At "Day On The Green" #19, featuring Metallica, Queensrÿche, Faith No More, Soundgarden, I started Machine Head.
Well, sort of... it was more of a figurative thought as I didn't have a band yet, but after watching / being blown away by Metallica for the umpteenth time, I decided that I was going to start a side project, as I was unhappy in my then-current band Vio-Lence. Later that night backstage (or maybe while Metallica was still playing and we were watching from the stage-right backstage bleachers?) I turned to my friend, partner-in-crime and long time Vio-Lence fan Adam Duce, and said I was going to start a then-unnamed side project and asked if he would like to play bass. He eagerly agreed.
I had two songs written by then, the heavily Godflesh-inspired "Death Church", and "Blood For Blood", both songs that I had already brought to Vio-Lence, but they were not interested in jamming either of them. Vio-Lence had gone through numerous label changes, were unsigned again, thrash was dead, and the vibe in the band at the time was that the new tunes were going to take a more heavy rock / grunge approach which seemed a bit crazy to me. Though I wasn't thrilled with our new direction, I said I would stay on, and though no one seemed happy about me doing it, starting a side project seemed fairly reasonable considering our circumstances.
4 months later following a (thoroughly documented) AM/PM gas station brawl after an Unjust / Deftones show (Deftones opening) at the Omni in Oakland, I quit Vio-Lence and focused on Machine Head full time. But that was still 4 months away, and for now, it was just a thought, an idea, a dream, that metal could be taken to a different, heavier place.
Did I think that 20 years later Machine Head would be a Top 25, Top 10 or Top 5 charting band throughout the world? Hell no.
Did I think Machine Head would even be going 20 years later? God no!
Did I think that we could become one of the best American metal bands on the planet? Yes.
20 years ago on this very day (October 12, 1991), Machine Head was born.
Happy Birthday, Machine Head.
Check out highlights from the four "Unto The Locust" listening events in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Oakland, hosted by Machine Head to celebrate the release of the new album with fans and friends around the country!
Browse the photo gallery here.
Amidst a slew of new releases this last week, Machine Head jumps 32 spots up the Billboard charts and into the top 25 for the first time in the 17 year history of the band, landing at #22 on the Billboard Top 200, and #19 on the Billboard Digital Charts (digital sales accounted for a whopping 35% of the total number)! On top of that, with over 17,000 copies sold, "Unto The Locust" has officially scanned more in its first week than any other Machine Head release before it! Even more impressive, this is the third consecutive album to show at least a 20% increase in sales over the last, a virtually unprecedented feat for any band or artist, let alone a metal band in 2011. Add to that the fact that Machine Head's last release was four and a half years ago, a period of time that has seen the music market drop by more than 45%, and you're looking at something amazing.
Roadrunner A&R guru Monte Conner gushed about the band's achievement in the U.S., stating simply that "It's really incredible to see Machine Head gain in both first week sales and on the Billboard Top 200 for 3 albums in a row. I can't think of one other band here, or anywhere for that matter, that has done that given the tough climate in the music biz over the last few years. This is quite a feat and is a testament to the band's rabid fanbase as well as their ability to win new fans."
Machine Head have consistently averaged 100,000+ albums sold in the U.S. for 7 albums in a row and sell double that same consistent number overseas (accruing several Silver Records in the UK), tallying their worldwide sales at more than 2.4 million.
Canadian chart positions came in as well today, and again, marking the highest scans and chart positions the band has ever seen, with a #32 on the National Chart. Worldwide chart positions were posted yesterday with no less than four Top 10 spots being occupied:
New Zealand: #19
U.K.: #82 (DIGITAL ONLY due to Fanpack)
The international numbers are starting to pour in today, and fans have officially vaulted "Unto The Locust" into the highest chart positions in Machine Head's 17 year history, charting higher than they ever have in every single country reporting to date! Machine Head's new album lands at #5 on the German charts, #6 in Austria, #10 in Australia and Switzerland, #13 in France, #18 in Japan, #19 in New Zealand, #22 in Belgium and #28 in Norway! Shockingly, the record also landed at #82 (#7 on the Rock chart) on the UK charts on the strength of digital album sales alone (Metal Hammer Album Fanpack sales don't count toward chart position)! Thank you all so much for the incredible support!
Machine Head have it on good authority that "Unto The Locust" has crashed the Australian charts at number 10! Thanks to all of you Aussie Head cases that purchased the album and made it happen!
