MACHINE HEAD - Unto The Locust [Review]

Genre: Groove/Thrash Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release-date: September 26th, 2011
Reviewer: Tristan French

My fellow headbangers, I give you, possibly the greatest record of 2011. The follow-up to the incredible album that was “The Blackening”, an album which set this band up on 4 years of touring, and a true stamp to show that they are far from one- hit wonders. Ladies and Gentlemen, the mighty Machine Head have returned with a new album to shake the world, “Unto The Locust”.

From start to finish this albums does brilliantly, showing a fresher side of the band, but also showing that they are still the dominant band that we know them to be. The first track “I Am Hell (Sonata in C Sharp)” is the longest track on the record (running 8 and a half minutes!) yet is probably the most brutal song in the band’s history. The song itself is divided into three parts, “Sangre Sani”, “I Am Hell” and “Ashes To The Sky”. “Sangre Sani”’s resinous hum is both hypnotic and haunting, reaching a gradual crescendo to the start of “I Am Hell”. The song then turns dark, with the brutal death knells of drummer Dave McClain and a slow but powerful chugging riff. Dressing this brilliance is vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn’s beastly snarls. “Ashes to the Sky” picks up the track’s tempo, bursting into a groovey thrashfest that’ll have people fist pumping and head banging like no tomorrow. Future show opener? I think so!

This flows awesomely into “Be Still And Know” an almost progressive track with real grit behind every note sung and played. The song opens with an almost harpsichord esque melody that transcends brilliantly into a brilliant slow groove of a main riff, again with Flynn’s vocals symbolizing every morsel of anger that’s been building up these past few years. The song’s chorus is probably one of the most “sing-a-long” esque nature of the song and is sure to have audiences chanting the words in immaculate chorus. Although this is “Unto The Locust”’s shortest track (being just 15 seconds under the 6 minute mark), it also contains one of it’s most dramatic time changes about half way through, trading the groove for a thrash-tastic mid section and awesome twin harmonies by Flynn and lead guitarist Phil Demmel. Fading the song out with a nice diminuendo keeps the ball rolling into the next track.

Lead single, and the first song released from this record, “Locust.” From it’s awesomely ambient clean guitar intro, into the thundering drums, into an extremely groovy rhythm pattern (which contains possibly one of my favorite melodies of all time.) Once again surprising us, MH burst into a great chugging riff for the verse, once again peppered by Robb Flynn’s awesome vocals, which on this track feature a higher register of growls that haven’t been utilized nearly enough on previous Machine Head records. This song’s lyrics are extremely potent, lines such as “behind an angel’s disguise, an insect preys” symbolizing the two faced and leech like nature of certain people in today’s modern society. The song’s soft mid-section pulls back the reins ever so slightly, to offer a more ambient atmosphere to the album’s most religious themed song, before once again erupting in volcanic majesty into an awesome solo section. Another point about “Locust” is that bassist Adam Duce’s parts are the, and I mean THE most prominent they’ve ever been. Win? I think so.

This Is the End” amps up the tempo, throwing us right into the firing line with a great thrashy sound, someways in the same vein as “The Blackening’s” “Aesthetics Of Hate”. This is Machine Head at their angriest, purely letting their fingers set the fretboards on Fire. Featuring probably the most potent breakdown on the album, Flynn and Demmel once again show their riffing prowess, whilst Duce’s backing vocals provide a ghostly undertone to this otherwise brutal assault of track.

Darkness Within” really slows things down. As the album’s ballad, in a similar vein as “Descend the Shades of Night” from 2003’s “Through The Ashes Of Empires” , this track is Flynn baring his heart on his sleeve and at his most vulnerable, which is clear from his vocals slowly becoming harsher throughout the track. Although the track is absent of heavy guitars etc etc, it still hits just as hard as any of the previous tracks.

Pearls Before The Swine” picks up once again where the groovey charge left off. Being almost completely absent of clean vocals, this is clearly the album’s “angry track”, Machine Head truly venting about “casting pearls before the swine” ie: casting vast Riches infront of those that cannot truly appreciate them. The album’s chorus is very ghostly, featuring an extremely haunting vocal harmony over some amazing leads (Demmel’s on a roll here, seriously!)

Album closer “Who We Are” is probably my favorite track on the album. Just as Machine Head had opened well, they close this record with a track to equal the ferocity of “I Am Hell”. The dramatic shift from choral vocals by children (Robb Flynn’s and Dave McClain’s) to be precise, to Flynn’s undeniably ferocious growl, you can just tell that this WILL be an awesome track. Sure to have heads banging, this album rolls along like a Boulder crushing - insert artist that you hate here - , with the chorus being the album’s most anthemic. Audiences are sure to take to this as they did 2007’s “Halo”, chanting “This is who we are, this is what I am, we have nowhere else to go, divided we will stand.” Featuring the album’s most melodic solo, Phil Demmel once again proves that he is THE man, while Robb Flynn also displays his guitarmanship. Surely and awesome track. The track’s string outro is just the icing on this already delicious cake.

Honestly guys, I cannot say a negative thing about this record. It’s MH at their best, after topping a seemingly topless (yes…topless) album, “Unto The Locust” is sure to set Machine Head up for the next few years. I would give this album a 10, but no album is Perfect, so a 9.5/10 rating will have to suffice. As Robb Flynn would say “Cheers Fuckers!”

Order "Unto The Locust" via Amazon: CD | Mp3

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