Machine Head, a band synonymous with heavy music and a band whose journey has been widely publicised since day one. 1994 saw a some angry dudes from Oakland California with something to rage about. release the seminal Burn My Eyes, a record still classed as one of the very best in heavy metal history. With that brought the masses of die hard fans who, to this very day, refuse to talk about anything else. Fast forward a whole bunch of years (25 to be exact!) and it’s safe to say the band are still very much the talking point of the metal community.
‘Catharsis’, the 9th studio record from the Bay Area brutes has thrust the band into the limelight once more with a slight new look but an even bigger new sound.
One thing is clear when listening to Catharsis. This is not the Machine Head of Old. This is very much a band exploring new ideas, new ways of musical thinking and dare I say it, experimenting in new ways to deliver their music. And it all begins with the records opener ‘volatile’. The words “fuck the world” are the first that are spat out of Flynns mouth on a track that is filled with shades of classic Machine Head. Whilst its not the typical lengthy epic opener we have seen the band execute on the past three records, its certainly one of speed and energy that is sure to please those who are that way inclined.
We were all told to lower our expectations of the heaviness found in ‘Catharsis’ and whilst there is no shortage of those meaty sounding Machine Head riffs we are all used to banging our heads too, the direction here is certainly a more melodic one. The title track is our first true taste of it with a chorus section that is one of the most melodic the band have probably created.
Things change slightly as we get our first taste of the real new. ‘California Bleeding’, anthemic in its own right makes it easy to see the masses signing along when the band hit the UK in a few months’ time, it really feels like they’ve given a nod to some of their earlier work with a track that could have easily been featured on The Burning Red or Supercharger. ‘Triple Beam’ see’s Flynns almost rap-like storytelling presented behind heavy bass lines and guitar effects that is likely to be the marmite of Catharsis. You’ll either love it or hate it.
Back in 2011 it was ‘darkness within’ that saw the band produce a song that would seemingly divide the opinions of many. It’s safe to say they have done it again with ‘bastards’, a track that is as far away from the traditional Machine Head sound as you can probably get. Truth be told, it’s the catchiest the band has to offer at this point on the record and despite its criticism, its folk-like melodies will be stuck in your head for days like it or not!.
While too much music is always a good problem to have, there are times throughout the Catharsis play through may seem like a lengthy one. With a whopping fifteen tracks to get through, it can be easy to lose interest, but its songs like ‘Screaming at the Sun and ‘Heavy Lies the Crown’ that do a good job at pulling the listener back in with their sweeping melodies once again. There’s plenty here for fans both new and old.
There’s no denying that the feel of this record is that of 3 years’ worth of blood, sweat and tears with every word screamed and every note played with conviction, but while ‘Eulogy’ gives the listener the best piece of music after 70 long minutes, one can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed throughout. With such an epic end, it almost feels as if what came before should have been so much more.
Change is in the air within the Machine Head camp. Not all is lost however as much as the over dramatic internet keyboard warriors want you to believe. Is there a noticeable change in this record? Absolutely! but after 25 years, one could argue that they’ve more than earned the right do do what they like. Old school fans may find themselves being turned off, but those more receptive to change along with the new fans ‘catharsis’ is sure to attract may just find they’ve just listened to their new favourite record of 2018
'Catharsis' Out January 26th - Nuclear Blast Records