In other news, America's premier heavy music magazine Revolver gave "Unto The Locust" a glowing 4.5 out of 5! Read Jon Wiederhorn's excellent review below:
Passionate, adventurous, and intensely dynamic, seventh album Unto the Locust not only ups the ante on 2007′s universally acclaimed The Blackening, it also presents Machine Head in an entirely new level of songwriting without sacrificing any of the band’s heaviness. Classical guitars serve not only as intros to pounding anthems, but as emotional segues between musical shades. Rhythms range from bold, yet traditional to angular and experimental, and beats run the gamut from shuffling to blasting, with enough tumbling fills from drummer Dave McClain to rival Rush’s Neil Peart. As a vocalist, Robb Flynn has never sounded better, transitioning between melancholy reflection and raw-throated rage as the songs demand, refusing to resort to ripping verse, melodic chorus cliches. Similarly, the guitar solos are carefully assembled and top-notch, whether slow and moody or lightning fast and adrenaline-pumping, serving, not as self-indulgent devices, but as bridges between painstakingly constructed song sections. Despite the challenging arrangements, Unto the Locust is insanely memorable, with immediate guitar hooks and harmonies tying together the many unconventional constructs, making eight-minute epics seem like three-minute singalongs. Unto the Locust isn’t just a great album, it’s an important statement that metal doesn’t have to fall into trite categories or draw from pre-existing formulas to be accessible. Machine Head have made their new masterpiece.
Machine Head's new album "Unto The Locust" is in stores now!
Click here to buy the album via iTunes
Click here to buy the album via Amazon
...or head into your local Best Buy and grab your copy of the album Metal Hammer calls "a storm of complex arrangements and riffs, compiled by musicians who have gained absolute command of their vision"!
And check out the commercial below for exclusive never-before-seen clips of the upcoming music video for "Locust"!
While you’ll find a plethora of passionate critical acclaim for "Unto The Locust" from all over the world (compiled below for your reading pleasure), absent from the party once again is a large portion of the North American music media, still curiously reluctant to praise Machine Head, even in positive reviews. Having created some of the most respected heavy music for some 19 years now, influencing and inspiring some of the biggest and credible names in metal and hard rock throughout the world, this fact seems clearly lost in Machine Head's home country's music press with many Unto The Locust reviews referring to the Bay Area kings as "trend hopping", "copy cats", whose "groove metal" resides in "formulaic songwriting" and "ultra-indulgent doodley-doo'ing". Peculiarly, many American reviews voiced a considerable amount of disdain for the "controversial" track "Darkness Within". Some journalists benignly referred to it as a "power ballad" or "momentum killer" while others claimed that it was "long winded" and "out of place", and inexplicably, one mainstream website going so far as to say, this "melodramatic" "stumbling point" was a "sticky mess" and ultimately wished they had "never heard it"!
Thankfully most in the metal community disagree wholeheartedly and have heaped some of the most passionate acclaim the band has ever received upon the new record, applauding them for the bold chances they've taken and their decision to reach beyond their last album to create more than just The Blackening 2: The Blackerening...
SHOCKBLASTMEDIA.COM - 10 out of 10!
"Music, it will set you free."
These are more than words; they are a way of life. For the four men in Machine Head, that statement is more than an expression; it is the fabric of their very being. "Unto The Locust" is the seventh studio release from the heavy metal icons from Oakland, California, and it could very well be their defining moment as a band. Those are pretty powerful words when you consider the band’s catalog, but this is not your average band, and “Unto The Locust” is not your average album.
"Unto The Locust" has a pulse. A heartbeat. It is a personally intense testament to the power of music and what it can do for the soul. That is a quality that has always been prevalent in previous Machine Head efforts, but there is something different this time, and you can feel it right from the opening bell.
"I Am Hell" haunts with a layer of Latin chants before exploding into a thick and thunderous chorus of obliteration, and really sets the pace for everything that is to follow. This will easily be the opening song of their inevitable headlining tours, as the intro is such an amazing way to kick off a show and the entire song as a whole really fits everything Machine Head is known for.
Then begins the anthem of the album, "Be Still And Know." As is the case throughout the album, but omnipresent on this song in particular, drummer Dave McClain is truly at the top of his game on "Unto The Locust." He is very active throughout the album, but he flat out destroys on this song. He’s certainly not alone, as there is a lot going on in the guitar department from Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn. This song has a very 80’s vibe to it in a lot of places (especially the intro) and the chorus is catchy as all hell. I am going to sound really repetitive really soon, but everything about this song just rips. There is just so much going on with this song on so many levels and layers and I love it.
