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Machine Head – Unto the Locust

Machine Head
Unto the Locust
by Shir Sharon / Rebecca Miller / Elina Papadoyani / Vasilis Odontidis at 19 December 2011, 9:33 PM

Rebecca Miller (9/10)

MACHINE HEAD have decided to do something different for their newest release, “Unto The Locust”. Yes, it’s still got all the brand heaviness and badass elements typical of the band, but then you get moments like “Darkness Within” (a beautifully subtle track), and “Who We Are” (featuring a PINK FLOYD-esque children’s choir). But they pull off these slight changes of genre absolutely spectacularly.

The first track, “I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)” is split into three movements, and it starts with a capella voices, and Flynn singing in Latin. And only a few moments later, it explodes into the MACHINE HEAD we all know and love, and the transition is handled brilliantly. This sums up the entire album really, some more subtle parts, but mostly heavy, head-banging goodness. I mentioned they’ve done some things different, and I think a string quartet, overlapping guitar and cello and the use of a (slightly unsettling) children’s choir in the last song certainly qualify. We’ve all seen bands try to pull this sort of thing off before, and it’s not always been the right choice, but MACHINE HEAD have got it spot on, and none of it felt out of place to me.

As you’d expect from the band, the production values are extremely high. The balance between the vocals and the instruments ensures that you can hear every section of every song perfectly. This is an album that definitely needs repeated listens to fully appreciate each layer of it. But while I’ve been talking about all these new things the MACHINE HEAD have done with this release, it’s still incredibly accessible, and it’s sure to please existing fans as well as pulling in new ones.

The band could have quite easily sat back on their heels, and released something that just goes through the motions. But they chose to put so much effort into this, and it absolutely shows in the hooks, the lyrics, the vocals and the album when viewed as a whole. And as this year draws to a close, I can’t help but think that this is a contender for best Metal album of 2011.

Elina Papadoyani (9/10)

"Unto The Locust" is the seventh full-length studio album for the Groove / Thrash Metallers MACHINE HEAD. It's been almost two decades since the 1994's "Burn My Eyes" and now the band returns with this long awaited follow-up of the Grammy nominated album "The Blackening".

After 4 years of waiting, the third decade in the band's course starts with the best conditions and with a solid release that's a worthy descendant of MACHINE HEAD's history. Even though the release of "The Blackening" set the bar really high, I was pleasantly surprised to see that MACHINE HEAD continued with the same music standards in "Unto The Locust".

The album starts with the three-part infernal ode "I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)", even though I can't really say I liked the choir intro of this song, it sure as hell was awesome to listen to the relentless riffing that came afterwards. Great choice to have this song as the opener of the album, as it already had me sold at the first few seconds. And this didn't stop 'til the end of the album, all seven tracks are equally massive and addictive, from "Be Still and Know" to the "Pearls For Swine", not forgetting the track "Locust", which was released also as a single and brings out great links from the band's 90s sound and "Who We are", which closes the album the same way it started, with an unexpected choir intro that jumps into a powerful continuing.

MACHINE HEAD have a sound that spits aggression all over, yet they've successfully managed to marry it with melodic parts and memorable choruses, and this combination almost always equals success. Plus, what is even more honorable is that they sound fresh without deviating from their trademark style.

It's just amazing to see how MACHINE HEAD have evolved; they are able to keep their older fans satisfied, yet with their latest releases the can appeal to each generation's standards and gain new fans. Just listen to "Unto The Locust" and you'll see why this band deserves your full attention.

Ps: The special edition of this album includes 3 bonus tracks, "The Sentinel" (Judas Priest), "Witch Hunt" (Rush) and the acoustic version of "Darkness Within", as well as the making of "Unto The Locust" DVD.

Vasilis Odontidis (9/10)

When MACHINE HEAD released the song “Locust” in June I was a bit skeptical, because I didn’t like “The Blackening” that much. One of the main reasons that made me take some distance from the record is that I have read so much about it, there was so much hype behind it and all that I had really high expectations, but eventually I didn’t like it. It didn’t grow on me and I still don’t like it that much. You can flame me for that but that’s just an opinion right? Thus I listened to the “Locust” with all that stuff that made me biased on their effort. “Locust” didn’t grow on me also at that time. And yet again I came back to this record because, it’s MACHINE HEAD, no matter what they are still an awesome band. And thankfully from the first listening, “Unto the Locust” surprised me positively!

“Unto the Locust” s the seventh album by MACHINE HEAD, it includes 7 songs that bang your head for 48 minutes. The cover of the album is nothing other than a locust and I am already sure that girls are going to love it. The opening track starts with a haunting vocal choir (it’s about 18 tracks of various Flynn voiceovers) and it leads to a heavy slow tempo riff. Quite an imposing beginning for a record! After 2 minutes the real stuff goes on as the song goes into crazy speeds and typical MACHINE HEAD riffing. “Be Still and Know” gets some tapping treatment in the beginning and while slower than “I am Hell” it’s still killer. “Locust” is an already known song, but still it has great melodies, great riffing and great chorus. “This is the end”, like “Locust” starts with some acoustic parts and then explodes into maddening speeds and another Metal hymn! “Darkness Within” is maybe the weakest song of the album, it is not that it is bad it is just not as good as the others. “Pearls Before the Swine” is another typical MACHINE HEAD song with heavy riffing and various tempo changes. The ending song “Who We Are” starts with a marching tempo and a child chorus!

