Machine Head – The Blackening Review

Black has been associated with metal since, well, Black Sabbath. The commercial success of Metallica occurred with the Black album. Spinal Tap’s album, Smell The Glove arrived in their hands as a completely black vinyl sleeve. The quest for a metal band was summed up at that moment when it was concluded by band member Nigel Tufnel, “It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” To be metal was understood to mean being as black as possible, and black became to equate extreme.

This brings us to Machine Head’s much anticipated new album, The Blackening. Based on the previous paragraph, one could surmise that it’s about the process of going to extremes, or perhaps even what it takes to be extreme.

This, of course, is just speculation. But there is a connection, for The Blackening is quite the barrage of sonic brutality. Following the direction of the success of their previous album, 2004’s Through the Ashes of Empires, Machine Head take the formula a step further.

Opening with the ten and a half minute “Clenching the Fists of Dissent”, they establish right off the bat that the new material is harder and more complicated. “Aesthetics of Hate” merges thrash with some surprising melodic prog metal. Robb Flynn’s flexible vocal style and range matches the various moods throughout the album (“Now I Lay Thee Down” and “Halo” in particular). “Halo” itself features some dramatic harmonies in between intense progressions. The album concludes with “A Farewell To Arms”, another ten minute-plus track laced full of dramatic themes, hearkening the image of a shroud laid over the fallen.

Yes, The Blackening is quite black, as black as the smoke billowing from the funeral pyre.

Website: Machine Head

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