I remember one-time reading Revolver magazine’s review for Through the Ashes of Empires and while it was a very positive piece the writer felt that despite being a great step forward it may have been too little, too late for Machine Head. Hard to believe now, but in those days some perceived Machine Head as being dead in the water following the more mainstream stylings of The Burning Red and the ill-timed Supercharger.
And then something unexpected happened as Machine Head released a string of albums that drove them right up the heavy metal ranks. Crazy, right? But is seems like the bastards may have again tapped into that energy with ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN (Nuclear Blast/Imperium Recordings).
But before we fully dive into the latest from Machine Head, we must acknowledge that Through the Ashes of Empires, The Blackening, Unto the Locust and Bloodstone & Diamonds is a streak that not many can claim in the metal world. I’d go as far as to say that when Machine Head is dialed in, they stand shoulder to shoulder with classic era Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera. That’s my statement and if this causes you to stop reading this review, well then, thank you for stopping by.
Then things stalled a bit with the unfocused Catharsis. Major lineup changes soon followed and suddenly Machine Head’s standing seemed shaky for the first time in a long while.
Yet here we are and ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN looks and sounds like it fits right alongside Machine Head’s classic run. I know I had reason to be concerned as Robb Flynn no longer had the services of Dave McClain and Phil Demmel on drums and guitars, respectively. Those concerns were dismissed as studio drummer Navene Koperweis fits like a glove and Decapitated’s Wacław Kiełtyka, well, just listen to his work on ‘Kill Thy Enemies’ and get back to me.
The secret sauce on ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN is to take Thrash Metal and infuse it with epic melodies and song structures not unlike Metallica did on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. ‘Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate’ and ‘Become the Firestorm’ showcases a band that can hang with any modern thrash act.
Then soon after numbers like ‘My Hands Are Empty’ and possibly the finest cut on the album ‘Unhallowed’ are all about crafting Iron Maiden sized hooks to go along with the fiery bombast conjured up by Flynn and his latest band of bruisers.
Let’s take another moment here to shine a spotlight on one of Machine Head’s greatest assets: the ability to sneak in a crushing breakdown when least expected. The aforementioned ‘Become the Firestorm’ has one detonate right before Flynn and Kiełtyka put on a lead guitar clinic and ‘No Gods, No Masters’ has a belter of a breakdown that seems to pay homage to ‘Davidian.’
Didn’t care for Catharsis? Lineup changes? Somehow, Robb Flynn has again figured out how to get Machine Head back to the top.
9 / 10