Released: 1972, Warner Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
If you were born in 1986, you might look at the title of this review and say two things: (1) “Muertos made a mistake, the title and band names on this review are reversed,” and (2) “I didn’t know Machine Head had a new album out; I sure hope it’s better than THE BURNING RED!” If, however, you were born anywhere near (or earlier than) 1972, the year this album came out, you’ll know automatically that this review is about one of the best of the very early heavy metal albums – so good, and so influential in fact, that Robb Flynn’s once-but-no-longer-respectable band chose to name itself after it, before dragging that name through the mud by turning into a third-rate mallcore act.
Thankfully Deep Purple themselves lasted much longer than Robb Flynn’s aborted career, and the album MACHINE HEAD was a large part of why that was the case. This album is still as catchy, hard-hitting, mind-blowing and enjoyable nearly three decades as it must have been when it first came out. I was born in 1972, and while I’d love to be able to give you the image of little Baby Muertos in footie pajamas guzzling Heineken and milk from a baby bottle and listening to MACHINE HEAD in the early days, I didn’t discover this album until 1994, and as soon as I heard it I cursed the time I’d lost! Most hard rock or classic rock fans (and metal fans) are familiar with the song “Highway Star,” which opens the album with a bang. However, the real gems are buried later on. “Pictures of Home,” which has a very strong proto-metal sound with an almost modern stoner-metal vibe, is my favorite track. The epic seven-minute track “Lazy” wanders through lots of metallic psychedelic territory, warbling with erratic guitars that often sound like a pipe organ fueled with pot smoke. “Space Truckin’” is another classic. And I should be taken out and shot if I didn’t mention the one reason why people who know nothing about Deep Purple will still buy this album decade after decade – track five, “Smoke On The Water,” one of the few contributions that heavy metal has made to music that has been recognized by mainstream consciousness.
Don’t kid yourself, MACHINE HEAD was made 30 years ago and sounds like it. The production is thin and clunky. Deep Purple was one of the preeminent metal bands in 1972, but in that day and age heavy metal was extremely unsophisticated, raw, unrefined and non-technical sounding. Thirty years on we’re used to meticulously-written, well-produced, super-complex metal like Edguy, Nile or Emperor. Just forget about that, you won’t hear anything like that on MACHINE HEAD. As Neanderthal Man of the stone age was to modern humans, Deep Purple in the early ‘70s is to what we know as metal today. But it’s still brilliant. Incredibly brilliant, in fact. The staying power of this album can’t be overestimated.
If you’re a metal fan and this isn’t in your CD case, shame on you. If you’re a newer metal fan who’s just starting out, you owe it to yourself to hear one of the building blocks on which our genre was founded. MACHINE HEAD does not, and will never, disappoint. Own it with pride.