Not that there’s ever really been a moment of musical drought for Boston’s Unearth, but tracing back to 2014s Watchers of Rule the motive is a recommitment to brutality. On Extinction(s) (Century Media), the New Englanders are playing with more passion and vitriol than most of their younger contemporaries currently filling the Metal and Hardcore ranks. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Massachusetts metalcore legends, Killswitch Engage, are back with another solid release, Incarnate (Roadrunner). This is the second album released since Howard Jones left the group and original singer, Jesse Leach, stepped back into his vocal duties. While I will avoid the Jones vs. Leach debate, I will say that this work may be the most mature work from Leach-fronted Killswitch. The Westfield, MA natives continue to tinker with their sound to make the heavy, heavier and the melodic, more emotional and memorable, but do not stray too far away from what they know works. In no way would I call this an experimental album, but neither is it a safe one.
Incarnate is one of those albums that gets stronger the farther down you go. While some of the opening tracks are good songs, the second half of the album avoids the “more of the same” sentiments that I am sure many metalcore deserters would use. ‘Embrace the Journey…Upraised’ kicks off the second half of the album which showcases the Killswitch sound the best. Thunderous verse riffs with harsh vocals that lead into a hardcore pre-chorus followed by an uplifting, memorable chorus. The bridge/breakdown builds off of the pre-chorus parts to bring the track together. ‘It Falls on Me’ is one of the tracks that broke the mold a bit and borrowed some post-metal influences (The Ocean certainly came to mind, specifically the Pelagial album). The bridge of the track brings some of the ever emotional, yet catchy tremolo guitar work with a nice delay effect to create a spacey feel. The outro of the song reminds the listening that this is Killswitch Engage with a breakdown and harsh vocals to complete a very Jekyll and Hyde track. ‘We Carry On’ might be the best track written by the band since The End of Heartache era. This track brings together all of the elements present on Incarnate and then blend them together into one epic ballad. Heavy guitar riffs, catchy melodies, uplifting lyrics with both harsh and clean vocals, plus a little more of the spacey guitar effects seen on ‘It Falls on Me’ are all eloquently mixed. The closer, ‘Ascension’, is a return to the norm and wraps up the record perfectly. This is certainly the most “hardcore” track on the album and leaves the listener with Jesse Leach shouting “This is fair warning…your time… will… come!”
With so much music coming out the past couple of years, and mostly on the extreme side, it is always nice to return to the middle of the spectrum. Killswitch Engage once again has pulled me back to my youth with this release. My hometown heroes came through and then some on Incarnate.
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Killswitch Engage are currently in the midst of a brief holiday tour with fellow Massachusetts metallers Unearth. They played Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel venue last night. Fan filmed video of live performances of their new single, ‘Strength of Mind’ and other hits can be viewed below. The band has named Incarnate as their new album, due this March from Roadrunner Records.
In a recent interview frontman Jesse Leach discussed the title and the state of the band:
“The definition of incarnate is ‘in the flesh.’ And this record is who we are right now. Whereas [2013’s] ‘Disarm The Descent’ was sort of my ‘comeback’ album, and was about us feeling out the new vibe. But now, after spending a few years traveling the world together, I think we’re all in a really comfortable place. We definitely have a strong sense of self as to who we are as a band.”
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The kings of the American metal scene, Machine Head will embark upon a headline tour in the format of “An Evening With”. The tour is focused on smaller venues and no national openers. The band has done the evening with format occasionally in their career, always favoring fan favorite songs and deep cuts. This tour follows the recent announcement the band would play no arena tours, no headline festivals or similar fests for the entire album and tour cycle of the just released Bloodstone and Diamonds (Nuclear Blast).
Official Press Release:
Bay Area Metal Titans Machine Head will headline an exclusive tour starting this January, which will span all across North America! No support bands. No locals. Just a crushing two-hour set of pure fucking MACHINE HEAD!!!
“We’re doing ‘An Evening With’ MACHINE HEAD. Meaning: it’ll just be us, folks,” commented guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn. “We are really excited about the idea, playing longer sets, throwing in some deep cuts, and just having our own world. Promoters in the US seem really stoked about it, some have said it feels like ‘an event’.”
In regards to the band’s decision to only headline for this touring cycle as well as no longer play festivals, Flynn elaborates:
“We’re not trying to have a good time with a bunch of people who don’t know who we are. If Machine Headthrows a party, big or small, we don’t want a bunch of ‘strangers’ there. This is about us and you guys, the die-hards! The Fucking Undesirables! We don’t care about the others out there. We’re here and we’re not going anywhere, if those people want to be a part of this, they know where to find us. So for the time being, and maybe ‘forever’ we’re done reaching out for them.”
