Not for nothing are they called Machine Fucking Head…
Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 10 November 2014
Should the final opus of metal history ever be completed then it’s nailed on that the name of Machine Head will figure prominently. They’ve made some of the most vital metal masterpieces of the past three decades. When talk turns to the so-called ‘Big 4’, the reality is that Machine Head should figure in that quartet even if they do not ‘officially’ do so when the names are thrown down. Having visited the UK earlier this year when playing some intimate shows in which tickets were harder to obtain than Kelly Brook’s phone number, the good news for the legions of fans is that the quartet will be back for a more traditional tour just before Christmas.
Bloodstone & Diamonds begins tentatively with some violins tootling along. Just as you expect Katharine Jenkins to chirp up Robb Flynn lets rip with ‘With this now we die’ and the opening track to Machine Head’s eighth album is off to a raucous start. And a pretty steaming opener it is too. Machine Head raging against anything and everything as Flynn’s familiar drawl works itself up into ever greater slabs of venom. A mid track extended instrumental is followed by Flynn’s more dulcet tones against a tinkling backdrop which slowly winds itself up into a burning ball of passion that explodes with typical Machine Head gusto. It’s a great opening track and in one fell swoop answers any questions as to whether the veterans of the scene have still got the appetite for the fight.
There’s some absolutely inspired guitar riffs on Bloodstone & Diamonds such as on ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ when they cut some ferocious grooves so sharp they almost pierce the skin. Flynn’s at his angriest on ‘Knight of Long Knives’ which is just a total thrash assault with pummeling beats helping to heighten the sense of savagery. The tempo then slows down to funeral pace for the epic ‘Sail into the Black’ which takes Machine Head into unchartered waters, almost doomlike in their depth and darkness. Like Metallica, Machine Head have come up with some superb ballads in their career but this haunting track has to be the pick.
You can almost sense the mist gathering around the harbour with Flynn crooning like an old sailor reflecting on battles won and lost in choppy waters. After more than four minutes of moroseness the anchor falls and a stomping sound emerges from the deep with Flynn’s vocals becoming increasingly desperate. Live, ‘Sail into the Black’ looks a nailed on set stealer and at more than eight minutes long this Machine Head voyage is one worth hopping on board for.
‘Eyes of the Dead’ brings things back to the surface with it rabid ‘Murder, Murder’ cries while the aquatic connection is remade on ‘Beneath the Silt’ which swaps water for sludge with some great weighty riffs and some soaring melodies. A choral harmony begins ‘In Comes the Flood’ which develops into a rant against the massive pharmaceutical giants who put profits before patients. As Flynn rages go, this is up there with the best, a spitting and spewing tirade against mammon. The album’s second ballad is ‘Damage Inside’ with Flynn almost speaking the lyrics over a gentle harmony and wispy riff.
Flynn settles a few old scores with former bass player Adam Duce on ‘Game Over’, a heart-on-the-sleeve cascade of vitriol volleyed firmly in the direction of his former long term bandmate who quit (or was fired) last year. While the mood is tempestuous, ‘Game Over’ is a great track and certainly not the first song to come with bitterness running through its core. ‘I’ll never forget all this pain, let there be no mistake this is not a game’, barks the Machine Head general, now the only surviving member of the original line-up stretching back to 1991. The current line-up will do well to remain loyal to the Head if they don’t want to fall victims of something similar on the next album!
‘Imaginal cells’ is essentially an instrumental, the only voices heard are courtesty of TV news broadcasts delivering messages of doom and gloom not just about the state of our neighbourhoods and cities but of mankind itself. The twelfth and final track ‘Take Me Through The Fire’ needs no petrol added to its flames as this curtain closing beast burns fiercely enough on its own. It’s another pounding fireball with Flynn snarling out its title at the very end.
After the not altogether unanimously well received last album Unto the Locust, Bloodstone & Diamonds is much nearer to The Blackening in its overall sound and execution. Not for nothing are they called Machine Fucking Head.
9 out of 10
- Now We Die
- Killers and Kings
- Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones
- Knight of Long Knives
- Sail into the Black
- Eyes of the Dead
- Beneath the Silt
- In Comes The Flood
- Damage Inside
- Game Over
- Imaginal Cells
- Take Me Through The Fire