Released: 2007, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Gord White
OK, I’ll admit it: I haven’t paid attention to Machine Head since they released THE BURNING RED in 1998. That said, most of Metal-Rules.com’s visitors probably haven’t either. The shameless sell-out that was that album was such a huge disappointment coming from a band that had shown such potential on their first two releases. Fast-forward to now, and I hear that their new album, THE BLACKENING is actually pretty darn good, a return to form of sorts. Turns out, what I heard wasn’t very far off the mark.
First things first, “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” starts things off with some serious thrash riffing! At 10:36 it is the longest song on the album, and stays pretty solid throughout. Yes, that’s 10 minutes in length and its not the only one! THE BLACKENING features three other songs that break the nine minute barrier, which is something that only prog bands usually attempt! Unfortunately, old habits die hard and the second track, “Beautiful Mourning” gets back to the style that made me sell off my Machine Head CDs years ago, although it does get into a pretty nice mosh riff towards the end. Robb Flynn’s vocals are strong through most of the CD and the angsty whispering/whimpering vocals he likes to do are kept to a minimum, but they do rear their ugly head from time to time. He also creates some excellent harmonies and trades off some great solos with former Vio-lence bandmate Phil Demmel.
After all is said and done, this CD is a success for the band, although not a rousing one. There are songs that aren’t so good (“Beautiful Mourning”, “Now I Lay Thee Down”, “Halo”) and songs that are quite good (“Clenching the Fists of Dissent”, “Wolves”, “A Farewell to Arms”) but even they have some breakdown/mosh riffs that seem to go on for a little too long, in classic Machine Head fashion. Basically, this is the best thing that Robb Flynn has attached his name to since BURN MY EYES and if they continue in this direction and weed out a little more of the mallcore/metalcore elements that they’ve picked up along the way, Machine Head may regain the status they once held as an exciting post-thrash/groove band.