Machine Head - Unto The Locust
Roadrunner Records
Modern Thrash, Heavy Metal
7 songs (48:52)
Release year: 2011
Machine Head, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Rob Flynn and co. have flirted with brilliance without ever quite getting there in my eyes of late, after the highlight of Burn My Eyes dropping in quality to the various flirtations with nu-metal and metalcore that have led to such admittedly quite decent albums as Through The Ashes Of Empires and The Blackening. The basic formula of shouty angst atop thrash/groove riffage has proven a valuable base for the band, and Unto The Locust, Machine Head’s seventh full-length takes that and builds upon it with the best results yet. This might not quite be prog, but its pretty experimental for this band, with over half the songs being seven-minute-plus monsters and even the shortest coming in just shy of six minutes - and the band use their time wisely, packing the tracks with riffs and hooks as well as sparingly-used choirs and acoustic interludes.

Opening track I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) is also the longest, a meaty cruncher that spins through hurried punky thrashings, male choirs, and slow, epic riffage with Flynn’s most guttural vocals to date. It’s heavier and angrier than Machine Head’s more pit-friendly offerings of late, even the inevitable melodic chorus seeming more of an afterthought to the general metallic chaos than the point of the entire song. The best part is the squealing solo which we only hear a hint of - a nice suggestion as to the increased technical nature of the songs yet to come.

For it’s not really until you reach these later tracks that the album takes off, the attempt at grandiosity in I Am Hell soon forgotten when you get to the melodic introduction to Be Still And Know, downtuned crunchiness and Flynn’s vocal anger interjecting with some nicely structured guitar work. Single Locust is a good deal more complex than the band are known for, despite the past likes of Aesthetics Of Hate hardly being simplistic - varied riffing, one of the best choruses on the album, worked into the song’s general structure with skill. There’s also a pretty wonderful instrumental section, showing that Flynn and riff-partner Phil Demmel know what they’re doing with their guitars.

Some of what you hear will raise an eyebrow - the melodic vocals on This Is The End don’t work quite as well as they should, and the insipid child choir that open Who We Are will make you hate the track before it’s begun properly. Which is a shame, because choir aside, it’s pretty good, the sort of modern thrash anthem that Trivium wish they could write. Elsewhere, half-ballad Darkness Within and grumpy thrasher Pearls Before The Swine are more than worth your ears, especially the latter with its tail-end launch into terrain normally reserved for the proggier tech-death bands. Bonus covers of The Sentinel and Witch Hunt are respectively quite good and fucking awful - anyone can cover the gods of metal and make it sound good, but you mess with Rush at your peril. Machine Head should have known better! Yet I won’t hold it against them - they have, after all, produced a more than decent album here that will continue to raise their profile in the metal world, as well as increasing the grudging underground respect that flows their way.

Killing Songs :
Be Still And Know, Locust, Pearls Before The Swine
Goat quoted 81 / 100
Other albums by Machine Head that we have reviewed:
Machine Head - The Blackening reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 97 / 100
Machine Head - The More Things Change reviewed by Al and quoted 85 / 100
Machine Head - Burn My Eyes reviewed by Al and quoted CLASSIC
Machine Head - Through The Ashes Of Empires reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 92 / 100
Machine Head - Supercharger reviewed by Danny and quoted 68 / 100
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