of the latter while paying a level of mind to the clean vocal and ballad-infused tendencies of the former, resulting in something that is eclectic yet fairly organized.
To put it plainly, when this thing gets going, it cooks with the best of them. A good chunk of the long-winded opener "I Am Hell" and the middle song "This Is The End" seem to be attempting to resurrect the frenetic tendencies of Vio-Lence with a modern, progressive riff set to spice up the mix. Both of these songs suffer, as much of this album does, for being loaded up with fairly pretentious introductory material such as a hymn-like choral intro featuring Flynn's clean vocals or a drawn out ballad prologue. Thankfully there is nothing on here loaded with minute upon minute of pointless quiet interludes, but all of these songs could do with having the intros cut in half. Nevertheless, while Flynn's clean singing is mediocre and reminiscent of mid-90s Phil Anselmo, his tough guy grunt is reasonably precise and percussive.
The good points don't end with the thrash elements, but also encompass a superior focus on the strengths of the groove and progressive elements of the band. Even mostly thrash oriented songs like "Pearls Before Swine" and "Who We Are" (the latter really blows it on the intro material with a goofy children's choir intro, but otherwise is a decent song) sees a chord progression set that is somewhat in line with an older, almost power metal oriented feel to it. The token nod to past groove masterpiece "Davidian" in "Locust" is more mid-tempo, but loaded up with contrasting elements. To top it off, Demmel and Flynn take every opportunity to tear up the fret board with a series of fill happy bridge riffs and shred happy solos, almost to the point of trying to rival what Megadeth has been doing of late.
While I wouldn't quite shout from a mountain top that Machine Head finally found themselves a formula that works, this album actually makes me wonder if I might actually do so in the near future. The primary thing that holds this thing back is a sense of over-ambition on Flynn's part, trying desperately to mix things up as if saying "Hey look, I can take a solid hybrid of modern groove and old school thrash and turn it upside down with a bunch of classical music gimmicks". It works for Malmsteen because he has a vocalist that doesn't sound like a pissed off jock turned metal head, but Machine Head should stick to the neck ruining aspects of this sound and only occasionally go into the progressive well. But flawed or not, I can't hate this album, though Flynn still has some work to do before I forget about the rubbish he threw out from the late 90s up until 2004.
It's actually phenomenal how i've never hated an album as much as I hate this. This album has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This is your typical post-Supercharger Machine Head album, and that is pretentious, boring and ultimately incredibly unmemorable.
The album is that unmemorable, that I'm going to struggle writing about it, as there is literally nothing I can remember beyond the horrific breakdowns, the children singing the intro to "Who We Are" and Robb Flynn attempting to sing and failing horribly.
Beyond that, nothing stands out. The riffs all blur together in a mesh of groove metal unoriginality, the drumwork is so standard and unimpressive and Robb Flynn is still doing his best impression of a Great Dane (that is, when he's not badly crooning). The bass is inaudible, as can be expected from any metal made this recently. The band are also jumping on the metalcore band wagon and playing those chug-a-lug breakdowns that the Kerrang! reading fanbase love to hear so much. The solos are skillful enough, but do not stand out and are forgotten not long after they finish.
The children in Who We Are get a whole paragraph to themselves. Whichever band member thought it'd be a good idea to get some children to sing "THIS IS WHO WE ARE!" wants kicking out immediately. Just when you think nothing else can drag this album on track 7, they're there to tell you just how wrong you are. They manage to drag this release out of the realm of mediocrity into plain shittiness.
The main problem with this is that the songs are far too long. If Lamb of God made Redneck 8 minutes long, it would be absolutely tedious. Perhaps these songs would be better if cut down by several minutes. They certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as boring, but they'd still be forgettable.
This is quite easily one of, if not the worst album i've ever had the misfortune of hearing. Only bother if you're the biggest Machine Head/groove metal fanboy ever. Otherwise, stay the fuck away.
