Every Machine Head album ranked from worst to best

Machine Head
(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

For over almost 30 years, Machine Head have been one of the most beloved bands in heavy music. Led by 'The General' Robb Flynn, they’ve amassed a catalogue of face-melting, diverse and iconic metal songs. They’ve been up, down and back up again numerous times, and their discography certainly reflects their roller coaster career. With immense latest album Of Kingdom And Crown putting Machine Head firmly back on top of the heavy metal pile, here is every single Machine Head record so far ranked from worst to best.

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10) Supercharger (2001)

Without a doubt the weakest moment in the Machine Head canon, Supercharger came at a time when both the band and the metal scene were in a state of flux. As the third generation dregs of nu metal became the dominant force in our world, Machine Head were looking to recover from the confusing The Burning Red period (which we’ll get to in a bit) with a return to their roots. Unfortunately, Supercharger did nothing of the sort. It’s a horribly compromised record, lacking the heaviness of their earlier material or the quality of songs of their most recognisable work. And the production is paper thin. A turkey.

9) Catharsis (2018)

The final Machine Head album to feature Phil Demmel and Dave McClain, Catharsis is something of a mixed bag. Much was made of Robb's misjudged folk song Bastards, using various slurs to try and reclaim them as a progressive rallying cry. Instead, it came across as a cringey mess. The record is bloated and outstays its welcome at 15 tracks and over 70 minutes in length, but there is the odd diamond in the rough – all limited to the first half of the record. In much need of an edit, this isn't Machine Head's finest hour.

8) The Burning Red (1999)

It’s become the most controversial period of Machine Head’s career, and it still divides fans to this day. Some would rather throw these songs in the bin along with the orange jump suits and bleach-blond spikes of the time, whereas there are others that can’t deny their love of the hip-hop bounce and groove of Desire To Fire and From This Day. We certainly err toward the latter camp, especially when you consider that the two aforementioned songs are the only moments on the album that could be described as rap metal. Nothing Left, The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears and the incredibly personal Five are much more traditional Machine Head efforts. We can’t defend that cover of Message In A Bottle though. Bad call, chaps.

7) Unto The Locust (2011)

History has been pretty kind to Unto The Locust. It’s certainly no easy thing having to be the album that follows a musical force of nature like The Blackening. At the time, a lot of people were lukewarm on Machine Head’s seventh effort, scoffing at children’s choirs and bemoaning that it wasn’t quite as good as one of the 21st century’s very best albums. But, really, what can compete with The Blackening? Go back and listen to Unto The Locust today and you’ll hear loads that is worthy of the band at their best. The title-track is pure riffgasm and the slow-burning, almost ballady lament of Darkness Within is one of Machine Head’s most moving songs.

6) Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014)

The first album to feature Jared MacEachern on bass, it’s a miracle that Machine Head’s eighth effort arrived at all considering the trauma within the band post-Unto The Locust. And Bloodstone & Diamonds is an oddly ignored gem in the Machine Head catalogue. In a lot of ways, this was the closest the band had come to marrying the instantaneous thrash of their early days with the more expansive material of the latter period. Opening with the superb seven-minute epic Now We Die and taking in top-quality songs like Sail Into The Black and In Comes The Flood on the way, Bloodstone And Diamonds should have seen the band shoot straight back to the top of modern metal’s pecking order. It’s hard to know what else they could have done.

5) Through The Ashes Of Empires (2003)

After the unloved nu metal image, the missed attempt at the return to their original sound, the haemorrhaging of guitarists and the fact that they found themselves without a record deal, Machine Head were considered to be a band on the scrap heap as Phil Demmel walked into the ranks for the first time to record Through The Ashes Of Empires. We all know what happened next, though. If one song has ever saved a band’s career, opening track Imperium is it, showing that this was a group that were roaring back into top form. But that’s not where the fun ends on TTAOE; Bite The Bullet follows it up as a real neck-snapper and Elegy made anyone that had been at the band’s incredible live shows lick their lips in anticipation.

4) Of Kingdom And Crown (2022)

It’s bold to think that a band three decades in could write the best album of their career, but to their absolute credit, Machine Head have come close with Of Kingdom And Crown. All the things that hampered the band’s post-The Blackening output are nowhere to be seen: the stylistic flights of fancy, the occasional OTT production choices, the exhausting lengths of certain albums, all tossed aside. In their place is the band's most consistent album since the mid-2000s, and an album that plays very much to Machine Head’s established strengths. 

Of Kingdom And Crown is groove metal nirvana packing bursts of thrashy perfection and some sublime, fist-clenching, bawl-along choruses. Songs like Become The Firestorm, Bloodshot and Slaughter The Martyr encapsulate everything giddying and impactful about metal, and are surely destined to become essential members of the MH cannon. This is heavy fucking metal with no frills...well, other than the fact that this is the first time Robb Flynn has dipped his toes into a concept album. That aspect of the record is admittedly a little convoluted, but, overall, this is a majestic return to form.

3) The More Things Change… (1997)

While there might be more commercially successful and critically lauded albums in Machine Head’s back catalogue, there isn’t one that hits as hard, in so many different ways and as often as The More Things Change. It had a difficult birth, with Dave McClain replacing original drummer Chris Kontos and the band losing master copies of the album after recording, but it was definitely worth it. 

The opening four tracks alone are as eclectic as Machine Head have ever sounded; the deep, heavy grind of Ten Ton Hammer, the groove metal of Take My Scars, the circle pit-ready hardcore punk of Struck A Nerve and the slow-building menace of Down to None. That’s before we even get to the seven-minute Violate or the closing brilliance of Blood Of The Zodiac. It's an album that, perhaps, doesn’t get the attention that it really deserves these days, but we’re happy to set the record straight here: pretty much any band would sell their souls to Satan to create a record this strong. Were it not for a pair of legitimate heavy metal classics dominating Machine Head's back catalogue, The More Things Change would comfortably be top of the pile. 

2) The Blackening (2007)

One of the best metal albums of the 21st century it may be, but The Blackening doesn't quite top the pile for the strongest collection of songs in the Machine Head canon. Doesn't that just say everything about how great a band they are? A revelation upon its release, The Blackening took Machine Head around the globe for four years. During that time, they went from a great metal band to a band being talked about as potential festival headliners. One of the most unifying albums of the last 20 years, it sent a tremor through the metal scene when Machine Head unleashed songs like the 10-minute-plus Clenching The Fists Of Descent or the nine-minute Halo. These songs are classics now, but The Blackening was like unlike anything Machine Head had ever attempted before. The progressive leap of faith paid off royally, but its high point is still the Dimebag-inspired Aesthetics Of Hate. One of the angriest songs ever committed to tape. Anywhere. Ever. 

1) Burn My Eyes (1994)

They said metal was dead back in 1994, but nobody had counted on a gang of street kids raised on Pantera, Public Enemy, Cro-Mags and Ice-T to mix their influences into a magnificent melting pot and make metal sound dangerous, fresh and contemporary again. You all know the shotgun blast call of Davidian, the rumbling bass line that ushers in Old, the part-rapped, part-spat lyrical rage of Block, the thrash pace of Blood for Blood. Burn My Eyes is an absolute classic, one of the greatest debut albums of all time and one of the greatest metal records ever. It made such an impact that the band started the album cycle supporting Slayer and then returned to the same venues as a headlining band in their own right only a year later. As anyone who witnessed the band playing the album in its entirety back in 2019 will attest, decades later these songs have retained every inch of their awe-inspiring power. A perfect record.

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