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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Machine Head
The Blackening

Rating: 9/10 ?

April 13, 2007
It is all too easy these days to become jaded when reading the music press. After all, isn't it mainly full of bands who promise that their next album will be the greatest thing ever and then more or less always fail to deliver?

So you can't blame your cynical reviewer for not taking the comments of one Robert Flynn too seriously when he claimed, in every magazine that would give him the time of day, that Machine Head's next album was set to be "the heaviest shit ever," or, you know, something to that effect.

Funny thing is though folks, it turns out that for once the hype is more than justified, and The Blackening, the California quartet's sixth album, is quite possibly the heaviest shit ever to bare the name Machine Head.

In fact, it's fair to say that The Blackening is more than just simply heavy.

From the opening acoustic doodling reminiscent of Metallica's influential Master of Puppets, to tracks such as "Aesthetics of Hate," which bring bands such as Fear Factory immediately to mind, what Machine Head seem to have done is composed a historical summary of heavy metal. Each and every divergent sub-genre in the garish world of metal is given a quick once-over before being happily tossed aside in favour of the one thing that most good metal bands have in common; pure brute force.

The Blackening is a welcome return to form for Machine Head, who channel the spirit of their 1992 debut, Burn My Eyes, and completely disregard their ill-received nu-metal experiments of the late nineties and early noughties. There's no silly rapping or daft little beats, just lots of thunder, lightning and chaos, plenty of huge riffs that crash down like apocalyptic sledgehammers, and a good dose of agonised wailing from frontman Robb Flynn.

It's damn exciting too. Whilst most of the acts currently waving the flag for heavy metal seem to be either well-intentioned yet ultimately stale Metallica tributes such as Trivium or talentless chancers like Avenge Sevenfold, the re-immergence of a set of really good Machine Head songs is exactly the kind of thing the world needs. Simply put, The Blackening is cause for all to remember that heavy metal can be interesting and enjoyable.

What's even more pleasing though, is that, as Machine Head continue to explore the past and present of heavy metal through epic tracks such as the nine minute power-metal opus "Halo" or the shorter, brooding "Now I Lay Thee Down," the influence of bands like the aforementioned Trivium can be heard although, dare I say it, it actually sounds better than Trivium themselves.

Okay, so that may be a bold statement; nevertheless it is one which this writer stands firmly by.

With every bone-crunching riff, every heart-pounding beat and every desperate, tortured cry from Flynn, the heavy metal veterans have returned from their trip to the wilderness and reappeared, shouting, screaming and raising all kinds of hell to prove that not only can heavy metal still be exciting but also that yes, for once, a band can deliver exactly what they promise.

And in this case, that's some very, very heavy shit.

Reviewed by Chris Skoyles
A contributing writer for LAS based in Manchester, UK, Chris Skoyles covers music, movie and theatre reviews, as well as occasional features on entertainment, pop culture and social issues.

See other reviews by Chris Skoyles



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