One album. Not a double album. 15 tracks... here we go.
Like many, I heard of this record via the negative press it initially received. I like to make my own opinions and as a casual Machine Head fan I was interested to listen.
'Volatile' is aptly named. Opening with the lyric “Fuck the world!” feels like “my first lyric for metal bands”. Not what you wanna hear from middle aged men who are are multiple albums deep. It's cool when you are 20 years old, even if a little cringey. Musically, however this is vintage Machine Head. Blistering guitar work throughout. I am completely indifferent to the cretinous lyrics. They do absolutely zero for me. I can quite happily enjoy this band without ever reading the lyrics or listening to what Rob Flynn says as melodically they are a brilliant metal band.
'Catharsis' opens with a speedy high octane harmonised riff you come to expect from the band. The vocal harmonies are sublime but tainted again by lyrics that sound like they are written by a 15 year old pouting emo kid who didn't get an extra £5 in their pocket money.
Arguably one of the coolest drop tuned riffs I have heard in a long while invites open 'Beyond the Pale' we can hear the dual guitar melody tropes you hear on most Machine Head records beyond 'The Blackening'. Certainly an identifiable melodic aspect of the band which I love to hear.
'California Bleeding' launches in with a nuclear wah tinged widdle fest. As the song progresses it becomes very disjointed for no obvious reason. The chorus is very random for me it just pops up out of nowhere with rhythmic elements that don't really work.
The album really begins to decline even further after this. Flynn seems hell bent on making the worst elements of band the focal point. The over breathing and over selling of the the silly vocals, “Balancing life on a 'Triple Beam'.”... the sentence literally means nothing.
'Kaleidoscope' is just bad. That is as constructive as I want or need to be. I will try as hard at this review as it seems Flynn has tried to make me enjoy this album. The standout song for me is actually 'Bastards' (bar the lyrics, take this as a given from now on) melodically it is uplifting and powerful. I just pretend he is singing Queen lyrics and it sounds amazing to me.
At the halfway point we retain some sanity as 'Hope Begets Hope' sounds just like the Machine Head I know. A great song. I don't know what the words did. I have stopped listening to them. Something about the world and Flynn being an angry sausage or something?
'Screaming at the Sun' invites you in with an almost Lion King esque NYAAAAH. Eastern textures within this song make it, again very melodically interesting. The chorus is sublime with the effortless harmonies Flynn showcases.
The first time the record feels like it has any respite is 'Behind a Mask'. I think this should have definitely finished the record. It is already making for an exhausting listen at this point. This break and difference in sound would succinctly round up the album to a perfectly acceptable package for me.
… but no! Let's do a 9 minute song and 4 more tracks afterwards that literally add nothing to the record other than more lyrical whingeing. “Spider King”???? Shut up Rob.
This record has great moments. It is interesting. I appreciate the effort Rob has gone to to try and create some thought provoking lyrics but his skills really do not lie here. I just feel it is too long and completely without focus. As always, BUY THE RECORD.
Beyond the Pale
Hope Begets Hope
Screaming at the Sun
Behind a Mask
Heavy Lies the Crown
Grind You down
Rob Flynn – Guitars/Vocals
Phil Demmel – Guitars
Dave McClain – Drums
Jared MacEachern – Bass
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