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Creative bankruptcy bordering on plagiarism - 5%

The_Ghoul, April 26th, 2014

I had been curious about Machine Head's "nu" phase for quite some time, in the same vein as the morbid curiosity I get from hearing about a triple homicide in the paper. I had heard that it was terrible, but what I found was not so much talentless as rotten trendwhoring. While I'm not a fan of Machine Head in any sense, regarding their best work as ranging from "ok" to "enjoyable", but this is beyond the pale. In case anybody was wondering, what the Head have done here is replace their old guitarist (y'know, the one who actually wrote riffs instead of chugging) and replaced him with a numetaller and then made an album with, I shit you not, every single nu-metal cliche' there ever was. Listening this immediately transported me back to middle school, even though I never actually heard any of this back then, but only due to how derivative the songs are.

The disc starts off with a serious case of jumpdafuckup, with chugging I could play with a dildo instead of a pick. While high on barbiturates. We then get treated to a few rhyming lines, done in a grumpy whisper that was all the rage in the late 90's, as popularized by bands like Korn. I don't believe this song has anything, though, that I'd call an actual riff, and there are maybe 3 chord patterns at best. The vocals range from rapping (which I find ironically enough to be the most tolerable vocal style Robb uses on The Burning Red) to that numetal shout that was popularized by seemingly every band from Papa Roach to Disturbed to The Deftones. By the time this album is a few songs in, we're wading breast-high in numetal cliche's. I swear, it's like Robb compiled a list of EVERY cliche' done by a numetal band circa 1999, when this was made, and compiled it into a full length album. If you liked Robb's vocals on Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change you will be disappointed because his style is completely unrecognizable, replaced by this amorphous nu metal whine. The lyrics range from douchebaggy to whiny, and the whispering and pseudo-crying really gets on my nerves every time I have to hear it.

Don't expect the instruments to be any better; McClain is clearly capable of better drumming than this, as he sticks to basic 4x4 patterns and it becomes difficult to believe he was in a respectable metal band a couple years prior. That, perhaps, personifies why I find this so morbidly fascinating, in that it's a metal band that went from respectable post-thrashers to complete nu metal drek lickety split. Another way of visualizing the change is watching the live videos around that time; bassist Adam Duce looks completely out of place, with his thrasher style completely at odds with the nu-hipster look of the rest of the band. And this also symbolizes exactly what is so wrong about The Burning Red -- it's fake. It's manufactured. It's not what Robb and co. really were as a band, and it's them trying to be a mainstream band.

Another issue I take is with the song "Five". Many people have commended Robb on his bravery in coming out about his abuse... but I'm not sure if these people can remember back to the late 90's/early 00's when numetal was all the rage, and whining about child abuse was common. Not that I don't have empathy for Robb, but it seems quite disingenuous that he waited until numetal was popular, and thus it was relatively trendy to write lyrics about child abuse, to do so. Almost smacks me of being opportunistic, it seems. Either way, the delivery and the whole trendiness of the way this song is presented reduces the impact the lyrics would have had on me, if the song was worth a damn to begin with, which it isn't.

Bottom line is that if you came of age at the time of or before numetal was popular, and thus were subjected to the relentless jumpdafuckup, then you have already heard this album. Every riff, every groove, you've heard it before, and there's nothing original at all about The Burning Red. While the next album was a bit more tolerable because they toned down the horrid Limp Bizkit influence, the Ahrue Luster period of Machine Head will live on in infamy as where they traded their original sound for a straight-faced mockery of an already shitty and creatively devoid style. 3 points for Robb's rapping, which was surprisingly decent and the least annoying part of his performance, and 2 more for Duce's involvement, which was the closest to preserving their integrity the band got to during this period. Avoid at all costs, if that's not blatantly obvious already.