"Locust" is the title-ish track off the album and the song the band has been playing live recently. Oh, and by the way, it fucking rules. The metaphors are a-flowing throughout, and over-all, it was a great choice to be the lead track off the album. It really plays well live, and I felt like a kid again when I heard it for the first time at their Massachusetts stop on Mayhem Festival. I know it had already been out there at that point, but I somehow managed to miss it, and hearing Robert Flynn say “we’re going to play a new song for the first time” was pure magic.
"This Is The End" is not the end; it is actually the middle, and ironically, I’ve read it was actually the first song written for this album. It kicks in with a soft, acoustic intro before kicking into a bit of an explosion of fast paced everything. I am pretty sure bassist Adam Duce is adding in the backing vocals here, and it all fits in fairly well with the rest of the album. It slows down a bit in the middle as Flynn furiously screams "you bastards" before crushing it’s way on out.
The standout track of the album is without a doubt "Darkness Within." It is the song of a lifetime. That perfect moment when it all comes together for a band and they accomplish everything they could have possibly dreamed of. Packed with intense personal meaning, this is what music is all about to me. There was a point in time when I couldn’t face a life without music. I would literally hit up over 100 shows a year, in many cases to see bands I barely even liked, let alone heard of. Then somewhere along this crazy journey called life, I somehow fell out of love with music. Those words hang in the air when I say them out loud, and there are times I just can’t believe that this is how I actually feel. There wasn’t a date or time where I said to myself "wow, that’s it," it just sort of happened. Life changes, and nothing speaks to that more than the constant fluctuation we have seen in the music scene these last few years. Too many of my favorite bands are gone, and many of the ones that are still around are going down paths that I just can’t seem to follow.
Machine Head is not one of those bands, and with this one song, my passion for music feels alive again. "Music, it will set you free." That is the moment in this song where it all sinks in and steals the show. The moment I feel like I am having a deeply personal conversation with Robb Flynn, because you know what? I agree. Sometimes I feel like "he" has never answered me, either, but I am still haunted by the memory. The memory of when all of this meant something. And you reminded me. I’ve prayed to music and even built my shrines. I’ve filled my heart with every note, and this is what it felt like. This may all seem fairly dramatic, and I am very clearly referencing some of the many lines in the song that have literally made this just about the only thing I can think of the last few days, and I have to say, it is an amazing feeling.
Music, my savior. Those are more than just words, they are a way of life. "Darkness Within" is going to be a lightning rod, as it really stands out from anything the band has ever done performance-wise. The 1:40 or so of the song is very mellow and almost spoken over a very thin guitar background only to pick up a bit in the middle before sweeping into a melody that is truly Machine Head at their best. The song is the epitome of a roller coaster ride. Beautiful, powerful and dynamic with a full range of highs and lows. Again, it is unlike anything the band has ever done before, but that seems to be a theme for the album as a whole.
"Pearls Before The Swine" is probably the most traditional Machine Head song on the album as it has that very distinct flavor. It is thunderous in nature and definitely feature Flynn’s growliest vocals on the album. It seems pretty technical in the song writing approach, with a real sense of structure. It really breaks down into a bit of a melodic interlude of singing vocals towards the end. I like the song, but it is probably the one I skip the most. I don’t say that because the song is bad, it is more that there are others that are just so damn good.
The closing track of the album certainly fills that role and serves as an incredible ending to nearly 50 minutes of perfection. "Who We Are" starts with the children of Machine Head singing "this is who we are," and knowing that fact really just brings it all together. I’ve waxed poetic about the deep and personal power these songs exude, and this is a testament to that fact. Involving their children speaks volumes to the personal nature of the album as a whole. This may be one of my favorite Machine Head songs of all time. It is… heavy, yet melodic. Where "Pearls Before The Swine" had a sense of structure to it, this one feels a bit more chaotic. There is a little bit of everything here and the lyrics are absolutely incredible. This song would make for an incredible video. The solo… damn, that solo. I mean, I know I called "Be Still And Know" the "anthem of the album," but maybe I was wrong, and trust me, that is a good thing. They are two different kinds of anthems, though, as "Be Still And Know" is a bit more dramatic, whereas "Who We Are" is just flat out amazing and a total fist pumper.
