Saturday, 1 October 2011

Review: Machine Head - Unto the Locust

 Since the last time I discussed Oakland bruisers Machine Head, I've listened to more music they have to offer, in particular, 2007s thrash masterpiece The Blackening. This was a magnificent collection of metal that wasn't going to be easy to top. For that reason when latest release Unto the Locust is put into comparison with The Blackening, there is a slightly underwhelming feeling to it. However don't let that put you off it completely. There are a lot of golden moments to be found here.

From the second opener I Am Hell (Sonata in C#) grips you in with it's unsettling choral intro, you are aware that this is going to be an album that is perhaps going to creative and dynamic, but definitely going to be extreme. And suddenly, you are proven right as out of nowhere monstrously sludgy and heavy jagged guitars blast into your eardrums. It's angry and doom-laden. It's an instant dose of the characteristics Machine Head are loved for.
 On Unto the locust, the group continue the combination of elements of thrash and doom metal that was present on The Blackening, with Be Still and Know sounding like the amalgamation of Metallica and Electric Wizard's sounds. The phrase "deaththrash" is one I've seen once or twice to describe Machine Head, and it's a reasonably accurate phrase. Certainly Machine Head do a great job of revealing the bleaker, despair-filled side of thrash, unlike the more rapid ecstasy fueled thrash one would hear from Megadeth or Anthrax. Thrash-wise, this, alongside the majority of Machine Head's work, is closer to the overall sound of Metallica's ...And Justice for All, an album I am often reminded of when hearing many Locust songs due to the regular highly tuned lead guitar squealing.
 Of course I'm also reminded frequently of The Blackening, with a somewhat lighter sound. The main reason why Unto the Locust seems somewhat underwhelming next to The Blackening is due to the fact that The Blackening was far more aggressive. And that's what you listen to a Machine Head album for. The aggression. That's not to say this album isn't aggressive at all. Robb Flynn's vocals are sounding as furious as ever and the riffage from Phil Demmel manages to stay devastatingly brutal even when at it's most hooky. Pearls Before the Swine is a good place to see what I'm talking about. However there are various elements of the album which makes it that bit lighter sounding. Most notably in Darkness Within, which though ending as a thick slice of intense thrash, plays for the most part with a grunge-like sound. Especially at the beginning, where one could be excused for mistaking it for a Seether song. (MH fans worldwide are probably going to kill me for that statement.)
 As we end on Who We Are, the overall tone is surprisingly uplifting with a rousing sing-along chorus which is either performed by Flynn or some only marginally annoying high pitched clean vocals, which actually does sound more like the fun joyful thrash that we'd be more used Scott Ian or Dave Mustaine delivering to us. It's quite nice to hear though, and leaves listeners with an overall feel of positivity and suggests all is well in the Machine Head camp.
 So Unto the Locust presents listeners with an intense display of despair powered thrash insanity. It comes fast and hard and shows the band doing what they do best.

 Machine Head's Unto the Locust is out now via Roadrunner. The band will tour the UK in December with Bring Me the Horizon, DevilDriver and Darkest Hour.

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