Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

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Machine Head
December 13, 2003
Helsinki, Finland

Review and photos by Luxi Lahtinen

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Letīs get some facts straight.  First: Machine Head has always been a very popular band here in the European territory amongst metalheads. Thousands of albums sold, good positions in the several album charts in many different European countries, and rave album reviews in some of the most known and respected metal magazines. That should tell something about the huge popularity of these fellows here in Europe, and there seems to be no stop in sight for that. Following the very same rule, Machine Headīs gigs have been packed by nearly or completely sold-out venues and their on-going tour called “Through the Ashes of Europe”. This firmly hacks this hard fact into stone. For my loss, I have to confess that I hadnīt heard the bandīs latest album, THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES before the bandīs gig at Nosturi, so I honestly didnīt know in advance what was to be expected from their gig this particular evening. Luckily I had already managed to see them earlier last year, headlining the Tuska Metal Festival and their energetic live performance left a positive impression on me. Phil Demmel (ex-Vio-lence) was hired to the tour back then as a second guitarist and undoubtedly he brought an extra dose of more heaviness and tightness into Machine Headīs live sound. Having managed to keep all these positive memories about their strong and convincing performance at Tuska in 2002, I started believing little by little that Machine Head wouldnīt let their audience down this time either.

When I arrived to the Nosturi, Machine Headīs support band named Bendover, (a īsuckyīname for a band if you ask from me) a heavy sounding Finnish īThrashī band was finishing their own set. I think itīs better that I wonīt leave a comment about them as I wasnīt there to see their set from the very beginning. Sorry guys, maybe next time if the Gods ever let me...

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Before it was Machine Headīs turn to conquer the stage, I had time to enjoy some beers with a familiar 6-string torturer of Machine Head, Phil Demmel who was enjoying all the attention amongst the Finnish Machine Head fans that mostly seemed to be relatively young in comparison to some other gigs I have attended this year, and just particularly at Nosturi. Most of these īkidsī more or less wanted to look like Rob Flynn, (well, you all know how he looks like, donīt ya?) so it became a very evident for me relatively soon that I hadnīt exactly the right īdress codeī for that gig. Ha!

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The show time... A choice for the starting intro of their set was a pretty damn īunusualī for Machine Headīs gig, at least in my opinion. “Ave Satani”, that familiar sound clip from the “Omen” movie, made me kind of īautomaticallyī thinking if we were about to witness heavier, more wicked and more aggressive Machine Head during the evening that was already loaded by huge tensions and expectations that were raging through amongst the crowd, from one Machine Head fan to another.

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Right after the first notes from “Imperium,” the opening song from the bandīs brand-new opus THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES, started to blow out from the massive PA equipment. I was 100% certain that this night would be both sort of a fulfillment of Machine Headīs utterly heavy, mean and brutal live sound both for the band and their devoted fans, as well those who dragged their asses to the gig to witness them live tonight. Holy shit... did this song fuckinī rule!!? Shit, it damn surely did!! That song was like a heavy, 100%-hardened-steel bulldozer that ran over me ruthlessly and mercilessly with its extremely powerful wall of guitar sounds, making me literally beg for more. I almost was in awe after hearing something that reminded me of the bandīs excellent debut album, at least in my books.

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Up next, “Take My Scars” followed kind of īlogicallyī, making me feel even more thrilled about their strong set that obviously was already full of relatively high expectations set by the hungry audience. “The Blood, the Sweet, the Tears” off the BURNING RED album came next which Rob funnily wanted to dedicate exclusively to the īall beer drinkersī in the audience. The song sounded just much heavier and simply more intense than on their disappointing THE BURNING RED album, causing a little chaos in the packed crowd and more sweating and extra breath-taking were expected from the Machine Head fans.

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“None but My Own” (from BURN MY EYES) and “Left Unfinished,” also another new song from the new album THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES, were the next songs on the set list - and the crowd got whipped even more by the bandīs surprisingly heavy delivery the chosen songs. It was great to notice that as much as the bandīs fans enjoyed seeing their favorite band Machine Head performing for them at that evening, it was clear that Rob Flynn and co. really enjoyed playing for their devoted Finnish fans. At times Rob Flynn seemed to be all smiles, like he couldnīt help it while performing songs for their great Finnish crowd. But hey, a combination of a sold-out concert and a totally insane and crazy crowd that kept on yelling Machine Headīs name nearly constantly, could even melt ice from the most mean and rude heart of a metal musician. I remember Rob Flynn saying at some point with a great yet wide grin in his face when he took a look at all those people in the audience: “Beautiful... just damn beautiful...!!” so that polite comment didnīt leave any room for any kind of speculation about his deepest feelings at that specific night.

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Song after song (from “Ten Ton Hammer” to “Trephination,” to “The Burning Red” and so on...) Machine Head made both wild crowd and even īa bit skepticalī me convinced that Machine Head is definitely a live band; and yeah, feel free to make that īLIVEī with big screaming letters if you want to. Thereīs just an immense amount of energy involved in the bandīs live performance which makes them indeed a very entertaining band to follow onstage. The bandīs live sound was absolutely an extra plus on my īrespected & noteworthy things of a live bandī list as I have rarely witnessed such a clear and sharp, but at the same time, very HEAVY, live sound of a metal band at an environment like īNosturiī (which has a capacity for approx. 1000 people).

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As for encores, after the band had played the great Machine Head live number, “Davidian,” Rob asked from the already pleased audience to yell for the name of either for Iron Maiden or Sepultura. In this battle of the two great ones people eventually yelled their lungs out for Sepultura, and “Territory” got a new treatment in the hands of the men in Machine Head. And as the audience both sounded and looked like they obviously wanted to hear more familiar cover songs, “Creeping Death” by īthat-band-who-once-played-great-metalī, was next on the list of the encore numbers. It was lots of fun to follow how easily Rob Flynn with his troops were able to control īthese kidsī in the crowd as during the chorus part of “Creeping Death” everyone seemed to shout from the top of their tired lungs: “Die...! Die...! Die...!!” - just like the original father of this particular song has done several times in the past in the very same situation. The final part of the encores, “Block” sealed the evening for the Machine Head fans, even if Iīd personally have liked to hear them playing such classic Machine Head tunes as “Old” or “A Thousand Lies” or “The Rage to Overcome” off from the bandīs strong debut album BURN MY EYES.

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They did a very good set after all and I bet the crowd got what they pretty much wanted and expected to hear from them in the first place, so I guess I should have been as happy as well as others did. Well, to be completely honest here, I was īquite happyī indeed. What I saw and what I heard as Machine Headīs gig in Helsinki 13th of December was actually one of the better and most convincing ones I have managed to see for quite some time. Extra credit admittedly had to be given to their sound technicians on this tour for doing absolutely a fantastic work with the live sound, thatīs for sure.

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No wonder why they have been so liked and so popular metal band especially here in the European soil. A fuckinī awesome live band they truly are...

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Set list
Ave Satani (Intro from the, “Omen” movie)
Take My Scars
The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears
None But My Own
Left Unfinished
Ten Ton Hammer
The Burning Red
In the Presence of my Enemies
Blood for Blood

Descend the Shadows of Night
Back in Black (riff)
Creeping Death