Unto The Locust"

By Lord Randall

Seriously? The vocal intro to ‘I Am Hell' would have benefited by tossing the Jon Oliva/Paul O'Neill writing duo a couple bucks to kick the lackadaisical repetition of “Sangre Sani” in the pants. Thankfully, once the quartet kicks into the song proper, MACHINE HEAD proves worthy yet again of the "FUCKING" often shoved into their moniker. The speed, the groove, the pristine solo work of the Flynn/Demmel team; this is the kind of metal bands like TRIVIUM dream of making when they're not giving the sonic reach-around to 'TALLICA's worst material in some absurd attempt to emulate failure. MACHINE HEAD is about success these days, overcoming the odds, and if the whiplash-inducing stomp from 5:53-6:25 doesn't get you feeling triumphant, ain't much else I can do for you. The ‘Crazy Train’-esque arpeggios beginning ‘Be Still And Know’ are all well and good, however the verses fall short. Again, though, by the time the chorus rolls around, vocal harmonies bordering on the ridiculously good, MH takes what could have been a ball gone foul and says “See, this is what we were leading up to.”

Rhythms reminiscent of TOOL open ‘Locust’, leading up perfectly to a patented groove of the sort that only MH and labelmates DEVILDRIVER seem to be able to pull off convincingly these days, thanks in large part to the lock-step tightness of their respective rhythm sections. Flynn & co. have always been spot-on when it comes to catchy refrains, and ‘Locust’ is no exception. Exception, for the record, many will take with Flynn’s melodic vocals in parts, but as the man himself will tell you, the fear of not being perfect in everything you attempt is zero fucking excuse not to try. I’ll confess to being let down when the subdued dual leads of ‘This Is The End’ gave way to staccato picking and the one surefire strikeout to be found on "Unto The Locust". It’s not bad, per se, but certainly not up to par with what’s come before. If the first 2-odd minutes of  ‘Darkness Within’ isn’t utter NIRVANA/ALICE IN CHAINS worship, then I’ll eat my flannel and Doc Martens. I’ll go on record as saying I’m neither as sold on this as I want to be, nor as disgusted as I probably should be. Beneath the lyrical cliché and obvious sonic references, a good song seems to lie. Time will tell. ‘Pearls Before The Swine’ passes by with nary a second look or desire to replay, aside from some rather tasty leadwork at times. MACHINE HEAD has been throwing curve balls all over the past 40ish minutes 
of playing time, but the hard left break comes with the singing of children interspersed throughout ‘Who We Are’. I get the message, sure, guys, but why? As it stands, the song is quite worthy on its own... themes of dejection, despair, yet resolve to stand together in the face of both, a nice vocal arrangement and a quality finale for "Unto The Locust".

 This is gonna be a tough one. Part of me thinks that MACHINE HEAD 2011 is swinging for fences it was never meant to clear. Another part commends the band for stretching themselves to the breaking point and not simply turning in "The Blackening II".I can’t swear to it, but I think this sucker’s gonna grow on me over time…and that’s a good thing.