Wow, where the hell did this come from? Machine Head has always been a band that had mediocre albums and for them to release this, is just stunning and makes me happy. To know a band that went from shit to greatness is something that's rare in the metal genre. I'm not saying this is the ultimate release of all time, but it's damn good and ensures you to blare it out of your car over and over again. It's no Eternal Nightmare, but I can honestly say that this is Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel's best release since then. It's not a thrash masterpiece, but it doesn't have to be.
First song we have is "I Am Hell (Sonata in C#). First time I heard this tune I kind of thought to myself, "What the hell am I listening to?", but as the song progressed I got more and more hooked. Found myself turning it up louder and louder and when it came to the headbang worthy section at 4:20'ish I had my speakers on full blast. It's an epic tune that has three different sections in it. No more mediocre and repetition from Machine Head.
As the cd progresses we get more epic tunes. All the songs are the same that they don't really repeat. They are all different in their own way and I found myself not getting bored with them at all. Every song is really brutal, yet catchy and I find myself singing them to myself throughout my day. The choruses for pretty much all the songs are really great. Machine Head is notorious for having very child-like lyrics, but this album acts like they finally became an adult. None of the lyrics are really child-like and you're not embarrassed to sing them to yourself in your off time. In fact, I think this is the second time (second to Blackening) where I am not totally embarrassed to be listening to Machine Head. Everything is really well done in this album; the vocals, drums, and guitars (and solos). None of the solos are really all that fantastic, but they fit the songs perfectly. Just wish I could hear a little more bass on the record.
There are two reasons that this is not the perfect Machine Head record. The first being the song "Who We Are". The intro to the song consists of children singing the chorus to the song in a very painful way. It doesn't sound good at all and when I think about it, it makes me cringe. It only lasts about 30 seconds, but that's enough to dumb down the rating about 5%. It really sucks and shouldn't have been added to the album. The other thing that really blows about this album is the Rush cover "Witch Hunt". Robb Flynn can NOT pull off the clean vocals. I like the overall song and mood Machine Head brings to the table, but the vocals are wretched and ruins this, otherwise great sounding, cover. Of course, this song (a kick-fucking-ass Judas Priest cover and an unnecessary acoustic version of the song "Darkness Within") is only available on the special edition of the album, so be thankful that you are not hearing this filth. Youtube it if you are that interested, but you'll regret it.
Overall this album is pretty great for a Machine Head record. Flynn's vocals have improved greatly (as long as he's not singing soft) and the songs are insanely catchy and heavy. The songs are written really well and the songs are all different while being the same. Now, as I go on about how great this album is, you guys need to remember that this is great for a Machine Head album. I didn't give it a 90% because I think this is one of the greatest albums of all time, but for Machine Head it's extremely top notch. I know a lot of people either love or hate Machine Head. Whatever your reasons for liking or hating them, I do believe that everyone should give this record a chance.
Song recommendations: I Am Hell, Locust, This is the End, Darkness Within, The Sentinel (if you have SE)
Anyone who knows me will know that I like my music epic. The more epic the better in my eyes. For me there is nothing finer than 7 minutes or more of huge music; big choruses, enormous riffs, finger shredding guitar solos and drop outs of such magnitude that dance artists can only look on in pure envy.
So four years ago when Machine (fucking) Head released The Blackening I thought all my Christmases had come at once. Here was an experienced band known for playing the some of the heaviest, brutal metal who had embraced the epic side of things in their songwriting. Songs like Clenching The Fist Of Dissent clocking in at close to 15 minutes took things to the next level for them. It was a superb album, full of emotional, powerful songs which broke the mould that they were stuck in. It was a critical and commercial success for them, leading them to be on tour for over 3 years in support of it. It was their Metallica. So fast forward to 2011 and Robb Flynn and co have had the unenviable task of following it up.
So here we have it, Unto The Locust in its magnificent splendour. Except unfortunately the splendour isn't as magnificent as I was hoping.
Maybe because The Blackening was such a brilliant album, or that I've been a Machine Head fan for near on the last decade, but I was expecting so much more than this album manages to deliver.
