Machine Head - Unto The Locust review
|Album:||Unto The Locust|
|Release date:||September 2011|
01. I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)
1 - Sangre Sani
2 - I Am Hell
3 - Ashes To The Sky
02. Be Still And Know
04. This Is The End
05. Darkness Within
06. Pearls Before The Swine
07. Who We Are
08. The Sentinel [Judas Priest cover] [Special edition bonus]
09. Witch Hunt [Rush cover] [Special edition bonus]
10. Darkness Within [Acoustic version] [Special edition bonus]
+ The Making Of Unto The Locust [Documentary DVD] [Special edition bonus]
Machine Head, the current band of former Vio-lence and Forbidden guitarist Robb Flynn, need no real introduction to most fans of thrash metal. Yet it is amazing how many people seem prepared to assume that all they've released that is worth listening to is Burn My Eyes/i] and/or [i]The Blackening. I feel pretty differently: I honestly find Burn My Eyes unimpressive (admittedly, that may be due to me not being a fan of groove metal) and found The Blackening overly long, suffering from the usual problems I have with progressive music (namely, a fondness of writing unnecessarily long music that seems more intended to show off the musicians' skills rather than write something that an audience can enjoy listening to). I do not deny that they are good albums, merely that I do not agree when people refer to them as Machine Head's best albums. By contrast, I consider Unto The Locust to be their best album and one of the best albums of 2011: high praise indeed, considering it was an impulse buy for me for a band I'd never heard of.
Let's get the obvious fact out of the way: this is not The Blackening part two. It doesn't even try to be the same as that, which is both it's biggest strength and it's biggest potential pitfall.
It is one of the album's biggest strengths, as it means that Machine Head get a chance to take a few risks with this album that they wouldn't have been able to try if they'd stuck to the strengths of The Blackening. At first glance, this is a bad idea, as there is a good chance that anything which doesn't work will bring the whole album down, but it helps to keep the album fresh and encourage more replays than The Blackening part two would have probably done.
At the same time, this is also the album's biggest potential pitfall: when you hear something like The Blackening, you'd expect the next album to sound, at the very least, like it was written from a similar formula as the preceding record. Unfortunately, this will likely be the thing that will put fans of The Blackening off of this album. Personally speaking, I find albums that sound too similar to each other dull, so the more atmospheric route of Unto The Locust is a huge breath of fresh air after the unrelenting nature of The Blackening, not to mention a nice throwback to The Burning Red.
The band sound incredible on this album. I'll admit, when I first got this album, I wasn't too impressed, but, when I compared it to their previous albums, I realized the progression between this album and The Blackening. For a start, Dave's drumming sounds closer to a standard metal drummer than his KISS influenced style on earlier albums, with a clear standout being on the album opener, "I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)". Apparently, the band took lessons on their instruments prior to working on this album and I'd be lying if I said I couldn't see it. Robb has a more noticeable range to his roars, the solos sound ungodly good (earlier, I didn't care too much for them, but I'm now actually looking forward to listening to them) and the bass...is the bass (ie does what it needs to do and not a hell of a lot more).
If I do have a criticism of their performances, I feel that Robb's clean voice has lost something on this album. The few times I heard him to do clean vocals in the past have been ok, but, this time, it almost sounds neglected, as if he decided to try and focus on roaring rather than try to create a balance between the two. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on "Darkness Within", which sounds pretty poor near the start due to him focusing on singing there, although I do concede that he couldn't really roar that bit without losing the feeling behind it.
I also have to question the appearance of the children's chorus on "Who We Are". Put brutally honestly, it sounds crap and ruins the build up to the song, which is a shame as, once you get past it, the song kicks a solid amount of arse.
The production is really cool as well, but I can't help complaining about how difficult it can be to hear the bass. As a learning player myself, it irritates me when you can't hear it very well on metal albums. Then again, considering Manowar's recent outing made the bass sound like a bunch of bees while being noticeably audible, maybe having difficulty hearing the bass can be a blessing.
Overall, this is a very solid album which is worth a listen to fans of thrash metal.
|I had big expectations for this album before the release but I must say I was a bit disappointed. After the 10 given by a famous musical entity I was expecting a mindblowing skull-crushing comeback album. Machine Head have been through a lot this last couple of years and most of that due to lack of direction in their musical style.
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|When a band reaches the peak of their career, one of two options present themselves. They can either continue on the path of their career-peaking work, or try something new, in a different direction. In the latter case, more often than not, a shift in direction doesn't work out as well as the band planned. After Coma Of Souls, Kreator embarked on an experimentation with a more industrial sound, to a not-too-enthusiastic response from their fanbase. The same cases can be seen with Megadeth after Rust In Peace, Metallica after And Justice For All, and so on. The Blackening was (arguably) the peak album of Machine Head's career, and on the follow up, 2011's Unto The Locust, the band went with the second option: a change in sound. And while I wasn't expecting The Blackening, Volume 2, I must say that said sound change comes as a bit of a disappointment.
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