If I had to describe this entire album in one word, it would be artistic. "Unto The Locust" is what happens when four men let their heart take them wherever it will and literally bleed their passion into the sound of music. With the success of "Through The Ashes Of Empires" and "The Blackening," it would have been extremely easy to mail it in and put out an album of like nature in an effort to maintain consistency, but Machine Head clearly challenged themselves into creating something more. That is something that is severely lacking in heavy metal today, and I can’t applaud this band enough for answering the call. "Unto The Locust" is everything I could have hoped for in a Machine Head album and more. Words like "masterpiece" and "epic" seem to be used very loosely these days, and I might even be guilty of overusing their varying level of synonyms myself, but there isn’t a Thesaurus entry big enough to expound the number of clichés necessary to give this album justice. This album means something to me, and that is what it is all about. It is everything music is supposed to be. I have been hoping a band would reach out and touch me on a deep and personal level again, and thankfully… that band is Machine Head.
METAL HAMMER UK - 10 out of 10!
San Francisco’s metal giants up the ambition to Biblical proportions.
TRULY iconic metal bands come along only once or twice in each generation, and if Metallica and Slayer are the groups who stand tallest from the 1980s, then surely Slipknot and Machine Head are their 1990s equivalents. All four came out of the blocks with planet-levelling intensity, endured periods off the creative boil and finally attained ‘classic’ status – but of the four, only Machine Head can honestly claim to still be making the best music of their lives. And make no mistake, that’s what ‘Unto The Locust’ is: the most accomplished album that Robb Flynn, Phil Demmel, Adam Duce and Dave McClain have ever recorded, alongside their two career-framing records, ‘Burn My Eyes’ and ‘The Blackening’. Like the former, ‘Unto The Locust’ boasts a sonic palette overflowing with box-fresh ideas; like the latter, the album is a storm of complex arrangements and riffs, compiled by musicians who have gained absolute command of their vision. It’s a breathtaking work.
Right from the off it’s obvious that Machine Head are out to take chances, and consequences be damned. The three-song ‘I Am Hell’ suite begins with a minute of choral vocals before breaking into one of the huge, fully leaded groove riffs the band have made their trademark. Predictable, you say? Well, less than three minutes later your jaw will have hit the floor, because Machine Head are now playing murderously fast thrash metal. Your favourite metal band, no matter who they are, would find it a challenge to match this immense song, not least because it devolves into harmonised acoustic guitars and strings.
‘Be Still And Know’ follows up this epic opener with an amazing, Joe Satriani-style guitar loop loaded with delay. It’s a beast: the only track under six minutes long on this vast album, and even then, only just. Shredders extraordinaire Robb and Phil are on fire, layering multiple guitar solos just like they did on ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ last time out.
You’ve heard ‘Locust’ by now, and doesn’t that central riff remind you of ‘The Black Album’-era Metallica? But there are way too many ideas flying about for that reference to stick for long, with the song going in multiple directions. There’s that huge, audience-levelling groove at 3:16 and 6:40, which you’ll play again and again until your ears bleed – and then there’s Robb’s sweet, choirboy tenor. Told you they had a lot of ideas. This applies to ‘This Is The End’, too, a meaty thrash tune for the pit jockeys which features a classical guitar intro.
The core of this fully evolved album is ‘The Darkness Within’, which the Machine Head bandmembers have been reluctant to define in interviews – and with good reason. The first couple of minutes are Robb as Bob Dylan, with lines such as “I’m just a broken man” ripped from him while the song builds with agonising slowness. This is emotion at its rawest, and utterly different from anything we’ve heard from Machine Head to date. After that, the upbeat ‘Pearls Before The Swine’ keeps things going at a ferocious pace. ‘Unto The Locust’ winds up with ‘Who We Are’, an experimental blend of children’s choral vocals, strings and an infectious chord sequence. At 4:13 there’s a maddeningly intense high-speed riff – but it only lasts 10 seconds, the swines...
Cherish ‘Unto The Locust’: you’ll be living with it for a long time. There appears to be no end to Machine Head’s inspiration at this point: God only knows what they’ll come up with next.
METAL HAMMER GERMANY - 7 out of 7!
