The world at large went positively nuts when Machine Head released ‘The Blackening‘ in 2007. It was positively great, although comparisons to the great ‘Master of Puppets‘ were a little over the top. Needless to say, anticipation for new album ‘Unto The Locust‘ has been feverish to say the least. Following years of touring for their previous record, how has it shaped their new release?
Well, for starters, there’s some choiral harmonies from the band at the start of the three-part ‘I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)’. It’s definitely not like ‘Burn My Eyes‘. It’s certainly not ‘Supercharger‘. It’s certainly an eye opener in some senses, but not in others – it shows how far the band have matured that they are willing to incorporate such an influence. It soon heavies up though, with a real thrashy section soon to follow the intro, and a massive slow groove to finish. The album’s most epic track, covering more ground in one song than most bands of their ilk can cram into one album.
The album’s title track, ‘Locust’, starts with a real hard-rocking riff, twisted into metal form with a crunch punctuated by Flynn’s harsh vocals. When Flynn finishes the chorus with the words ‘suffer unto the locust‘, it’s a proverbial call to arms; that riff will devastate moshpits all over the world. That’s pretty much my favourite song on the record – that’s a proper metal anthem that will surely soon become recognisable on many a night out. ‘Darkness Within’ is another outstanding track, opening with a long intro consisting of a solitary simple guitar riff, and a slow building Flynn vocal. It’s so rewarding when the rest of the band do come in because from thereonin its massive. It eventually does reach a heavy breakdown reminiscent of early Machine Head, before closing in melodic fashion again. It’s in the same vein as ‘Halo’, only with broader shoulders.
Machine Head still possess that ability to suckerpunch you at numerous points in the album. The aforementioned intro in ‘I Am Hell’ and groovy riff in ‘Locust’ aside, ‘This Is The End’ begins with a classical guitar intro in much the same way Metallica used to make ’em, before launching a full on assault of the senses, mixing some breakneck speed riffs with more trademark pounding grooves; perhaps the only downside to this broadened scope is the children who turn up singing on closer ‘Who We Are’. I’m not too big on this song – it’s not bad but the children bring it down a touch and it’s not as strong as the darkness and devastation that prevailed before it.
I am still one of those who hankers for Machine Head’s early days. And by that, I mean the vibe you got from ‘Burn My Eyes‘ and ‘The More Things Change‘ – that being the streetwise, pissed off with the world vibe that you got from the sound, the production, from the bile in Flynn’s voice. Although there’s still hints of their original sound abound, there’s nothing here with quite that same vibe, and nothing like the pure rage possessed on ‘The Blackening‘ with songs like ‘Aesthetics of Hate’, where you could positively feel every word of hate Flynn spat out.
That said, that doesn’t mean ‘Unto The Locust‘ is a bad album. The Maiden-esque riff prevalent in ‘Be Still and Know’, and the intro to ‘This Is The End’ further underlines the band’s nod to their ascendants, and their continuing ability to fuse these influences into their own sound, as well as drawing upon other, non-metal elements, is what keeps Machine Head on top of their game, displaying a level of maturity the newer bands either haven’t yet fully realised, or simply don’t have at all. That is a testament to how far Machine Head have grown as a band. They fully deserve their status, their fanbase, and the acclaim they receive. I’ve moved on from a lot of mainstream metal, but albums like this one will keep me coming back.
I’ll say ‘Unto The Locust‘ is at least on a par with ‘The Blackening‘. Nay, its better.