Machine Head’s The More Things Change… Album Turns 20

 

On March 25th Machine Head’s impeccable second album The More Things Change… (Roadrunner) turned 20 years old. Released at a time when thrash was struggling, and hardcore metal bands were mostly in a time of transition, they dropped this bombshell of heaviness and rage that cemented their legacy as one of the leaders of American Metal that they hold to this day.

Written and recorded as the follow-up to Burn My Eyes (also Roadrunner), The More Things Change… was created over 1996 and was the last album to feature guitarist Logan Mader (Almost Human, ex-Soulfly), and the first with drumming powerhouse Dave McClain (ex-Sacred Reich). The album was produced by Colin Richardson (Slipknot, Fear Factory, Cradle of Filth, Rodrigo y Gabriela), and marked one the first albums worked on by future producing legend, Andy Sneap, who worked on mixes. Doubling-down on their first album’s loving blend of thrash riffs and hardcore grooves, TMTC was unique for the time; a tuned-down shred fest. Robb Flynn and Mader hit a high point as a guitar tandem to be reckoned with, by expanding their style to include more textures and layers to parts, while still keeping true to their core sound. Flynn also stepped up tremendously as a vocalist on this album, encompassing much of the range of styles he uses today here.

Lyrically, the album continued the political and social commentary Flynn had running through his songs up to that point, but also spawned a series of more personal tracks such as the single ‘Take My Scars’, ‘Struck A Nerve’, ‘Spine’, ‘Down To None’, and ‘Violate’; which remains one of the great and underrated songs in their repertoire. Other tracks like live staple ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ have remained in the set list over the years while crushers like ‘Bay Of Pigs’, ‘Blood of The Zodiac’ and ‘Blistering’ aren’t played anymore or never were. That’s a shame. I once asked McClain at an interview at Mayhem Festival if Machine Head would ever bring these tracks back into the set, and he said to us definitively “Nope. I doubt it highly!”

The album wasn’t critically loved at the time, but anything coming out after a monster like BME would have been tough for any band. Still, they toured the world, headlined the Ozzfest 1997 Second Stage, and generally continued their climb in the scene. The album inspired two important and early metal cultural portals of note: long-running fan site The Frontlines and Blistering.com. More than that, TMTC is the album made people stop labeling the band as an imitator, but more of a leader and it paved the way for the future commercial success of future bands like Slipknot, System Of A Down, Devildriver, and Lamb Of God who all became incredibly successful by appropriating some of that album’s gritty style.

 

KEITH CHACHKES