"Unto The Locust" is a candidate for album of the year. The expectations have been colossal, but "Unto The Locust" is even bigger. After the worldwide success of "The Blackening" and its subsequent entry into the metal history books (the second time Machine Head has accomplished the feat, the first being their debut "Burn My Eyes" in 1994), Machine Head have become one of the only bands that appeal to both modern metal fans and old school lunatics alike. While on tour with Metallica in 2009, frontman Robb Flynn mentioned that he wanted to return to short, concise songs. Well, that didn't quite work out as planned, since "Unto The Locust" is still a fairly complex record full of longer songs, albeit not quite as complex and long as many of the songs on "The Blackening". The songs here clock in between five and eight minutes, all the while Robb Flynn, guitarist Phil Demmel, bassist Adam Duce and, first and foremost, drummer Dave McClain push their instruments to the maximum. You simply can't compose classic metal in a more powerfully modern way than Machine Head have here; the solos constantly leave your jaw on the floor, before the wrecking balls of pure thrash smash your skull. "Unto The Locust" has it all: pace, ability and the typical Machine Head spirit that forces you to clench your fist and scream right into the confused face of the person standing next to you on the subway.
Right out of the gate the opener "I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)" kick-starts the album like a twenty-ton truck. The quartet nails this "Damage Inc."-like massacre into our cortex with the precision of a high-powered rifle, leaving the listener in need of a break to bring their pulse down a little. Instead, "Be Still And Know" follows, an homage to Iron Maiden whose mixture of epic climax, speed attacks and stunning solos is the cherry on top of the sundae. Too complex for your ears? Then you may wreck your neck to the already-released "Locust", whose choppy main riff reminds you of Machine Head's early years, and representing an integral part of the "Unto The Locust" universe with its simpler and more direct structure. The mid-song instumental section combines twin guitars with a Metallica-esque groove that is among the best you'll hear all year. Next up is my personal favorite track on the album: "This Is The End". Quite honestly a perfect song. Starting with an acoustic intro and followed by Swedish melodic death metal influences that lead to its epic peak, these six minutes and eleven seconds should be written into every encyclopedia under the subject "Metal". Seventeen replays later and this song still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The ballad "The Darkness Within" offers you time to catch your breath, albeit briefly. Robb Flynn impresses here with his varied and haunting voice, a song that could very well be the brother of the song "The Burning Red", with a satisfying climax all its own. "Pearls Before The Swine" is the only song on the album that struggles with some arrangement issues, comprised of a number of different-feeling sections, however all are pleasing to listen to individually.
The exclamation point of the record is the more-cohesive "Who We Are", a classic that starts with a children's choir, yet after 40 minutes of tirelessly headbanging to the rest of the album, still scores with an soaring climax that'll be stuck in your head for days to follow. For my part, I - Attention: Sacrilege - like "Unto The Locust" even more than "The Blackening", because the songs get to the point quicker and it embodies greater vehemence, without feeling too long. There won't be many best-of Metal lists for 2011 that won't include "Unto The Locust". But enough with all the talking, this melodic grenade demands every second of your attention - don't talk, just headbang!
METALASSAULT.COM - 10 out of 10!
Four years since the epic success of "The Blackening", the seventh Machine Head studio album "Unto The Locust" is upon us. The band never did a headline run of dates in North America during the extremely long touring cycle for The Blackening, and we never really got to see the band present that amazing album in full glory. So even though a Machine Head tour has eluded us, a new album is something we can easily grab a hold of, and these two weeks leading up to the release of Unto The Locust should be an exciting time for each and every Machine Head fan. In my own case, I was brimming with anticipation when I pressed the Play button on the advance digital stream I've been given access to.
To start with, fans will be taken aback by the haunting multi-layered latin acapella piece by Robb Flynn which is the first thing you will hear on the album. This is called "Sangre Sani (Blood Saint)", the first of three segments that constitute the opening track "I Am Hell". The second part is quintessential Machine Head and consists of devastating vocals, deadly guitar riffs, blistering solos and killer drumming. It then dies down into the third segment where an acoustic guitar joins in, and I'm pretty sure I hear a bit of cello as well. This opening tune leaves me absolutely stunned and floored, and if it doesn't do the same to you, I'd be very surprised.
