Machine Head – The Blackening Review

Front man Robert Flynn has been pretty vocal about his band’s new effort being its “Master of Puppets, an allusion to what some consider Metallica’s finest moment.

I’m not sure that’s the best way to describe Machine Head’s latest album, The Blackening. If 2004’s Through the Ashes of Empires was a return-to-form, of sorts, for the band, then The Blackening is a realization of potential.

The one-two punch of the band’s debut Burn My Eyes and follow-up The More Things Change all but cemented them as metal legends, but they were written off after a series of what many fans and metal journalists deemed musical mis-steps. Flynn and the boys were back on track with the Through the Ashes… album, and now they’ve crafted what will probably become one of the best releases of the decade when all is said and done.

Machine Head has finally reached a point in its career where it’s ready to take chances and push the boundaries of its sound. Take the opener “Clenching the Fists of Dessent.” The 10-minute plus epic veers through tempo-shifts and moods, from an unexpected acoustic opening to an assault of riffs that twist and spin, creating a layer of sound and moods that pull the listener through a meat grinder of emotion. Flynn and Phil Demmel (on lead guitar) are as tight as ever, trading solos and pushing each other’s performance in something akin to a brotherly game of one-upmanship that keeps things from ever becoming boring. Adam Duce’s bass work seethes with aggression on tracks like “Beautiful Mourning” and “Now I Lay Thee Down,” while Dave McClain never misses a blast beat.

As a unit, Machine Head hasn’t sounded this tight in a decade. The harmonies (from Flynn and Duce) have never soared so high; while the band maneuvers through a mine field of musical directions, mapping out a metallic journey that’s hard to ignore.

Of particular note are the blistering “Aesthetics of Hate” (inspired by the murder of Dimebag Darrell) and album closer “A Farewell to Arms,” a 10-minute cornucopia of style that seems to draw inspiration from every corner of metal.

When all is said and done, Machine Head’s The Blackening will stand as a touchstone in the band’s career. In this new, young millennium, the album is justification for Machine Head to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Mastodon, Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage and consider itself one of the best metal has to offer. And what other metal band which debuted in the mid-90s can do the same?

Website: Machine Head.