Machine Head’s classic album The Blackening (Roadrunner Records) has turned thirteen! The band shared a lengthy reminiscence of the album with fans that you can see below! Arguably the bands’ second-best album besides their debut Burn My Eyes (Roadrunner), the record saw them open for Metallica, headline festivals and more.
The Album Of The Decade is officially a teenager!
Released back when many folks had counted Robb & Co.’s Oakland bruisers out in March 2007, jaws dropped when live staples such as “Aesthetics Of Hate”, “Beautiful Mourning”, and the almighty “Halo” were first aired.
The Blackening Fun Facts:
– Writing for the album began in August 2005.
– While The Blackening is now-known for epic 10-minute-long metal anthems, bizarrely the first 4 songs written for the record were the 4 shortest songs on the album. In order: “Slanderous”, “Beautiful Mourning”, Aesthetic Of Hate”, and “Now I Lay Thee Down”. For the first 5 months of the writing process there was no indication that there would be any songs over 5 minutes.
– The Blackening was recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA, Produced and arranged by Robb and engineered by Mark Keaton.
– The absolutely crushing mix was done by long-time MH producer Colin Richardson and Robb at Strongroom Studios and Metropolis Studios in London England.
– The intro to “Clenching” was musically assembled at VIP studios with Burn My Eyes engineer Vincent Wojno and became it’s own song due to the fact that it had 90 tracks! Quad-guitars of 3 part harmonies, 20 tracks of snare, and many other things made it one of the most challenging pieces on the album.
– While initially starting off as the easiest record in their arsenal with initial drum tracks finished in just 2 days, it slowly deteriorated into arguable the hardest record the band ever recorded. With Robb handling all guitars duties, the extremely intricate guitar parts (all-quad-tracked) needed to be so tight, he would often spending 9 hours a day tracking.
– In-fighting within the band, and Robb’s pregnant wife threatening to divorce him mid-recording, all threatened to derail the album, along with a myriad of amp, speaker, pedal and guitar breakage, put the album massively behind schedule. Under the stress of it all, Robb blew out his voice midway through tracking vocals.
– 70% of the final vocals were recorded during the first 3 days of tracking when Robb was still figuring many of the songs lyrically and just freestyled ideas, melodies, and lyrics.
– To meet the release deadline, engineer Mark Keaton and Robb worked for almost 32 days straight to finish the album on Dec 17th 2006.
– The middle eastern-sounding vocal line that opens the album was recorded during mixing with Colin in London while Robb was on a quick press tour of England. The opening words are “Behold The Blackening…”
– Fans from the band were invited to sing the “FIGHT’S” on “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent”. Machine Head threw a party at Sharkbite and recorded many drunken folks losing their voice screaming “FIGHT”. The German metalcore band Caliban also sang some “fights” when they rolled through town.
– While ex-guitarist Drmmel is often viewed in the media as the savior of the band, 85% of the material on “The Blackening” was written by drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Robb Flynn, with Robb playing all guitars on the album, including rhythm, lead, all intros, harmonies, and all dueling lead guitar harmonies. McClain wrote the main riff in “Halo” and Robb wrote all of “Aesthetics Of Hate”
– The first 2 shows for The Blackening were warm-up/headline dates in Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado on the way to a tour with Lamb Of God, Trivium tour where MH were 2nd of 4, and a then-unknown band called Gojira opening .
– “Halo,” often debated as the album masterpiece, took nearly 6 months to finish and went through so many lyrical, musical, and arrangement changes that by the time the band was done, they were essentially burnt-out on it. Upon finishing recording, ex-guitarist Demmel infamously exclaimed “we will never play this song live!!!”
– “Halo” debuted live on warm up dates mid-Feb 2007 in both Utah and Denver, but was played so badly, it was retired for the next 5 months and 2 tours. A decision almost unimaginable now!
– Reviews at the time were insanely positive with worldwide music press unanimously giving it the highest marks possible. Typical of the U.S. metal presses consistently bad opinion of the band however, both Decibel and Revolver magazine gave decidedly lukewarm reviews, and a laughable Rolling Stone review (which gave it 2 out of 5 stars) were the holdouts.