I just couldn't get over the awesomeness of I Am Hell, but after around 20 repeated listens, I finally moved on to "Be Still And Know". My amazement from the previous track didn't die down even one bit, because the opening riff of this song is strongly reminiscent of my favorite band of all time, Iron Maiden. It makes me think of their song "Wasted Years", and the riff continues to carry the song for the most part of it. Having said that, the riff is complimented excellently by a pounding, heavy groove of the kind you would expect only from Machine Head, along with some terrific interplay between Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel on the guitars. This gives way to "Locust", a song you must have heard by now. The music here is simply fantastic and just goes to show the kind of new ground the band has broken with this album, while keeping intact the musical elements they are known for. But, as much as I love this song, I was surprised that this was chosen as the single because to be honest, it gets overshadowed by other songs on the album in my honest opinion. May be it was a case of saving the best for last.
The album continues to throw up one surprise after another, as "This Is The End" starts off with a classical guitar intro, yes, a classical guitar intro. It instantly reminds me of Metallica's "Battery", and I'd be shocked if Metallica fans don't notice this. But what comes next couldn't have been more hard-hitting, as the intro gives way to a death metal-type riff which transforms the song into a flat-out 'moshpit classic'. There are lightning fast segments interlaced with slower, groovier parts, and all in all, it's a headbangers' delight. "Darkness Within" changes things up drastically, presenting the clean vocals of Robb Flynn for the entire song barring a few seconds in the middle. He is backed by some nicely crafted guitar layers that create an extremely rich melody. The music makes perfect sense because it compliments the intensity and darkness of the lyrics.
"Pearls Before The Swine" brings back the groovy aggression of some of the previous tracks, but if offers so much variety that it almost defies belief. Unlike all other tunes here, there is no particular structure to this one. It moves from one pattern to the next even before the listener gets a chance to get a grasp of what's happening. The rhythm section is much more prominent here as compared to anything else on the album. Adam Duce' bass is very audible in the mix, an aspect which makes this the heaviest out of the seven songs on offer. Dave McClain on the drums also adjusts brilliantly to the crazy variations and comes up trumps. Another thing this particular tune doesn't share with the others is, it might not be an instant classic and almost certainly, it will take you a few listens to get a true understanding of it. The riff pattern at the end is just brutal, and leads to the final track "Who We Are". Did you ever think you'd hear children singing on a Machine Head album? Well, believe it or not, it's definitely happening. A group of children sing the chorus lines to start the song, after which it turns into yet another enjoyable tune with plenty of hooks, grooves, solid guitar harmonies and trade-offs, and beyond all, a powerful vocal harmony with Flynn and the children singing together towards the end of the song.
All in all, this album exceeds all my expectations, and then some. It leaves me completely stunned in amazement as it maintains a firm grip on me even after numerous listening sessions. Robb Flynn's performance on vocals finds me in utter disbelief, and the vocal training he underwent in preparation for the album has clearly paid dividends. He has never sounded so powerful with his aggressive vocals, and never so intense with his clean vocals either. Music-wise, the band has collectively outdone everything they've done in the past. It's incredible how compact this album is despite it's musical diversity, and in a mere 49 minutes, they have expressed themselves way better than they did on 60-minute albums of the past. In my opinion, Unto The Locust is all set to stand firm as the best album of Machine Head's career.
If you're a Machine Head, I would suggest you to not waste any more time and pre-order this album right now, or go pick it up as soon as it hits your nearest record store. Even a 10 out of 10 is not a high enough rating for this one. Album of the year, without a doubt.
METALARMY.COM - A+ Perfect Score!
How do you possibly top a modern metal album so epic, immediate and intense as 2007's The Blackening?
Well, if you're Oakland's own metal legends Machine Head, you take your damn sweet time-four years, in fact-and compose Unto the Locust: an album which doesn't even try to top its predecessor, but instead builds upon the established strength and ability of Machine Head's post-thrash, power-groove oeuvre.
Whereas The Blackening built upon 2003's solid return to metal form Through the Ashes of Empires, so too does Unto the Locust take the ultra-metal magic of The Blackening and temper it with grandiose melody and high-end musical concepts to create a record which sounds full and conceptualized, yet hungry and full of life. The end results don't speak with such jarring stylistic deviates as the band's ill-fated forays into nu-metal-in other words, this a'int no Supercharger-but there still exists within Unto the Locust a different creative headspace; one which manages to push forth the band's aggressive, testosterone-filled Pantera thrash to, excuse the phrase, a 'whole new level.'
