MACHINE HEAD should be proud of their career. Just a few albums ago, they were label-less and had released “Supercharger” a Nu Metal inspired low point in their catalog. Now they are riding a wave of critical and commercial praise from the release of their epic last album “The Blackening." MACHINE HEAD have never been the kind of band to do the same album twice though, and their latest slab of modern Thrash called “Unto The Locust” is proof of this.
Although it must be said that “Unto The Locust” is very similar to their previous release in many aspects. The songs continue to weave long play times and the band seems intent on keeping up with their Progressively tinged combination of Groove, Thrash, and Hardcore foundations that have served them so well in their early years and as of late. In many ways, this seventh album from the American Metallers is just a natural progression for their sound.
At its basics, this is still very much a MACHINE HEAD record. The band’s chemistry sparks with continued brightness and the guitar work between Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel only grows stronger with each album. “Unto The Locust” might be their most impressive work together yet. They trade off on a slew of different punchy riffs, extended solos, and those Hardcore breakdowns with ease. Partner this with the continued effective bass work and the slamming drum work from the underrated McClain, and we have a MACHINE HEAD record that is as tight performance wise as the band has ever been.
The main issue for “Unto The Locust” is not the performances though. It’s the band’s seemingly one purpose intent with the music. That is a constantly winding writing style that misses out on the more anthem-like tracks that MACHINE HEAD can do so well. Even though they throw in a variety of styles into each track (even acoustic work on “Darkness Within” and some Death Metal tinges for the opening “I Am Hell”), the tracks are very long and drawn out. Who starts off the album with an almost eight-minute track? MACHINE HEAD does. None of them are bad by any means, but when an album hits almost 50 minutes of run time in seven tracks (non bonus), then it can be a bit wearing on the listener. It would have been even better had they throw a few more of their anthem-like songs on the record for diversity sake, even though “Who We Are” does come damn close with its great chant along chorus.
MACHINE HEAD continue to dominate with this latest slab of Metal mixing. It’s got insane energy, infallible song writing/performances, and Robb Flynn can still bark out the seething lyrics like he’s been known to do (not to mention some pretty solid singing). If only it had a bit more variety, it would rival “The Blackening” for one of the best albums of their career. As is though, it’s a great record and certainly one of my favorites for 2011. Two albums in a row that almost make one forget when the band flirted with Nu Metal…let’s see them keep the trend up.
Songs to check out: “Who We Are," “I Am Hell," “Locust."
(Online September 29, 2011)