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A Much Besieged Debut - 75%

JamesIII, January 7th, 2010

There is a strange realm in the world of music, particularly in metal, in which there is no true middle ground over fan reaction to a certain band. Machine Head exists almost completely in this inbetween world. Their fans generally overhype them and their detractors usually overcriticize them. There is no "well, maybe" or "kinda, but not completely" responses. Either you love or hate this band, which seems to be the truth behind most listeners out there, as one could guess by looking at the scores of this album.

I, for one, do not label bands based on style nor past releases. I do not generally hop onto the group bashing bandwagon, unless they truly deserve it (*cough* Metallica *cough*, excuse me.) Machine Head is an irony of sorts, as they do not deserve most of the media praise they get, nor do they deserve to be ripped a new by every other person on the planet. Sure, they made alot of terrible decisions in their time, such as following trends that led to mediocrity spewing forth like a busted sewer line. Still, this band has released some worthwhile music in their time, just not always stellar albums.

The media has this fascination with dubbing each and every "post-thrash" band in the 90's and today as a thrash band. I honestly think this is where most of the heated criticism comes from, as thrash fans are up in arms over a slowed down, simpler band being paraded around by media critics and are proclaimed to be new, revitalizing acts of the thrash metal world. Keep in mind that these are the same media hacks who drew up the totally bogus topic of the "Big 4" of American thrash. In reality, all of those four bands were challenged and even overcome at some point by various lesser known groups. Yet to drive the point home, I completely agree with translucent2you and Flid_Merchant in stating that this is not a thrash metal album. Hell, "Countdown to Extinction" has more thrash influences than this.

What "Burn My Eyes" does offer is a bridging gap between 80's thrash and 90's groove. The riffs are still respectable, and there are enough variations in the songs to keep them interesting. Things tend to be more melodic during the longer songs, making them more melancholic than the shorter songs, but again the energy shifts help keep things together. Rob Flynn's baritone singing voice sounds fresh thanks to the production quality, which is well done but still maintains a bit of an edge. I know one thing, Flynn's singing is a hell of a lot more tolerable than Anselmo's death grunts in a megaphone sound on "Far Beyond Driven," released this same year.

We start this off with "Davidian," which quickly establishes itself as one of the better songs here. As a groove metal song, it works on all levels and tops everything Pantera was doing at this point in time. "Old" is a similiar story, more mid-tempo work, and kicks up with more energy than most things that were happening on "Far Beyond Driven." After that song in particular, we kick into a number of longer songs that exhibit the structural changes I spoke of earlier. "A Thousand Lies," "None But My Own," "Death Church," "A Nation on Fire," and "I'm Your God Now" all fall into this category. None of these songs are bad, though "I'm Your God Now" does begin to wear out its welcome and is one of the lesser tracks here. "A Nation on Fire" is the best of these, slowly building until a thrashy ending. For those who like "The More Things Change..." it reminds heavily of the song "Violate," but it gets to the point quicker and doesn't choose to meander for six minutes.

One of my favorite songs here is "Blood for Blood." I have a feeling if this entire album consisted of songs like this, people wouldn't have such a negative reaction to it. That song isn't epic, like something off "Darkness Descends" was, but its respectable thrash metal. The riffset is simplified, as is the usual story here, but it works nonetheless. The ending in "Block" in more mid-tempo in the same vein as "Davidian" and "Old," though it comes out better than the latter song.

At the end of the day, I still like this album. I discovered rather late in my plunge into metal, but still latched onto it nonetheless. I don't get alot of the criticisms thrown at this album, but I see it comes largely because it isn't thrash, again pointing to my analysis earlier in this review. "Burn My Eyes" should not be judged as a thrash album, it should be judged as a "post-thrash" album where it truly belongs. In that scope of things, it comes out considerably higher than "Far Beyond Driven" did, which was hounded by constant repetition and a lack of ideas. Its actually more comparable to Testament's "Low," as both albums have a similiar context, though I'd argue the songs here are slightly better. If you enjoyed that album, chances are, you'll enjoy this one. Just don't get caught on that thought that this is a pure thrash album, as nothing could be further from the truth.