Whether it's the blower opening salvo of "I Am Hell," the instantly memorable "Be Still and Know" or the title track's lethal emotional firepower, Unto the Locust proves once again-as if it needed to be said-the massive sonic power of Machine Head firing on all cylinders. Indeed, it's probably just as well that this album ushers in a clean 'n mean Machine Head, for Unto the Locust displays in spades how diverse and unique the band can tweak their brand of metal, emphasizing the genre's power and potential for greatness in an age where so many seem content to copy the past.
Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel's guitar work is devastating and intriguing, while Flynn's voice in particular has grown exponentially over the last three records, embracing a tunefulness which is light years ahead of any sub-emo posturing or radio metal shimmer. Nope, the clean vocals used here on Locust are emphatically powerful ("This Is the End") and work side by side with the harmony guitars to create an almost effortless feeling of satisfaction and completeness not heard...well, since the last Machine Head album, really.
If The Blackening was Machine Head's ...And Justice For All-a bludgeoning, technical foray of extreme metal precision-than Unto The Locust just may be the band's Master of Puppets: a near flawless example of how exciting modern metal can be when placed into the hands of true, passionate professionals.
METALUNDERGROUND.COM - 4.5 out of 5!
Well, it certainly took long enough for a new Machine Head album to come out. Beginning “Unto the Locust” with Robb Flynn screaming out a distorted “I am death” just happens to raise expectations even more. Yet, album opener “I Am Hell” happens to really ram home exactly why I love this band, as it's truly an epic opener that contains some great riffs, an anthemic chorus and a solo that relies more on atmosphere than technical skill. All of these elements combine into one giant hodgepodge of awesome. The great part about this is that is that “I Am Hell” isn’t just a great song on its own; it sets the pace for the rest of the album.
Those who didn't like the version of “Locust” released earlier this year should be happy to know that after mixing and mastering, it sounds completely different. Those who did are in for a surprise, as “Locust” is improved in every way. The song fits with the high quality of the rest of the album, which more than meets the high standards that Machine Head set for themselves with “The Blackening.” “Unto the Locust” is a fantastic example of progressive groove/thrash metal, where every single idea just feels right despite the length of each of the songs.
The great part about “Unto the Locust” is that while it sounds like Machine Head, it is only vaguely reminiscent of “The Blackening.” As far as changes go, the only big one is that “Unto the Locust” is much more melodic than the two preceding albums, which focused more on big chunky riffs. It's not going to alienate any fans, but it stands beside “The Blackening,” instead of trying to surpass it, by making subtle, but noticeable, changes to the band's formula.
One track that Machine Head is certain to make into a live staple is “Darkness Within.” With a catchy chorus, melodic guitar work and an acoustic intro that all characterize the song, but with enough inspired moments of pure genius popping up throughout the track, it's safe to say that “Darkness Within” may very well be the best song that Machine Head has ever written, despite it coming out 16 years after the band's debut. Everything about this song is perfect and it's certainly good enough to make me want to see Machine Head live again.
After everything that “Unto the Locust” did right, it's a shame that the album has to end on such a weak note. “Who We Are” doesn’t flow with the rest of the songs, has an annoying chorus and simply lacks the power that the rest of the album has. Also, a children's choir is incredibly annoying and should never again be used in anything calling itself metal. There was actually a team of scientists attempting to create the most objectively annoying song ever, which made a heavy use of a children's choir, only further justifying my opinion that “Who We Are” is the absolute dumbest move made by Machine Head since Ahrue Luster was in the band.
Still, that's only one track out of seven. The rest of “Unto The Locust” contains enough brilliance to satisfy even the most jaded of metal heads. If this album didn't fall apart at the end, it would surpass “The Blackening” in terms of sheer metal ass-kickery.
Highs: Heavy yet melodic without falling into At the Gates worship, truly epic songwriting, every single second of “I Am Hell” and “Darkness Within,” different enough from “The Blackening” to justify waiting four years
Lows: The album falls apart at the end with "Who We Are"
Bottom line: "Unto the Locust" is one of 2011's essential albums.
HEAVYMETAL.ABOUT.COM - 4.5 out of 5!
Although Machine Head’s seventh studio album Unto The Locust is undoubtedly about art – wild, intense, unpredictable, skull-crushing art – there must be individuals involved with the business side of the band desperate for the high-flying kudos and artistic respect to translate into cold, hard sales, particularly in the band’s American homeland where they are still inexplicably billed below lesser acts who couldn’t even conceive the momentous event that was The Blackening, let alone record it.
