Released: 2005, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Coming on the heels of one of the most phoenix-like ascents in metal history comes ELEGIES, the first DVD release from Bay Area groove-thrashers, Machine Head. Once hailed as the saviors of metal in the mid-nineties with such devastating releases as 1994’s BURN MY EYES and 1997’s THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, the band’s descent into nu-metal clichés on 1999’s THE BURNING RED and 2001’s SUPERCHARGER left many fans in a lurch over the band’s direction. Roadrunner Records subsequently released Machine Head and for the first time in almost ten years, interest in the band’s music was at an all-time low. Against all odds, 2003’s THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES was released only in Europe to massive success and was hailed as the band’s best album since BURN MY EYES. Renewed interest in North America saw the band re-sign with Roadrunner and the release of that album sparked Machine Head’s name once again. ELEGIES features an 80-minute show from the THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES tour filmed at the Brixton Academy in London, England in December 2004 in front of 5,000 Machine Head maniacs. Also included are several short documentaries, three music videos and a half-hour feature chronicling the trials and tribulations the band faced after the SUPERCHARGER debacle.
The show itself can be viewed as a “concert-only” feature or as a “concert movie” with short snippets inserted between tracks that show the band backstage, with fans and other tour mayhem that adds about 17 minutes. As a live act, Machine Head is legendary. Punishing grooves, relentless brutality and their cohesiveness as a unit is on full display here. The sound, in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, perfectly captures the ferocious vocals of Robert Flynn, the spot-on drumming of Dave McLain (one of the most underrated skinsmen in metal), thunderous bass of Adam Duce and the axe-mastery of Flynn and his former bandmate in Vio-Lence, Phil Demmel. New tracks like “Imperium” and “Days Turn Blue To Gray” show the band’s return to a more aggressive sound while the nu-isms of SUPERCHARGER’s “Bulldozer” have not aged well. “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears,” “Ten Ton Hammer” and “Davidian” are as venomous as ever and remain among the band’s heaviest material. Pulling a track like “Block” out of the vaults is a nice touch for old fans, too. On the other hand, the band is able to handle the acoustic portion of “Descend The Shades of Night” and the dark undertones of “The Burning Red” effortlessly. Filmed using cranes, as well as professional and handheld cameras, the video goes from clear to grainy and split-screen to a sepia-toned, film-like quality. The added footage is taken from around the world on the tour including a German in-store, Bosnian press conference and the record release show (with Machine Head karaoke starring fans and metal photog, Dirt Junior) in their hometown of San Francisco. Bonus features include a short documentary that focuses on the band’s legion of faithful fans (watch for the full-back tattoo of the band’s logo) and includes testimonials from members of Chimaira, Lamb of God, God Forbid and Devildriver, as well as videos for “Imperium,” “Days Turn Blue To Gray” and a live version of “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears,” along with making-of featurettes for each clip. The real keeper though is the “making of the album” doc where the band members lay in all out for the fans to understand just how grim things looked for the future of Machine Head in 2002. Despite having sold 1.3 million albums worldwide, Roadrunner saw the 250,000 copies of SUPERCHARGER sold as a failure and, with mutual frustrations over marketing and promotion after the 9/11 tragedy, dropped the band. Ahrue Luster left the band around the same time and empty promises from many labels fell flat when Machine Head at first refused, and later recorded a “radio-friendly” song that was hopped around. The temporary recruitment of Demmel was bittersweet but once THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES debuted on Billboard at #88, a resurrection of interest transformed Machine Head back into a force to be reckoned with. Good stuff.
Fans of Machine Head have waited almost 12 years for a video/DVD from the band and ELEGIES is definitely worth the wait, especially coming in under $15. A 5.1 mix would have been nice as would widescreen presentation but these are moderate complaints and don’t really take away from the product. Other DVDs are flashier or more encompassing but besides Overkill’s WRECKING EVERYTHING LIVE, none come close to a warts-and-all presentation of the band both in the spotlight and out of it. Like SOME KIND OF MONSTER, the documentary portion of ELEGIES can be painful to watch as the band’s entire world comes crumbling down but you can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside seeing the band kick 5,000 asses in a show defiance. Why Machine Head never made it to the level of Pantera or Slayer still baffles me, especially when seeing the band live. It seems that the success of THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES reignited the passion these guys have for metal and ELEGIES shows the band back on top again.