Robb Flynn (vocals, guitar) has said in interviews that "we just can't write short songs anymore", which is fair enough, I mean, I find it difficult to keep songs down to 4 minutes when I write, but a couple of the songs on this album feel very forced and I was actually thinking that they could have done with being shorter. Album opener I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) is a prime example of this. It starts with a cultish chant which runs for at least a minute before the song starts proper. It bears no real relevance to the song as a whole and could have quite easily been a separate introduction track entirely. The rest of the song itself is standard MH fare, rapid fire riffs, pounding drums and Robb growling himself into a frenzy.
Before we go any further, I feel I need to point out that it's not bad. Its still a good album, its just not a great album and certainly not on the same level as The Blackening.
There are moments of pure MH fuck-you brilliance. Locust and and This Is The End are both inspired songs with some of the best riffing and lyrics ever to come out of the band. The chorus of Locust is going to go down as a new live favourite in the same way that Halo and Aesthetics Of Hate did from the last album. However, the middle section of This Is The End typifies why I love the lyrics in MH songs with the lines "Bastards/You bastards/May you suffer oh so long". Just brilliant stuff.
Musically the band are on top form. The riffs are awesome, the guitar solos and dual harmony sections are a master class in how-its-done, the drums are fast, heavy and hard (which appears to be the Dave Mclain trademark), the bass rattles and rumbles in all the right ways and the vocals, be they screamed or sung are powerful and brutal. On paper this should be an amazing album.
Robb and Phil Demmel have such a fantastic bond as guitar players which is evident throughout the seven tracks on offer here. The lead work on the likes of Locust and Darkness Within makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up as it is just phenomenal. From the shred-tastic solos to the huge, no, scratch that, HUGE lead harmony sections, this album is a guitar nerd's dream.
Adam Duce's bass work is once again, superb. Thundering through the tracks like the enormous powerhouse he is, he fits right behind the guitars for the majority of the time, but when the rhythm guitars drop out for the dual lead harmonies then Adam frequently joins in, creating a third harmony point rather than just being a remaining rhythm instrument. It works very well, very well indeed.
MH have always been known for the big riffs but moreover, the massive rhythms. Dave Mclain doesn't disappoint with some of the best work of his career on show. Who We Are is probably the best showcase on this album with multiple tempo and rhythm changes throughout to the point of dropping down to a soft marching snare during the sections with the creepy kids choir (yeah, seriously).
Vocally I don't think Robb has ever sounded better. His singing is smooth and emotive, his screaming/growling is punchier and more powerful and he's even added in some death metal style guttural roaring. I Am Hell and Pearls Before The Swine push his voice lower and lower than he's ever been before. It's interesting and certainly on the latter track it works very well. Adam's harmonies with Robb during the clean sections are lush, full and very reminiscent of the kind of vocal work that Alice In Chains used to put out years ago. The build up and chorus for Darkness Within is something entirely special and not to be missed.
Potentially I think I may be being too hard on this album. Like I say before, its not bad, its just not as good as their previous material. Maybe this is because The Blackening was such a brilliant album and I'm setting my expectations far too high, I just can't help but feel that in some places this album is lacking. The opening two tracks simply don't do it for me, whereas the rest of the album is full of brilliant moments but its just not consistent enough.
Its a shame because Unto The Locust is living in the shadow of another album. Had this come out before The Blackening, or had it been from a different band without the rich heritage that Machine Head bring to the table I bet it would have been a contender for a 10 out of 10. As it stands it's not the follow up I was hoping for, but its definitely worth a listen.
Listen to: Locust, Darkness Within, This Is The End
I don't know much about Machine Head apart of the fact that traditional thrash metal fans usually dislike the band's modern approaches and compare them to Trivium and even Bullet For My Valentine while younger people claim that Machine Head have their own unique and distinctive style and add a fresh breathe to the metal universe. I became curious and decided to check the next album this band would release out and it happens to be "Unto The Locust". I didn't have any prejudices and just gave it a try.