V.I.P. ticket packages are now on sale at machinehead.soundrink.com! Packages include a meet and greet with the band, group photo with MACHINE HEAD, poster, flag, laminate, and Machine Headkoozie. In addition, everyone that purchases the VIP experience will be entered in a drawing to win an autographed Bloodstone & Diamonds electric guitar!
Confirmed dates are as follows:
1/16/2014 Phoenix, AZ – Club Red
1/18/2014 Farmington, NM – Top Deck
1/20/2015 Austin, TX – Red 7
1/21/2015 Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar and Grill
1/22/2015 Houston,TX – Fitzgeralds
1/23/2015 New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
1/25/2015 Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
1/26/2015 Asheville, NC – Orange Peel
1/28/2015 Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
1/29/2015 Philadelphia. PA – Underground Arts
1/30/2015 New York, NY – Irving Plaza
1/31/2015 Allston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
2/3/2015 Montreal, QC – Corona Theater
2/4/2015 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theater
2/5/2015 Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
2/7/2015 Pittsburgh, PA – Mr Smalls
2/8/2015 Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom
2/9/2015 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom
2/10/2015 Chicago, IL – House of Blues
2/11/2015 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
2/12/2015 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/13/2015 Minneapolis/ St Paul, MN – Mill City Nights
2/14/2015 St Louis, MO – Fubar
2/15/2015 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room
2/17/2015 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
2/19/2015 Las Vegas, NV – Vinyl / Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
2/21/2015 San Francisco, CA – Regency Center Grand Ballroom
2/24/2015 Seattle, WA – Neumos
2/25/2015 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw
2/27/2015 Calgary, AB – Flames Central
2/28/2015 Edmonton, AB – Union Hall
3/1/2015 Saskatoon, SK – Obrian’s Event Centre
3/2/2015 Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre
3/4/2015 Minot, ND – The Original
3/6/2015 Missoula, MT – Stage 112
3/7/2015 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
Machine Headrecently made their entire Bloodstone & Diamonds album available for streaming at this location. The band’s Nuclear Blast debut and eight studio record is out now on several physical and digital formats. Order the CD, limited edition mediabook, box set, vinyl or the exclusive premium Machine Headguitar edition via this link: http://bit.ly/MACHINE-HEAD-BD-NBE.
Expectations are the double-edged sword of life. Its fraternal twin disappointment is at the crux of the core experience of anyone that appreciates art, loves music, etc. People often gravitate to artists as they make a splash on the scene. Hype builds and colours our view of that artist, which gives way to disappointment when they change or sport new influences. This is the challenge for every band out there today, and always has been. This has been the case with all the greats from Led Zeppelin, to Judas Priest, DLR-era Van Halen, Metallica, Pantera, Opeth and many more. Fans won’t let you change, but you have to change. This concept has come to mind with regards to the new album from Machine Head, since they are a band that has set the bar very high in the past. It’s hard to always be measured against the “best thing you ever did”. To complicate things, the band has hardly been a critics darling in their career. Instead they have had to prove themselves over and over. For all the shit Robb Flynn likes to talk, he is clearly conscious of this pressure and he and his band tries to answer that bell every time.
On Bloodstone & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast), answer the bell, they have. Like Unto The Locust, the band continues to drift away from the over the top arrangements of 2007s unstoppable The Blackening and focus on writing epic metal songs. All the elements the band has been working with for most of the last ten years, as well as their classic sounds are all intact, with a few new twists and turns. Tons of grooves, chill-inducing dynamic shifts, and of course, those head-nodding riffs galore are heard. ‘Now We Die’ is the only song that sounds like it could have come off of Unto The Locust with its string arrangement, loud-soft vocals and driving beats. It wouldn’t be a Machine Head album if there wasn’t a few grinding, half-time ending riffs with a pinch squeal tossed in. The previously heard single ‘Killers And Kings’ is the most straight ahead, classic hardcore/thrash track the band has done in while. There are actually a few of these on the album. Both Flynn and Phil Demmel continue to mine the catchy Iron Maiden twin-guitar approach on a lot of tracks, and for me, it still works. If ain’t broke..don’t break it, right? But don’t mistake catchy as a pejorative here; the album is heavy with a capital H. Even when not balls out heavy every song, there is all kinds of crushing moments to sink your teeth into. ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ will remind you of old songs such as ‘Days Turn Blue To Grey’ and ‘Halo’. The track features a great vocal performance from Flynn and new addition (not that new really) bassist Jared McEachern. Probably my favorite track is the harsh ‘Night of Long Knives’. Insane tribal drumming, a snarly lead vocal, and chugging guitars made me smile. ‘Sail Into The Black’ sounded like a cross between some of the past MH balladry, yet with avant-garde experimenting and Japanese throat singing. Very cool. Few bands can do the slow boil into sheer musical hell like this band does all in one track.
