Released: 2011, Roadrunner Records
It's the age-old quandary: a band unleashes a debut that proceeds to set off a stick of dynamite the size of Apolo 13 under world's collective posterior, only to be held to a standard that's virtually impossible to attain forever after. Such has been Machine Head's lot. Their quintessential masterpiece, BURN MY EYES, remains a defining moment in modern metal, it's incendiary riffing and genuine vitriol still bristling with the same relevance today as it did when it first saw the light of day in 1994. Following it up successfully was always going to be an arduous task and it's sequel, THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, failed to meet the challenge. Nor indeed did either 1999's THE BURNING RED or 2001's SUPERCHARGER hit the mark.
Indeed it was only after the arrival of 2003's THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES that the Oakland quartet turn a corner of sorts, recapturing at least partially the lightning in a bottle of their first offering. Hot on its heels came THE BLACKENING - a record that saw them rake in the awards, but split opinion on the musical direction the band had taken, trading their acerbic edge for a distinctly more measured, melodic modus operandi. Whilst by no means seeking to repeat themselves, UNTO THE LOCUST follows a similar tact though the opening bars proper of "I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)" may at first have you guessing otherwise. "Be Still & Know" borrows heavily from a palette of Maiden-esque twin guitar-led harmonising, contrasting a ripping verse with a chorus that's big on bluster but ultimately feels like a left turn too far. More impactful is "Locust", replete with an introduction that wouldn't sound out of place on a Paradise Lost record, but where drummer, Dave McClain, particularly gets the opportunity to shine. Indeed, his efforts have been the subject of some very enthusiastic praise and on "This Is The End", it's not hard to see why. Here, as at numerous points scattered across particularly the last half of the album, the step up in technicality on the part of Flynn and Demmel's guitar-work is especially evident.
But ironically, it's this aspect that - for me, at least - leaves the record somewhat hamstrung at times. Disciples of fleet-fingered shredding and impossible-to-recreate riffs will be in their element here, there's really no doubt about that. What UNTO THE LOCUST lacks however is any real sustained sense of menace of danger. The pervading atmosphere is emotive rather than angry and when the band do turn their hand to the latter, the interlude is far too brief to completely satisfy.