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Machine Head - Catharsis (Album Review)

Monday, 05 February 2018 Written by Alec Chillingworth

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Those lines, spat out by Robb Flynn over 20 years ago, still ring truer than a shotgun blast.

Through the tracksuits, the line-up changes, the fights, the blood, the sweat, the beers and loads of YouTube videos that proper rile people up, it’s clear that Flynn answers to no-one. Call him a SJW, a snowflake, a beta cuck if you like, but the fact of the matter is that Machine Head’s frontman has never shied away from speaking his mind. Politics, religion, violence, the power of music itself – it’s all fair game.

So, yeah, maybe the line “I’m eating pussy by a dumpster, beard stinking like snatch” seems insane when Flynn utters it on Razorblade Smile, but heavy metal is by its nature obscene. It’s about breaking rules and doing what the fuck you want.

On ‘Catharsis’, Machine Head’s ninth album, they do exactly what the fuck they want. There’s still groove metal by the tonne, like Volatile’s brutal, bouncy riffing and gorgeous vocal harmonies. It’s a true Machine Head banger, but it's also a box ticked. And the band do a very good job of running the gamut of their career across the 75 minutes of ‘Catharsis’.

The Flynn/Phil Demmel dual-harmony guitar juggernaut’s adequately oiled, whether they’re soloing over one-another on Beyond The Pale or throwing out pinched harmonics to appease those who worship that sort of thing. But there’s also a hell of a lot of stuff on ‘Catharsis’ that stands apart from previous records.

Most of it isn’t new, as such. Here Machine Head are happy to take things they have done before and warp or distort them. Keep them fresh. The orchestral pomp of Now We Die, an undoubted highlight from 2014’s ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’, is given a facelift on a few songs here, for example. The title track is without doubt the most cinematic piece of work Machine Head have ever put their name to, whereas the sprawling Heavy Lies The Crown is a mish-mash of grandiosity, the band’s millennial supergroove and the guitar hero stuff from ‘The Blackening’.

And then there are the songs to ruffle feathers. Triple Beam’s on the chopping block here, having already been decried as nu metal tripe. It’s not really, though, is it? Named after the scales used to measure drugs, it tells the tale of a deal gone awry. There’s some stabbing involved. And Flynn means every word. Much like King 810 it lives and dies on whether you believe the protagonist. But why wouldn’t you? It’s raw. Embittered. Machine fuckin’ Head.

Similarly, Bastards is ludicrous. The first of a triptych based on the concept “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”, it is essentially a folk song telling Donald Trump to do one. It reaches Dropkick Murphys-levels of rowdy before Flynn starts spitting out racist, homophobic slurs. He’s got previous here. Appropriating offensive language and taboo words is exactly what he did on ‘The Blackening’ cut Slanderous 11 years ago. Nobody cared then, but Flynn appropriating these words is a little misguided, a tad naïve coming from a white, middle-aged father. Still, the message is obvious, and one of resolute optimism.

This is an interesting Machine Head record. No, it’s not a classic, but it’s far from the ‘St. Anger’-esque pile of shit we were led to fear. While not all of it sticks and it's a tad long, there’s not a truly bad song on here. It stays true to the band’s ethos, occasionally scratching at the upper echelons of their catalogue. If you hate it so much, then skip Bastards. But otherwise sit back, maybe don’t relax, and appreciate the uncompromising force that Machine Head remain.

Machine Head Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 13 2018 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton
Mon May 14 2018 - CARDIFF Cardiff Students' Union - Y Plas
Tue May 15 2018 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Thu May 17 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Fri May 18 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Sat May 19 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Mon May 21 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Tue May 22 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed May 23 2018 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Fri May 25 2018 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sat May 26 2018 - MANCHESTER Academy

Click here to compare & buy Machine Head Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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