“Unto the Locust” s a great MACHINE HEAD album. It has crazy riffing, lots of solos, the typical MACHINE HEAD harmonics, powerful vocals, cool lyrics and some new experimentation like the child chorus (which is actually 5 kids, Flynn’s two sons, Demmel's son and the sound engineer’s two daughters). The only thing I didn’t like is that the album seemed to me a bit short. Seven songs with one already released, is probably a bit too short. To cut a long story short, MACHINE HEAD gave us a great album and I dare say it is way better than the previous one.
As a last comment for the Greek Metalheads, I have to remind them that MACHINE HEAD comes in Greece as the final support band to BLACK SABBATH. That would be a hell of a concert.

Shir Sharon (5/10)

I had to take my sweet time before writing this review, because for some reason MACHINE HEAD have always been a band that sunk in slowly for me, when I first heard them on Headbangers Ball some six years ago I didn't like them at all, and it was only three encounters later on that same show when their music finally caught me and very quickly they had become my favorite band which was a status they maintained for the following three years (up until I discovered GOJIRA), even when they came out with “The Blackening” which is still one of the best albums ever created in my opinion. It took me some time to process it before I realized its true greatness.

Those were the reasons I wanted to give this album as much time as I felt required to reflect my estimation of it in a way that I am at peace with.I am no naive, I know that masterpieces like “The Blackening” are the kind of achievements which a band usually get to attain only once in a career. But I had hoped that even if it won't be as innovative and groundbreaking as the last one was it would at least be as honest and heartfelt as everything they have done so far. Of course there was also another scenario that seemed very probable in which the success of the last album would affect MACHINE HEAD's musical integrity, sadly, this is pretty much what happened.

“Unto the Locust” is more melodic and modern sounding then the last album and also aims to be the most "epic" album they ever did. That doesn't have to be a bad thing but it seems that those directions were not a result of a natural musical growth but of a very calculative state of mind. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me like MACHINE HEAD's idea for this album was something like 'let's make an album that will be accessible to more people...especially the kids yet keep some of the more sophisticated elements from the last album”.

The song that opens the album is titled “I Am Hell” and it starts with a quire part in Latin that is being sung by Flynn and is aimed to get you into that epic vibe that MACHINE HEAD so desperately try to instill in this album. It then develops to a song which demonstrates the more modern approach the band has taken and sadly this also means a more plastic guitar sound which I personally did not care for. Still, it's actually a nice song but there is not much soul to it

It also seems that the success of “The Blackening” has made them a bit megalomaniac, because there are parts in this album that totally feel like a showoff and it's irritating as hell, especially after the last album which was more complicated than this one yet contained not even a signal moment that felt like it was made just for show. The most annoying example of this comes in the second song "Be Still And Know" which is basically paved with moments like this but the pinnacle comes in the midst of the song in which Flynn and Demmel start a guitar duo solo which is the most pointless and technocratic solo I have ever heard in a MACHINE HEAD song.

The two songs that follow that one I actually really liked and they are the best songs on the album, the first one is “Unto The Locust” which serves as the album's hit song. I didn't think it was all that great at first because it is not as good as other MACHINE HEAD hit songs like “Davidian” and “Imperium” but eventually the song's groove grew on me, the latter is "This Is The End" which is simply a badass song. I got to give the band some credit because they did dare to try some experimental stuff in this effort, and in this song there is a riff that seems to derive from Black Metal and surprisingly enough it fits perfectly. It is also the only song that I found honest and touching and doesn't have that forced feeling this album is characterized by.

The fifth song titled "Darkness Within" is the album's lowest moment; the song is a semi ballad which is supposed to catch the spot of songs such as “Now I Lay Thee Down” but it fails miserably because for the first time ever MACHINE HEAD didn’t sound like themselves.The song that closes the album titled “Who We Are” is the prime example of what I mean when I say this album forcefully attempts taking the epic direction over the top in a way that will appeal to younger crowds. It starts with a children quire singing the refrain "This is who we are, this is what I am" and it is full of triumphant riffs and climaxes. Then Flynn goes on and on about standing united together for what you believe in. It is supposedly meant to put forward the winner attitude MACHINE HEAD always stand for but what this song was really is if you ask me is the most direct and manipulative attempt to appeal to the younger crowds and give them that powerful sense of belonging that will strengthen their love for the band.

The lyrics on the album are technically what I had hoped them to be: still written with the same level of skill as in “The Blackening” but addressing things from a more personal perspective this time. But just like all other aspects of this album they suffer from a lack of credibility and most of them seem pointless on the wholeMACHINE HEAD were a band that never let me down; I even liked the Nu Metal albums which everyone loves to hate but I guess there is a first time for everything. I heard people stating this album is more powerful then “The Blackening” and I wonder how is it they can't see it's just an act this time. Technically I cannot say this is not a bad album because a lot was invested into it in terms of skill and thought but artistically this album is very poor.

It may seem like it but I am not eulogizing the band, I actually still believe there is still a chance that their next album would be good but whenever it will come I will have to tread with a certain amount of skepticism.

4 Star Rating

1. I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)
2. Be Still And Know
3. Locust
4. This is the End
5. Darkness Within
6. Pearls Before the Swine
7. Who We Are

Deluxe collector's edition bonus tracks
8. The Sentinel (Judas Priest cover)
9. Witch Hunt (Rush cover)
10. Darkness Within (Acoustic)
Adam Duce – Bass, backing vocals
Robb Flynn – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar
Phil Demmel – Lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Dave McClain – Drums
Record Label: Roadrunner Records


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