Oh, Machine Head, you were such a favorite of mine back in the mid-90s with Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change that it broke my heart when you went all nü-metal on The Burning Red and Supercharger. Then there were hints of not only a return to form, but of an entirely new, powerful era of the Machine Head oeuvre on Through the Ashes of Empires. Then came 2007’s The Blackening, which I would never have listened to had it not been for the advice of the internet (Metal Sucks, I think). And holy living shit was I floored by that record. It was as if you guys had just skipped right over that unfortunate flirtation with nü-metal and jumped right into making the most mature, most competent, most thoughtful, most intense record of your career. From its first lilting notes on “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” to the last pummeling bar of “Hallowed Be They Name”, The Blackening is your perfect comeback record, a masterpiece of modern metal that absolutely eclipses both Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change even through the rose-tinted lenses of nostalgia. The Blackening blew my mind in the nicest way possible.
When you announced that you had a new record coming out, I met the news with a mix of excitement and trepidation. How could anything even match the quality of the previous record, much less attempt to surpass it? How do you take a masterpiece and improve on it? I definitely did not expect to have the same leap in quality, but I did expect greatness. When Charlie sent me a track that had been released, my excitement started to outpace my trepidation. When the record finally dropped, I was pumped on it.
But, having listened to The Locust quite a bit more since then, I think that it does not surpass The Blackening, but that it still stands head and shoulders (to rely on cliché) above most other recent metal releases. The Locust is 90% of what The Blackening was, only lacking the prior record’s sense of cohesion. Where The Blackening was a journey, The Locust is a tightly focused package of awesome songs. If the record had been written by any other band, I would have very little to say in the negative about it, but because it came after The Blackening, context demands that it be judged (slightly) inferior. But it is not bad, not bad at all, and I think you should give it a listen or 30 and let me know what you think. Also, go buy The Blackening.
Now that I’ve gotten my love letter to The Blackening out of the way, let’s get to the point of this post. Above is the new video for “Locust”, the first single (do metal bands put out singles?) from the new Machine Head album of the same name. I think the track is a very good introduction into what Machine Head is about on this record. It’s an assault with ups and downs, tempo shifts, tonality shifts: it’s a Machine Head song where they are doing all the things that make them Machine Head quite well.
Unfortunately, the song also houses one incredibly unfortunate lyrical bomb that I just cannot get past. Robb, “descending down” is redundant. To “descend” already implies the direction down. You cannot “descend up.” That would be “ascending.” Phil Anselmo is guilty of the same violence against the English language on “Suicide Note Pt. 2” from The Great Southern Trendkill. And don’t even get me started, Dax Riggs, on your pronunciation of “peripheral” in “Strange Television” from If This is Hell, We’re Lucky. Ok, enough pedantry. If I expected every metal lyricist to be a poetic powerhouse, I would be gravely disappointed all the time.
Wow, this has turned into a long, multifaceted post, hasn’t it? All I meant to do was show this video, but you got a love letter, grammar ranting, and an album review also. Lucky you.