Quite why the band has never fully connected in the U.S. when they are moving into arenas throughout Europe is a mystery. Perhaps the progressive tag increasingly associated with the ten minute epics so representative of their latter-day career is just too off-putting to the type of beer-swilling teenage drop-out wanting to lose his mind to Slayer. But those not yet riding the Robb Flynn express are seriously missing out, because you know, Machine Head does that thrashy Slayer stuff better than most as well.
If there’s any truth in the theory that the Machine Head of late has become a little too cerebral for some, the good news is that Unto The Locust is way more accessible than The Blackening was on first listen. Where listening to that 2007 album was an exercise in patience and slow absorption, the new CD is sleek, streamlined and set to stun from the first minute.
That’s not to say Unto The Locust is any less intricate or challenging – the dizzying three-part opener “I Am Hell” confirms that from the get go – but the material is somehow more instant. Perhaps it’s the varied and versatile vocal performance from a much improved Flynn, or the subtle guitar melodies that bring light and shade to the hard-hitting riffs, but Machine Head has created a lumbering and yes, commercial beast without sacrificing a single scrap of integrity.
“Be Still And Know” is a wicked combination of the raw, visceral energy found on Burn My Eyesand the sophisticated songwriting of The Blackening. Equally impressive, Locust is full of the type of complexities Trivium didn’t quite nail on Shogun and the progressive tendencies of latter-day Iron Maiden. Intense, awkward, yet utterly accessible.
Pleasingly, some of the strongest material can be found towards the end of the album – not always a trait on current, front-loaded metal releases. Penultimate track “Pearls Before The Swine” is a state of the art modern metal anthem, built on the classic foundations of yesteryear, but with one eye firmly set on a future which will surely see Machine Head finally claim their rightful status as worldwide headliners.
A few hundred words here can barely scratch the surface of the twisting, turning treats offered by Unto The Locust. Whether you get off on the prog of Dream Theater, the thrash of Slayer or the festival-thrilling enormo-metal of modern day Maiden and Metallica, you need this album in your collection.
FAN REVIEW from FRONTLINES.MACHINEHEAD1.COM
Well, I was trying to make sense of what was it with this album that I liked so much. Here is my take on it, no idea if any of this makes sense to anyone else, but that's what I get from it.
De Profundis. (Out of the depths.) De Profundis clamo ad te Domine! (Out of the depths, I cry to you, oh Lord!) These words come to mind with each listen of Machine Head's new album "Unto the Locust". Incidentally, the first track opens with a chorus in Latin, reminiscent of Gregorian chants.
You could think this is just another metal album with a menacing yellow-green locust staring from the cover, with the compulsory 2011 melodic breakdowns, growls and apocalyptic symbolism.
In fact, this is a cathartic journey into the depths: voices from the abyss cry out from every song in search for salvation – with the intensity of anguish, the persistence of courage, with wisdom and faith born out of pain.
"Religion does not help me". But "Everything to be true must become religion." says Oscar Wilde in his essay on suffering. This for me is the underlying theme of the album.
The lyrics are rich in Biblical allusions: the burning fire of hell, incarnate in an arsonist in "I Am Hell", the reassurance of salvation from Psalm 46 in "Be Still and Know", the maddening horror of the fifth pest from Revelation in "Unto the Locusts"; the state of rage and rebellion in "This is the End", the reference to Matthew 7 in "Pearls before the swine".
These are, however, cries to a god characterized by his eternal absence or non-existence. Music then becomes religion – transforming mute despair, love, sadness and rage into sounds, vocal harmonies, scale progressions, relentless drum-rolls, majestic choruses, groovy bass lines, acoustic melodies. Music gives form and meaning to what would otherwise remain inarticulate and inaccessible darkness. (The Darkness Within).
"The supreme vice is shallowness" continues Wilde. In the age of consumption, where conformity is not challenged because non-conformity makes no sense, when freedom is the freedom to choose and buy, it is uplifting to listen to bands like Machine Head! The last track "Who we Are" unites the voices of children and fathers to announce their flawed, unsettling presence and to remind that there is more than young professionals, happy customers and gleeful cheerleaders out there. "We are the other American dream. Divided we will stand."
"Unto the Locust" is not a concept album, but rarely have I listened to something more intense, inspired, and coherent. Apart from a brief moment of amusement in the last song, when I thought I heard plans for riding into glory, I have no doubt that Machine Head have created a masterpiece. Albums like this make me proud to be a metal fan.