An incredible track-by-track breakdown of Machine Head's upcoming album "Unto The Locust" (in stores September 27th), by Metal Hammer scribe Dom Lawson:
I AM HELL (SONATA IN C#)
It starts with an eerie acapella intro, sung in Latin by a multi-layered Robb Flynn and drenched in reverb, before erupting into a devastatingly heavy opening riff that, as Hammer's underground guru Jonathan Selzer rightly states, “sounds a lot like Triptykon”. So far, so mind-bending. And then, Machine Head kick into gear. I Am Hell takes off like a fucking rocket; a storm of ferociously fast and brutal thrash riffing interspersed with crushing, doom-laden choruses, it’s pretty much the darkest and heaviest thing the band have ever done. Robb Flynn sounds absolutely fucking deranged as he spits out the lyrics which recount the crimes and bug-eyed rage of a female arsonist. At around the six minute mark, the all-out assault recedes and is replaced by some fragile, medieval-sounding acoustic guitar, before exploding again into a destructive slow-motion doom riff. At over eight minutes in length this is the longest track on Unto The Locust but it flies by in what seems like a fraction of that time. A stunning start by any sane standards.
BE STILL AND KNOW
Major Maiden vibes kick off track two, thanks to a tapped riff that is strongly reminiscent of the UK legends’ Wasted Years. What follows is unmistakably Machine Fucking Head, however, as a pounding, pendulous groove underpins Robb Flynn’s impassioned lyric about tough times and how to negotiate your way through them. When the gloriously anthemic and stirring chorus kicks in, you will have to be either daft, deaf or dead to resist throwing your hands towards the sky. With a multi-part mid-section that shoots off in all manner of directions, with stops, starts, blazing lead breaks and juddering percussive punctuations, this is far from a simple song, but its overall sentiment of trusting that the sun will rise and that you have the strength to make it through life’s shittier moments is irresistible. It’s hard to imagine another band pulling it off with such skill.
You’ve already heard this, right? Well, unless you’re a big mental, you will already know that this is one of the most powerful tracks that Machine Head have ever recorded. Predominantly mid-paced and defiantly melodic, it’s also deceptively complex and features numerous sublime moments of interplay between the four members of the band, most notably Flynn and Phil Demmel, who harmonize gloriously during the song’s extended mid-section. And let’s face it, the pulverising sort-of-breakdown at the end of the song is worth the price of admission on its own, isn’t it?
THIS IS THE END
The first song to be written for this album and arguably the one that most succinctly encapsulates where Machine Head are in musical terms right now, this proud and vicious epic starts with an elegiac classical guitar intro before exploding into life with a magnificent Dave McClain drum fill and a single-string guitar motif that sounds like a cross between Satyricon’s Mother North and Muse’s Plug-In Baby. Possibly. The rest of the song is an all-out assault comprising flat-out thrash riffing, clattering blastbeats, some astonishing solos from both Flynn and Demmel and another soaring, instant sing-along chorus that brilliantly showcases how much stronger Robb Flynn’s voice has become over the years. And by Christ, he sounds fucking pissed off. Excellent work.
Like Descend The Shades Of Night before it, Darkness Within is very obviously the mood-shifting curveball on Unto The Locust. A brooding, heartfelt and emotionally charged paean to Flynn’s life as a musician and the intense relationship he has with music itself, it boasts the finest lyrics that the frontman has ever penned, but it’s also one of the most musically adventurous tracks of Machine Head’s career to date. Beginning with simple, staccato acoustic guitar chord sequence and Flynn’s passionate vocal, it builds and builds, before erupting into epic metal splendour when the second chorus kicks in. From then on, this is an exercise in grandiose power as brutal, syncopated riffs rain down amid Flynn’s bellowed cries of “Music, my saviour!” Holy. Fucking. Shit. An instant classic.
PEARLS BEFORE THE SWINE
Perhaps the strangest track on Unto The Locust, this structural oddball comes across as a bewildering collage of monstrous metal riffs, held together by Flynn’s incensed vocals and the overwhelming tightness of Machine Head’s rhythm section. There is no shortage of hooks here, but this is a darker, weirder and less purposefully accessible song that adds great substance and weight to the album’s overall vibe. It ends with what is almost certainly the heaviest string of riffs on the entire album, as the song fades to bile-flecked black...
WHO WE ARE
Okay, so you probably never expected to hear children singing on a Machine Head album, but given the unsentimental and ambiguous nature of what they’re singing (“This is who we are/This is what I am/We have nowhere else to go/Divided we will stand…”) in the intro to this gloriously epic and grandiloquent album closer and taking into consideration that the kids concerned belong to Robb Flynn, Phil Demmel and studio engineer Juan Urteaga, it’s hard to deny that Machine Head have pulled it off with considerable audacity. What follows is one of the most musically triumphant and bombastic things the band have ever recorded, with shades of everyone from Maiden and Priest through to Carcass and At The Gates combining to create a celebratory, none-more-metal denouement to this frankly extraordinary follow-up to The Blackening. Again, the chorus is ridiculously huge and utterly infectious. At one point Robb Flynn sings “Into glory we will ride!”, thus earning himself maximum metal points and a free loincloth. The song ends with some elegant strings and a very tangible sense of a job well done. Have Machine Head topped The Blackening? Yup. They really have.
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