On the positive side, I see that Machine Head always excels when they try out something experimental and courageous. I like the dramatic, almost classical and really atmospheric introduction of the album that leads into the strong and addicting opener "I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)" which is a perfect way to open this album. "Be Still And Know" has a great acoustic introduction and leads into a groovier track that is quite different from the first track without sounding disconnected or alien to the coherence of the record. Another highlight is the strong and diversified album closer "Who We Are" that has a choir of children performing alongside some creepy male vocals which creates an amazing atmosphere. I was also positively surprised by the bonus tracks of the album. The acoustic version of "Darkness Within", one of the weaker tracks on the main version, is very fond and should have found its way on the regular record. This song already justifies the purchase of the special edition but the two cover versions of Judas Priest's "The Sentinel" and Rush's "The Sentinel" are surprisingly well done. They stick to the roots, to the essence of the originals but also have their own distinctive style and atmosphere. That's the way cover songs should always be done and Machine Head really impress me here even though I still prefer the original versions in the end.
There are many positive points that justify a purchase of this record but there are also some negative ones that keep me away from the purchase for the moment. I really have some problems with the more traditional sounds of Machine Head when they head for metal core patterns or groove metal sounds. Songs like the title track "Locust" just fail to create any kind of sensation in me and sound quite redundant to my ears and are way too long to really convince me.
In the end, I think that I might not be a fan of the band's traditional sounds but whenever they experiment and try out something new, the final result happens to work very well on me. For the moment, there are not yet enough experiments to convince me to purchase this good or even very good record. I know that I would skip too many songs and not give this album enough spins even though half of the songs sound already great to me. I will though definitely keep on following the band's development and hope for an even more progressive and experimental output in the future. As an advice to the old school metal fans that question the quality of this band, I really suggest you to check this record out because it has many great moments and maybe the band is about to reach the climax of their career in one or two records. There as many modern as traditional and progressive elements and this mixture should at least partially please to any open-minded metal maniac out there.
When The Blackening came out 4 years ago, I was slowly but surely exploring the Heavy Metal genre. I remembering discovering Machine Head through the game Rock Band, where Aesthetics Of Hate was available as downloadable content. Soon after I had downloaded the album of which it came, and I loved it for being able to switch the mood with a flick of a finger... or a pick.
Fast forward to 2011 and The Blackening is still regularly blasting through my speakers. In the months before the release there was lot's of talk about Unto The Locust. Some expected it to be better than The Blackening, some thought Machine Head would never be able to reach that level of awesomeness again and some just jumped on a bandwagon. While I love The Blackening, I haven't put it on such high a pedestal as some others, and that just might explain my love for Unto The Locust.
I remember listening to the advance mix of Locust a couple of months ago, and I had the same feeling I had when I first heard Aesthetics of Hate. There was so much to listen to it became an assault on my ears. After hearing the entire album multiple times, I still hear sounds, accents, little things, that I hadn't noticed before. This is part of what makes a good album a great album. Being able to go back to it, and still have a feeling of unfamiliarity.
Now, Machine Head could have just made The Blackening Vol. 2 and most would have thought it was a good album. However, they didn't let the success affect their newest effort. Instead of standing still, they clearly have evolved. There are often several different vocals to be heard. Robb alternates nicely between a very aggressive shout and quite beautiful singing.
The guitars are still as strong as ever. They go from very simple, yet entertaining chuggs, where it's often helped with an interesting drum style, to a more complicated pattern. The combination of heavy chuggs, interesting patterns and harmonics makes for an album that doesn't sound the same song after song.
While Locust is a Machine Head as we know it, they also incorporate new instruments and sounds into the new album. The first thing you hear when you put the CD into your CD player is a choir. This is the intro of I Am Hell (Sonata in C#). The first part of this song is purely setting the mood. Something that is too often forgotten in the thrash metal genre. Whilst I think the intro is extremely well done, they save the best for last. Who We Are does not only cary a strong message, it ends with a string quartet. This gives me chills every time I hear it. Not only that, I also have the urge to press the Play-button as soon as the strings fade out.
Unto The Locust has exceeded my expectations in every possible way. If I have to be critical, the bass could have been a bit more prominent in certain songs or sections. I urge everyone to go get this album and let all the details seep in. This will be on my top 10 albums of 2011!
Originally written for implar.blogspot.com