Other cuts toy with you such as ‘Eyes of the Dead’ and ‘Beneath the Silt’, and ‘Game Over’ coming disguised as bruisers, but turning into fist banging anthems. Let’s also not overlook Mr. Flynn’s lyrics either. Lots of bands are singing about wizards, war and delayed teenage angst; and here is this guy in forties is grounded in mad realism. Writing about grown-up inner conflicts, sounding vulnerable and not seeming full of shit is hard to get away with nowadays. They won’t rope in the far-flung kiddie fans with this stuff, but hey; at least the band knows their audience, and most of all where they fit in. Life is hard Beavis…
Harkening back to the political grizzle of previous albums, ‘In Comes The Flood’ is pissed-off and righteous. More great vocals and guitar stuff to fawn over. Late album cuts like ‘Damage Inside’, and ‘Imaginal Cells’ are forays into types song-craft they haven’t done much in the past and pulled them off exceedingly well. You gotta admire the balls of the a Capella vocal line for more than half the song on ‘Damage…’ by Robb. Who does that? The closing track ‘Take Me Through the Fire’ is all rage, shreddy guitars, and a redonkulous kitchen-sink type performance from drummer Dave McClain.
Many bands have started out hot and fizzled out badly or had trouble staying relevant over time. Machine Head is perhaps the greatest American metal band right now, because they have a sense of purpose about their writing that above all makes you care what they are saying lyrically, and where they can take you musically.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
Tonight Manchester welcomes one of rock’s most outspoken characters in Tairrie B., despite her reputation for being a firebrand who provokes controversy and debate in many circles, My Ruin’s front-woman clearly still inspires many, male and female, to rage against the societal ills of sexism and homophobia. Bringing with them three capable support acts there is the feeling of anticipation and celebration on this rainy Tuesday night.
Nomad keep it tight, groovy and full of soul. Vocalist Drian snarls through the likes of ‘Burn The Water’ with a confident assurance that is only gained from a steady work rate of playing every dive bar going while drummer Hayley McIntyre anchors the muscular rhythms with a powerful backbeat.
Steadily gaining a loyal following through determination and hard work Nomad is one of the more rich prospects in the fertile UK scene right now.
Quite the contrast to her vicious death growls, Extreme O.D.’s Katie Cairns is all smiles in between songs clearly loving every moment of tonight’s performance. Laying down a set of vicious double kick and neck breaking riffs. It’s a feeling mirrored by the audience who lap up everything Cairns and co have to offer.
Sanctorium’s tight exuberant groove metal recalls the work of Lamb Of God and Chimaria. The undercurrent of savagery recalls many of the early noughties Roadrunner bands but while they remain a tight outfit they offer precious little in the way of surprises.
Tairrie B. and company enter to an enthusiastic response. Sure the venue is only half full but the assembled throng makes more than enough noise to supplement the lack of bodies.
Crashing into ‘Monolith Of Wrath’, My Ruin channel the spit and sawdust vitriol of Black Flag and Black Sabbath with husband Mick Murphy doling out slabs of discordant hostility.
Ms B. is in a jovial mood, snarling through a triumphant rendition of ‘Digging For Ghosts’.
The feeling of celebration is tangible not least as this is, at least for now, My Ruin’s final jaunt this side of the pond. Girls and guys alike flock towards the stage raising their fists and voices to the paint stripping intense cover of Mudhoney classic ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ and a raucous ‘God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife’. A My Ruin gig is a full contact sport where the intensity of the performance is only mirrored by the reaction of their devoted fanbase.
‘Beauty Fiend’ ends a sermon of black clad blasphemy with Tairrie thanking the fans for their support before sweeping off stage. If this is truly My Ruin’s swansong appearance in the UK then they went out with all the guts, desire and raw power that they have always possessed.
My Ruin Set List:
Monolith of Wrath
Long Dark Night
Diggin for Ghosts
The Devil Walks
Touch Me I’m Sick
The Harsh Light of Day
Burn The Witch
God Is a Girl With a Butcher Knife
Made to Measure
WORDS: ROSS BAKER
PHOTOS: BRIANA NORTON (with permission from My Ruin)