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A flawed credibility stunt - 49%

JamesIII, February 16th, 2010

For as long as they've been around, Machine Head have usually sought to enter into the current "all the rage" trend in heavy metal. While this turns several people off, also helping to fuel the legions of detractors determined to bash anything this band puts out, they often manage to put an interesting take on the music they're creating. As is always worth mentioning concerning my love/hate relationship with this band, I do not care who they are or who they were, I am more concerned with the musical product delivered.

With that being said, I know for a fact that "Through the Ashes of Empires" was a stunt to regain the band's credibility. After the horribly sub-par misadventures in mallcore, it would seem necessary the band return to their "roots" so to speak, though I don't see this album mimicing what good elements "Burn My Eyes" had on display. In fact, "Through the Ashes of Empires" seems to have more in common in terms of quality music with "The More Things Change..." though I'd argue this album is more focused in terms of songwriting but still trapped in mediocrity.

"Imperium" as it has been noted, is probably the best song here. It runs with some decent ideas for most of its duration and gives the listener false hope that this might actually lead to an enjoyable experience. The same thing is offered in "Left Unfinished," though that song portrays a weaker vocal job from Rob Flynn, who has made an inexcusable lack of effort on his part all too obvious for the majority of his performance. This is seen very well in "Bite the Bullet," a catchy number that shows stubborn determination to keep the mallcore stop-go riffing in place. Its actually a quite decent tune, besides the fact its repeated too much and Flynn goes bouncing around with the usual mallcore yells.

There is a hint of ambition within this album, something Machine Head haven't really possessed since 1994. This is seen in "Vim," which offers some decent lead work courtesy of Phil Demmel, whose replacing of Ahrue Luster (one of the reasons "The Burning Red" ever came into being) had me tickled pink. Unfortunately, Demmel doesn't much at all, really and that part left me disappointed. Sure he pops up for some decent work here and there, but his inclusion on this album is sorely lacking and not even what he contributes save this listen from becoming a listen that causes the listener to say "meh" instead of saying "wow."

I see the overall problem with this album is its Machine Head's way to establishing the credibility they had lost over the previous five years. I all too often hear "Through the Ashes of Empires" trying to impress the listener with some ambitious ideas and more interesting songwriting, but ultimately falling flat in the process. "Burn My Eyes" was able to capture that ambitious spirit and create something rather decent. Hell, even "The More Things Change..." managed to be superior to this album, largely because despite all the meandering of that album it did not masquerade as anything but a mediocre groove metal album. "Through the Ashes of Empires" is basically just that, with more speed elements thrown in and still clings to some mallcore territory, yet it seems to attempt to trick the listener into believing its more.

In the end, this album is pretty much forgettable since everything here has already been done either on "The More Things Change" or "The Blackening," only done better. If you already own those albums, you might as well forget about this one. It is better than the two that preceeded it, but as the tired saying goes this isn't saying much. I can see Machine Head diehards eating this up, but being a fan myself I couldn't really stand any more than about four listens, and those were in hopes the experience would improve with repeated listens. I can state for the record that this album's standing has not improved with me over time and I suggest anyone but the Machine Head loyalist skip it and seek out their better work.