Release Date: March 2007
Machine Head formed in 1992 and since the release of their very first album the band has faced harsh censorship and criticism of videos and lyrical content that just won’t stop reflecting current events: the single “Davidian” was pulled from MTV after complaints of its description of the Waco, Texas disaster; in 2001 “Crashing Around You” was pulled because it bore too striking a resemblance to the World Trade Center attacks. What’s a band to do when its songs are just too real for large audiences? After album sales fell consistently, Machine Head saw its guitarist Ahrue Luster leave; Luster was replaced by Phil Demmel who would soon leave for other commitments as well. For a year, the remnants of the band stayed virtually silent and spent their time writing songs for the next album. When Demmel decided to rejoin in 2003, Machine Head was back on track to release Through the Ashes of Empires and now The Blackening.
While this is undoubtedly a metal band and a metal album, Machine Head haven’t stayed trapped in their genre when it comes to exploring new sounds or synthesizers. The guitar harmonies stand out as exceptional, particularly on the opening track, and they’ve brought in a few well-timed sound effects that tend to calm the music down a bit from the usual hard-rock pounding and give your brain something extra to interpret. Imagine something a little bit like Madina Lake with more of a heavy metal sound, and That’s what Machine Head is delivering with The Blackening.
I’m by no means a pure-hearted metal lover (I think we’ve established this in recent weeks), and when I listen to a record like this I’m always very happy to hear a few new elements that aren’t part of the mainstream genre. I want to hear some fantastic lyrics, a new vocal method (think Slipknot’s ?Wait and Bleed?), well-written guitar riffs–something that sets each track and subsequently the whole album on a different angle to everything else it has been thoughtlessly categorized with in the HMW racks. Machine Head has come through for me with its moments of AFI-like listlessness amid music otherwise dense with the signature high-pitched guitar and ceaseless drumming of heavy metal. The songs come off just a bit lighter and more digestible this way, leaving something even a hard-core metal hater can deal with for at least a few songs.
Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not of the opinion that an ability to cross genres is important. I think a band should do what they do with skill and diligence, and That’s just what Machine Head has done here. With any luck, they’ll even get to keep their video releases on air without getting caught in yet another controversial crossfire.