I still remember what someone told me in 2006: “MACHINE HEAD are done, they have self-sabotaged since “The Burning Red”” Two years later, I thought about him again…
“The Blackening” was a tour de force. No more, no less. The best thrash record of the 2000s, it is that simple. However, the ones in the know had doubts… Could the Robb Flynn crew go back to 1999? Could they release another less thrashy, more melodic record?
The introduction is similar to the one on “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent”, we feel the tension, despite being inoffensive in appearance. She’s paving the way with a slow build up And as soon as the first riff emerges, we know that our doubts will be appeased. The rhythm is heavy and powerful, the riffs are incisive and vindictive. The vocals are aggressive and biting. To sum it up, MACHINE HEAD is once again the best MACHINE HEAD: powerful, fast, and impressively technical. Each song is a federating thrash anthem: “I Am Hell”, “Be Still And Know”, “Locust”, “This Is The End” are like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, complementary. They do not let the listener rest and traps them in a sonic storm of unrelenting power and intensity that finds its conclusion in a “Who We Are” enhanced by children choirs and filled with a federating chorus that can easily be pictured as a perfectly devastating concert closure.
By this point, you will find yourself thinking that four out of seven is already impressive… However, here is where the problems start to appear… “Darkness Within” is almost more impressive in its acoustic version and “Pearls Before The Swine” remains very conventional yet less effective than the previous ones.
Damn, it is starting to become a track-by-track review. However, this is a reflection of the main issue with this record. The transitions between songs are sometimes too brusque and the will of the band to have always more impressive introductions for each tsong, is a detriment to the coherence of the whole thing. It is still a very good record but it does not rival its predecessor.
Note: The bonus on the limited editions are great (especially the excellent “The Sentinel”)