Machine Head – Through The Ashes Of Empires Review

Originally written by Tim Pigeon

Robb Flynn and the boys have returned for a fifth round and there are some welcomed changes afoot. Even Robb admitted that 2001’s Supercharger was a flop, perhaps slightly due to its release so close to September 11th, but mostly due to its lack of quality metal. The nu-metal direction explored on The Burning Red was fully realized on Supercharger, and while the album was bookended by two solid tracks (“Bulldozer” and “Supercharger”), most of what lay between those two was uninspired, riff-less pap. OK, the album wasn’t THAT terrible, but it was a substantial step below any of their prior three releases.

For some reason, Machine Head decided to go backwards in time for this album, and for that I thank them. They parted ways with the underwhelming Ahrue Luster and brought in the more metal-minded Phil Demmel, Flynn’s bandmate from the Bay Area thrashers Vio-lence. Overall, TTAOE comes off as a follow-up to the supreme Burn My Eyes, while still retaining some of the better aspects of their detour into nu-metal. Colin Richardson did a fine job on the production, delivering a sound very much like that heard on Burn My Eyes – clear mix, thick guitars, the traditional MH harmonics, all that. Robb’s vocals are as good as ever, with him successfully mixing his trademark, venomous bark with the emotionally-tinged cleaner style he’s been using recently. In my opinion, he’s one of the best vocalists in the genre.

The guitar work is probably the best they’ve ever had, with better solos and high-quality, crunchy riffs (relative to their past work, of course. They’re not Vader licks or anything). The opening track, “Imperium,” is one of the finest songs this band has released. It’s up there with such stellar tracks as “Take My Scars” and “I’m Your God Now,” but even more ambitious in nature. Over it’s seven minutes, it slowly builds to a crescendo, bringing in a devastating riff that sounds eerily like our old favorite from Davidian, and then the double bass ushers in some fine Gothenburg riffage before finally blowing up in a burst of more double bass mayhem. This is pure metal straight outta 1994. And that is what frustrates me most about Machine Head. Why can’t they just slay like this on every song? Stop fucking around and just release that killer metal album you’re all still capable of.

Some of the songs still suffer from that affliction of silly noises being played under the verses, but for the most part they’ve fixed that problem. “In the Presence of My Enemies” is another fine track that builds slowly towards a strong, thrashy finish. Last but not least, they close up shop with another slow, fantastic number that bleeds hurt, particularly in the solo at 4:10. I hate to suggest it, but this is one band that could write a damn good soft album. From “Violate to The Burning Red” to “Deafening Silence,” I love them all.

So it should be obvious by now that I’m very familiar with the Machine Head Battery. (Remember that term?) They were one of the bands, along with Pantera and Fear Factory, that taught me to appreciate the hard and heavy side of music. While this album may not stand as tall amongst the new releases of bands like Lamb of God, Dew Scented, Vital Remains, or Kalmah, it’s a fine return-to-form from this once-influential band. I just hope there are still any fans around to hear it. Welcome back to the dark side, men.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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