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Machine Head - The Burning Red (0/10) - USA - 1999

Genre: Groove Metal / Nu-Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Playing time: 50:02
Band homepage: Machine Head

Tracklist:

  1. Enter The Phoenix
  2. Desire To Fire
  3. Nothing Left
  4. The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears
  5. Silver
  6. From This Day
  7. Exhale The Vile
  8. Message In A Bottle (Police Cover)
  9. Devil With The King’s Card
  10. I Defy
  11. Five
  12. The Burning Red
Machine Head - The Burning Red

There are a few places out there where musicality and Metal come to die, and unfortunately for Robb Flynn a lot of them reside in MACHINE HEAD’s back catalog. Would be innovative riff ideas are chopped apart and presented as fragmented grooves or effects drenched drones, drum beats stagnate and induce a trance state rather than command the act of head banging, and shouted vocals give way to whining like a castrated Kurt Cobain or kicking it with Fred Durst and the homeboys Nu-Metal style. Naturally remnants of Flynn’s past filter in and out at times on some albums, but these are the exception rather than the rule, and basically disappear completely in the later 1990s.

 

The nature of the band has always been to take a salutatory stance on mainstream Rock/Metal, although if an analogy were made to a situation such as a celebration or commencement of sorts, the salutation would come late in the event rather than towards the beginning, given MACHINE HEAD’s lateness in following trends. So when approaching their most Mallcore/Nu-Metal oriented offering “The Burning Red”, one has to ask the question of which is actually at the bottom of the barrel, the true pioneers of an inferior style of music or the followers who pop up soon after? If one goes by the music alone, the terribleness of this album is only slightly less than that of the valedictorian (SEPULTURA’s “Roots”) in that the experiments are more localized to the Groove/Grunge sector of Nu-Metal, resulting in something that isn’t quite as grotesque as the latter, but regardless this album is completely unlistenable if you are hungry for good Metal.

 

A good label for this brand of septic steeped human fecal debris is vocally oriented Mallcore, in the respect that Robb Flynn’s vocals basically hog all of the prominence in the mix and often completely drown out the half assed background noise guising as guitars. Now if Flynn could actually sing or write lyrics to any degree, the testicle shrinkage that accompanies hearing things like his horrid rendition of “Message In A Bottle” or the quiet sections of the half-ballad crapper “Silver” wouldn’t occur, but alas they do. Likewise, when the guy screams it just sounds like a wimpy version of Phil Anselmo meets a slightly tougher version of Jonathan Davis, which will often lead into some really horrid Layne Staley imitations during sung sections that make ANTHRAX’s material with John Bush sound good by comparison. I have to admit though, when Flynn starts rapping on a couple of these songs, it gets pretty damn funny unless you’ve made the mistake in paying money to hear this album. To sum it all up, with this outfit you get 3 poor versions of 3 styles of vocalizing that had already been done to death for 3 years prior.

 

If you attempt to tune out the vocals to focus on the music, which is virtually impossible given how loud and terrible the vocals are, there isn’t really much to speak of on here that hasn’t really been heard on earlier albums in this style by ANTHRAX, SEPULTURA, KORN, LIMP BIZKIT, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, or this band’s first two albums. It’s basically like they took ideas from all of these, lined the walls of a room with white canvass, and threw them into a blender with no lid and wrote songs based on what parts of the walls the pieces flew onto. “Desire To Fire” basically kicks off with a series of redundant 2 and 3 chord grooves that don’t really fit together, resulting in something that stagnates and meanders, if you can image those two things happening in the same song. Flynn screams, then he raps, then he sings Grunge style, then he screams, then raps some more, before leading into some gay, quiet spoken breakdown section. Hey Robb, are you trying to sing or are you making a book on tape geared towards illiterate homosexual wiggers?

 

Once you get past the first full length song, the extremely formulaic nature of this album unveils and you begin to feel latent homicidal tendencies towards your stereo speakers. There may be a little bit of variation when it comes to how each song begins, such as a repetitive rock beat with a bunch of guitar noise on “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, a boring tribal sounding beat fading in over the course of over a minute with guitar noise coming in halfway through it in “Exhale The Vile”, or in most other cases simply throwing out a Groove riff accompanied by some guitar noise within the riff itself. But regardless, you can count on the music to find its way into a stagnated groove, you can count on that annoying as hell tremolo effect that signifies a forbidden fantasy shared between Flynn and The Edge to worm it’s way into just about every song on here, and you can expect Flynn’s voice to either whine, choke, rap, whisper, or ad lib some the occasional yeah, come on, or 1-2-3-4.

 

While there isn’t any one song on here that qualifies as good to any extent, there is a level of differentiation on here. There are some bad songs on here that seem to be trying to sound Metal, albeit in a lame Nu-Metal sort of fashion. “Devil With The King’s Card” seems to be attempting to establish something akin to a “Vulgar Display Of Power” atmosphere during the first two minutes, although the riffs are so flat and uninteresting that it’s for naught and Flynn’s vocals are whiny and weak. “Exhale The Vile” also attempts PANTERA worship with basically no real success, mostly due to their addiction to throwing in those lame high end effects driven guitar parts and Flynn’s emasculated yells, drama queen whispered narrations, and sleep inducing clean passages. But most everything else is unapologetically Mallcore, especially the “Message In A Bottle” cover, which sucks as much decrepit, V.D. ridden cock as LIMP BIZKIT’s remake of “Faith”, which I sincerely apologize for bringing up as I’m sure many of you are still in shock at Durst actually making a George Michael song sound even gayer than it originally was.

 

If you’ve never heard this album or any of its contents on the radio and you have fond memories of VIO-LENCE, FORBIDDEN, or even MACHINE HEAD’s first 2 albums; consider it a blessing and don’t subject yourself to this. This is a musical denial of everything that is Metal, albeit one that lacks the Avant-garde quirks of its Brazilian cousin “Roots”, but otherwise pays faithful homage to it like a lackey does its master. A very small minority has argued that this is MACHINE HEAD’s greatest work, and I partially agree in the respect that this album best represents the nature of this band and is a crowning achievement in Flynn’s quest to get as much distance between himself and his former Thrash Metal roots as possible in the name of getting with the “in crowd”. In all its learned terribleness, it has earned the right to be branded with The Royal Seal of Gayness and is second only to SEPULTURA’s 1996 musical abortion in its role at the salutatorian of the 90s commencement of all things Mallcore.

(Online October 31, 2008)

Jonathan Smith



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