Robb Flynn of Machine Head Reflects on 21 Years of “The Burning Red” 

Robb Flynn of Machine Head has shared some memories of the 21st anniversary of their controversial album The Burning Red, released in 1999 via Roadrunner Records. In hindsight, the album has a soft spot in their fanbase and has a bunch of bangers. Read Robb’s thoughts here.

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY “THE BURNING RED”!

 

That’s right Head Cases, two decades ago our infamous third album was released, inspiring some of our most beloved songs, and in many ways drawing a dividing line between older metal fans and “nu”-er metal fans.

 

And while the boys choice of stage clothes and hair styles may have been… uh… er… questionable… 21 years later the songs STILL unquestionably crush in the live arena with crowd-favorites such as “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, and “From This Day” proving to be certifiable smashes in the MH arsenal. 

 

The decidedly personal and traumatic nature of the lyrics in songs such as “Five” and the title track, connected the band to a whole new generation of Head Cases, and The Burning Red would eventually change the course of the band’s history forever.  Some have argued for the worse, but with the context of time, most agree it was absolutely for the better. 

 

Even Uber-elitist Decibel Magazine agrees that it deserves a re-examining: 

https://www.decibelmagazine.com/2015/05/18/justify-your-shitty-taste-machine-head-the-burning-red/

 

Often maligned as “rap-metal”, there’s actually less than 3 minutes of rapping on the 55 minute record. And while absolutely a step in a different direction, the most dramatic change brought into the sonic spectrum were the melodic vocal influences, and the guitar tones inspired by Robert Smith/ The Cure on songs like “The Burning Red”, “Devil With The Kings Card” and ”Silver” would later-inspire melodic masterpieces such as “Descend The Shades of Night”, “Darkness Within” and The Cure-worshipping guitar intro to “Locust”.

 

Listen to “The Burning Red” on Spotify

Ahrue’s first photo shoot. Photo credit: Harold O

Ahrue’s first photo shoot

Fun facts about TBR:

– The middle breakdown to “Nothing Left” was written while on tour in the UK, at the end of The More Things Change tour cycle.

 

– The first 3 songs completed for the album were “I Defy”, “Devil With The Kings Card”, and “Exhale The Vile”. “I Defy” contains a riff from then-ex-guitarist (now-current-guitarist) Logan Mader.

 

– Logan quit the band at the beginning of the TBR writing sessions, inspiring what is arguably the heaviest track on the album, diss-track “Devil With The Kings Card”.

1998 demo of early TBR tracks

 

– The band held guitar tryouts for several months, with people traveling from all over the US and included Gary Holt of Exodus, members of The Spudmonsters.

 

– Ahrue Luster was brought in in the summer of 1998, based on his catchy song writing with local-band Man Made God, but just as much from his riff-work in his death metal band The Horde Of Torment (of which Robb was a fan).

 

– Ahrue’s first show was in August, 1998 at a secret show billed under the name Ten Ton Hammer at Club Cocodrie in San Francisco.  Kerry King from Slayer was there and jammed a cover of the Slayer classic “South Of Heaven” with the guys. The set also featured a cover of the Venom classic “Black Metal”.

Early Mark Leialoha publicity shoot 

 

– The album was recorded by Ross Robinson at Indigo Ranch in Malibu, CA. at the same time as the debut Slipknot album, with both bands occasionally living at Indigo Ranch with each other for periods of time.

 

– Drummer Joey Jordinson screams back ups during the build up/breakdown on the song “Nothing Left”.  Robb attended a majority of the Slipknot mixing sessions while finishing his vocal tracks.

 

– Robinson convinced the band to record a version of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” after hearing guitarist Ahrue Luster messing around with it in the studio.  Originally thought to be a b-side, he eventually convinced some members of the band to add it to the album, despite objections.

 

Listen to “The Burning Red” on Apple Music

 

– Although paid an extraordinary sum of money for producing the album Robinson went on to publicly slam Machine Head and The Burning Red while on a press tour promoting his new label (Both Amen and Slipknot’s debut album were originally released on Robinson’s I Am Recordings imprint through Roadrunner) causing an epic rift between the band, many others, and eventually Slipknot 

 

– Mixing took place at Larrabee studios in West Hollywood by the legendary Terry Date.

 

– Photographer Dean Karr took the band album-photos at an abandoned train station in Oakland, with publicity photos handled by Mark Leialoha.

