Review: Machine Head – Unto The Locust

Four years after the phenomenal success of The Blackening, Machine Head return with Unto The Locust. As one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year, the ‘Head have everything to prove. Can they follow up with a similar successful album or will they lose steam, just like they did after their second studio album The More Things Change?

The band like to act as if The Burning Red, and especially Supercharger, never happened. I can understand that, because as a huge Machine Head fan, I like to act as if that never happened as well. But these two Nu-Metal albums actually did get released, therefore a lot of people doubt the band is able to keep up their momentum.

As much as I love this band, I’ve got to admit that I expected a lot from this album, but feared for the worst. These guys might be the ones that wrote the amazing ‘Descend The Shades Of Night,’ but they’re also the ones who wrote the abysmal ‘American High’ — with the exception of Phil Demmel.

So after all, Unto The Locust could be absolutely killer or it could make me kill myself. Make the jump to read my review of Machine Head’s seventh studio album, and let’s hope it’s not my suicide note.

Machine Head – Unto The Locust

1. I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) – 8:26
2. Be Still And Know – 5:44
3. Locust – 7:37
4. This Is The End – 6:12
5. Darkness Within – 6:28
6. Pearls Before Swine – 7:20
7. Who We Are – 7:11

Looking at the artwork of Unto The Locust, I can’t say I like it. I have never been a fan of Machine Head’s album covers though, with the exception of Hellalive, and The Blackening to some extent. There is metal artwork out there that makse me want to buy the album, just based on the looks of it. This band’s artwork doesn’t do that to me, but the music on it usually makes up for it. Will it make up for it now?

Let’s talk about the production first. If you’ve heard the “advance mix” of ‘Locust,’ fear not. Neither the album, nor ‘Locust,’ sound like that on the actual album. The production is similar to the one on The Blackening, except the bass, which is not as loud in the mix and the drums are more prominent. I could do with a louder bass, too, but all in all I have no big issue with the sound of this record.

So what else could I write about? Oh yeah, the album contains music, right? Alright, then let’s talk about that. The album starts off with ‘I Am Hell,’ a song that is divided into three parts (I. ‘Sangre Sani,’ II. ‘I Am Hell,’ III. ‘Ashes To The Sky’). The first part, called ‘Sangre Sani’ (Blood Saint), features multiple layers of only Robb Flynn’s singing. I get that they tried to achieve a classical sound with that but to me it just sounds annoying.

This first part lasts for about a minute, before the band gets into the second part of the song: ‘I Am Hell.’ And, holy shit, this shit is fucking heavy. I doubt that anyone expected something as brutal as that from Machine Head. And it works. It doesn’t sound unnatural. With the beginning of the third part, ‘Ashes To The Sky,’ the band shows that they are not fucking around. It’s a typical ‘Head-thrasher with a great chorus that contains Doom Metalish riffing. All of that is fine and dandy, but halfway through, the song turns into a progressive riff-fest that is not comparable to anything the band ever recorded. After the first solo, the band thrashes forward to another chorus, before going into a breakdown. The breakdown is followed by an acoustic piece that leads into the absolutely epic ending of the song. This is fucking breathtaking. Even though I wasn’t pleased with the intro, ‘I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)’ turned into one of the biggest highlights of the band’s career. We’re off to a good start.

While ‘Be Still And Know’ sounds like a mixture of a Through The Ashes Of Empires and The Blackening song, the band changes up enough things to not make the song sound dated or ripped-off. ‘Locust,’ on the other hand, concentrates more on the new ingredients than the old ones. Even though the verses sound typical for Machine Head, the chorus does not. Robb Flynn shows that he is a better and more versatile singer than ever before.

‘This Is The End’ starts off with an acoustic intro before an Amon Amarth-esque riff leads into the song. This song and the following ‘Darkness Within’ are the most mellow songs of the album. ‘This Is The End’ contains a very atypical chorus with Flynn proving that he can indeed sing. ‘Darkness Within’ also features an acoustic intro and one of my favorite performances by Mr. Flynn ever. The song builds up and ultimately forward to the solo midway through.

‘Pearls Before Swine’ is an old school thrasher with a dark leitmotif. The songwriting on this very song is similar to The Blackening more than anything else on this album. That’s the reason why it kind of pales in comparison to the other songs. Don’t get me wrong though, the song itself does work within the context of the album, but the songwriting and the structure of the song itself is simply not up to par. It’s still a good song though.

The closer of the album, ‘Who We Are,’ starts off with a children’s choir. Ugh. In theory, this works perfectly with the classical sound the band tried to achieve on this album. But let’s be honest, children’s choirs give people ear-cancer. That’s the only issue I have with the song though. The chorus, without the fucking choir, sounds amazing and should be great to sing along to live.

So there you have it. Machine Head’s Unto The Locust does not make me wish to commit suicide, it makes me wish to kill everyone who doesn’t like the album. It’s a perfect followup to The Blackening. A bit mellower, but also way more progressive. The solos are not as technical and steely as they were on The Blackening, but rely more on atmosphere than anything else. I did not like the intro of ‘I Am Hell’ or the children’s choir on ‘Who We Are,’ but those are minimal issues that I can overlook because of the sheer awesomeness this album represents.

Machine Head has done it again!

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