– The first video and single for The Blackening was supposed to be “Now I Lay Thee Down” but at the last minute, the boys decided to switch it to “Aesthetic Of Hate”. It was quickly assembled and filmed while on tour over 2 days in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia. Tour-mate John Campbell from Lamb Of God brought the boys to various dilapidated buildings in the Richmond, VA area and arranged a warehouse to shoot in. The outside crowd shots were filmed in the parking lot next door to The NorVa and featured Wille Adler’s then-13 year old son Tres.
WATCH “AESTHETICS OF HATE” HERE
– On this day 11 years ago, the boys were playing at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC with Joe from Gojira filling in on harmony vocals, due to illness in the band.
– Nearly 3 1/2 years of touring included: Opening slot for Heaven & Hell (Black Sabbath w/ Dio) and Megadeth, a co-headline tour with Arch Enemy, Throwdown and Sanctity. The Black Crusade: a massive Europe /UK arena tour with Trivium, Dragonforce, Arch Enemy and Shadows Fall. Main support to Hell Yeah in the US, Mayhem Festival, various european headline slots atop Wacken, Hellfest, and Rock In Rio. Another round the world jaunt as main support to Slipknot took the to Australia, Japan, and Europe, with a final headline run with Hatebreed and Bleeding Through that led through Japan, Australia, and Europe.
– Interestingly, there was only 1 headline tour of the US: The Black Tyranny co-headline with Arch Enemy, MH would play no more than 1 hour a night.
– The opening band of Machine Head’s lone U.S. headline tour for the album was Sanctity, fronted by Jared MacEachern. Due to an ankle injury that had side-lined their bassist-at-the-time, they hired local Hostility bassist Brandon Sigmund for the tour and Jared sang all of the harmony vocals. In a strange twist, 6 years later Jared would join Machine Head.
– James Hetfield heard “Aesthetics Of Hate” on Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal, and, being so inspired by the album, Metallica invited MH to support them in eastern Europe and Wembley Arena in London. The friendship that ensued led to Machine Head becoming main support to Metallica through the U.S. and Europe for the next 6 months for the Death Magnetic tour cycle, and James performing the song “Aesthetics Of Hate” on guitar with them twice!
– The cover art was an old woodcarving Robb found available in the public domain. The album design team of Strephon Taylor, Paul Brown, and Deanna Alcorn changed and altered various aspects of it, including the words “The Mirror Which Flatters Not” were reversed so not to confuse people about the album title.
– The first 30,000 copies of the US edition contained a flaw in the album art and was later corrected. The “squiggle” on one side of the title was blown out by a piece of lint on the printing press
– The album debuted at #16 in the UK, #14 in Australia, and #54 in the USA it’s first week.
– In many Scandinavian countries “Supercharger” has still outsold The Blackening.
– The Blackening was certified Silver in the UK in 2010, their 4th album to achieve that status.
– Upon hearing the lyrics to many of the album strong anti-war, anti-religion themes, The Disney Corp. controversially banned Machine Head from performing at the House Of Blues (located on Disney property) 2 days before the tours opening night in Anaheim. After being threatened to “not to go public”, the band went public, and Disney banned them from the 2nd HOB date on the tour in Orlando (also on Disney property). The 13 year ban was finally lifted in 2020
– 3 video were filmed for the album, “Aesthetics”, “Now I Lay Thee Down”, and “Halo”.
WATCH “NOW I LAY THEE DOWN” HERE
WATCH “HALO” HERE
– A 4th video was filmed for a Kerrang! magazine sponsored tribute to Iron Maiden, with the boys filming an absolutely insane crowd at the Rock In Rio in Portugal for their cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.
WATCH “HALLOWED BE THY NAME” HERE
– When the tour cycle was over, Machine Head had toured for 3 years and 3 months, performing over 372 shows.
– In 2010 Metal Hammer declared The Blackening “Album Of The Decade”.
How does The Blackening hold up for you? Does it deserve the accolades it achieved? Many fans at the time complained of the overly-long songs and increased melody, how does it stand the test of time for you? Did you see Machine Head on this tour cycle?
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