 

– 4 different version of the album cover were photographed with Karr:

 

#1 The original album cover idea of a severed cow’s head on a plate surrounded by flowers was rejected.  

 

#2 A full cow carcass was cut in half, lit on fire, and then photographed as the cover, but the the band rejected it as it looked like a menu for a Korean BBQ restaurant.  

 

#3 A more simple idea was made, with the the bands name in Japanese kanji, but again, was deemed too chinese-restaurant-like.  

 

#4 Ultimately the band settled on the quite-phallic-orchid photo taken from the original cow/plate session.

 

– The video for “From This Day” was directed by rapper Master P “Make ‘Em Say Ugh” video director Michael Martin at the behest of Roadrunner Records president Jonas Naschin. It features Robb with blonde / black spikey hair, Dave with yellow leopard-print hair, Ahrue in a Kung Fu outfit (a look later taken on by Zoltan of Five Finger Death Punch) and features an appearance by future-Bad Wolves frontman Tommy Vext. 

– The “From This Day” single was edited down to 3 minutes (with the breakdown in the middle deemed “too heavy for radio”), and the b-side featured a cover of the Bad Brains song “House Of Suffering” and the original track “Alcoholocaust” recorded during the TBR sessions, later released on the ‘Heavy Metal 2’ Official Soundtrack.

 

WATCH “FROM THIS DAY” VIDEO HERE

From This Day CD single

 

– Also recorded but never released, a cover of Venom’s – “Black Metal”

 

– The first tour dates on the album cycle we’re on the ill-named “Living’ La Vida Loco” tour (a play on a then-popular Ricky Martin song) featuring Coal Chamber, and Machine Head, with Slipknot and Amen opening.  Despite it only being their 2nd tour ever, Slipknot would become complete phenomenon, and were unequivocally the hottest band on the planet (much to the chagrin of Coal Chamber and Machine Head!).

 

– Scheduled to support Machine Head on their European tour, Slipknot would pull out of their tour with MH, and then directly compete with Machine Head’s own headlining tour at the same time, escalating tensions between the 2 bands.

 

– While not always given the credit he is due from fans or the band:  Ahrue Luster’s notable song contributions include “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, “Silver”, “Five”, and he arranged the intro “Enter The Phoenix”.

 

– Originally written as the intro to Davidian, the intro to opening track “Desire To Fire“ was originally written during the ‘Burn My Eyes-era” and would open Machine Head shows in 94/95 before incorporating it into the song during this writing period. 

 

– The bands excesses were legendary during this period with the 4 band members plowing thru nearly 6 liters of vodka a night during the year-long-tour-cycle.  

 

– Other U.S. tours included supporting Sevendust with Chevelle opening, (though Sevendust would join Korn for several Family Values dates, and would only perform on about half of the shows), Machine Head would end up headlining. 

 

– Machine Head recorded a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Hole In The Sky” for a tribute album called Nativity In Black II during the TBR sessions.

 

– An extremely successful but chaotic European tour, followed that ultimately ended up with 10 different opening bands.  Machine Head sold out the Brixton Academy in London (for the first time) on their headline tour of the U.K featuring One Minute Silence opening. 

 

– Machine Head’s “Year of the Dragon” U.S. tour in January 2000 would prove to be the biggest U.S. tour band had put together at the time. It turned Machine Head into a certifiable headliner in America.

 

– Ex-drummer Dave McClain would quit Machine Head at the end of the The Burning Red tour cycle, immediately going on tour with radio-rockers Systematic for 3 weeks, supporting Union Underground, (with a then-unknown Linkin Park opening).  He quit Systematic mid-tour and rejoined Machine Head, where he remained for the next 18 years.

 

– TBR would go on to sell nearly 400,000 albums worldwide. It is the 2nd best selling album for Machine Head in terms of CD sales, with tracks From This Day and Message In A Bottle streaming more than many tracks from insanely acclaimed album, “The Blackening.”

 

UK Album Chart – #13

Finnish Albums Chart – #12

German Albums Chart – #15

Swedish Albums Chart – #17

Australian Albums Chart – #30

The Billboard 200 – #88

 

Certified Silver in the U.K. 

 

Do you have any memories of this album?

Did you catch the band on tour during this period? 

 

Listen to “The Burning Red” on Spotify

 

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The inside of TBR. Photo credit: Dean Karr