For over 20 years, Machine Head have been one of the most beloved bands in heavy music. Led by 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, and their back catalogue certainly reflects their roller coaster career, that keeps on taking wild turns.
Here is every Machine Head album ranked from worst to best.
9) Supercharger (2001)
Without any doubt the weakest moment in the Machine Head cannon, 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.
What looks like the final Machine Head album for this line-up, Catharsis is something of a mixed bag. Much was made of the Robb's misjudged folk song Bastards, using various slurs to try and reclaim them in his new woke form, instead coming 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.
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. And, at the time, a lot of people were lukewarm on Machine Head’s effort, scoffing at children’s choirs and bemoaning that it wasn’t quite as good as one of the 21st century’s best albums. But, really, what can compete with The Blackening? Go back and listen to it 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 ballad, lament of Darkness Within is one of Machine Head’s most moving songs.
6) 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.
5) Bloodstone And Diamonds (2014)
The first album to feature new bassist Jared MacEachern, 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 And Diamonds is an oddly ignored gem in the Machine Head catalogue. In a lot of ways this is the closest the band have 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.
4) 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.
3) The Blackening (2007)
One of the best metal albums of the 21st century it may be, but The Blackening isn’t even the second strongest collection of songs in the Machine Head cannon. Which says everything about how great a band they are. A revelation upon its release, it took them around the globe for four years. During that time they went from a great metal band to 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 they 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. Ever.
2) 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. 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 or so later. All because of the strength of these songs.
1) The More Things Change… (1997)
Surprised? Annoyed? Disagree? Save your breath. You’re wrong. 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. The More Things Change… is 10 songs all scoring a 10 out of 10. Casual fans are welcome to tread the party line, but this is Machine Head’s ultimate artistic achievement.