The 10 best Machine Head songs

A photograph of Robb Flynn on stage with Machine Head in 2008
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With nine studio albums under their studded belts, the Californian metallers have embraced, thrash, groove metal, nu metal and good ol' balls-out heavy metal in their 30-year career. But what are their real standout moments? Here are the 10 best Machine Head songs ever.

10. The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears

As much as Machine Head’s detractors like to sneer at the band’s supposed drift into nu-metal territory for their third album, the reality is that The Burning Red is a dark, sludgy and drug-addled affair that just happens to have a couple of bits of quick-fire rapping on it. It also has this pounding paean to hard work and determination on it, and it’s a song that is rarely absent from Machine Head set lists to this day. It’s all about the blood, the sweat and the beers. Cheers, fuckers.

9. Down To None

Machine Head’s second album – The More Things Change… – is every bit the equal to its monstrous predecessor, but such was the impact of the band’s debut that the follow-up is full of unsung gems. We could have gone for the blistering Struck A Nerve or the slow-burning menace of Violate, but Down To None clinches the prize because – as Robb Flynn would probably say it – it’s SO. FUCKING. HEAVY.

8. Bulldozer

As with The Burning Red, Supercharger is much, much better than the joyless troll brigade would have you believe. For a start, it begins with Bulldozer: one of the most pulverising songs in Machine Head’s illustrious canon. From the squealing feedback of the intro to the scything turbo-thrash riff that kicks off the ensuing mayhem, Bulldozer is five minutes of flagrant incitement to riot, powered by riffs the size of Jupiter.

7. Game Over

Revitalised by a refreshed lineup and still gaining momentum over two decades into their career, Machine Head sounded more fired up than ever on 2014’s Bloodstone And Diamonds. Both its angriest and catchiest song, Game Over swiftly transcends the specifics of its well-documented subject matter and becomes an anthem for those of us who, quite frankly, have had enough of YOUR BULLSHIT. Throw in the fact that this rips, stomps and slays like a priapic Minotaur and you have the perfect song to go absolutely fucking berserk to.

6. Blood For Blood

Burn My Eyes bulges with phenomenal songs, as Robb Flynn’s knack for penning riffs that make people want to run through brick walls reached an early peak of efficacy. This high-velocity assault just about edges it, however, because it is the most brilliant example of Machine Head’s mastery of groove and precision, even at breathless full pelt. Brave the pit for this one and there’s a slight chance you might die. And that’s the essence of a perfect, fast metal tune.

5. Halo

On paper, The Blackening had absolutely no right to be Machine Head’s biggest commercial triumph. With long, elaborate songs that were as challenging as they were insanely heavy, it was anything but a commercial cash-grab… and yet, as we all know, it is widely viewed as one of the 21st century’s premier metal classics. It probably helps that the soaring melodies, slow-motion grind and intricate textures of Halo turned into the band’s most unexpected crowd-pleaser: a dark but exhilarating song that somehow cuts through the crap and brings crowds noisily, joyously together.

4. Descend The Shades Of Night

Machine Head had written slow, moody songs before, but nothing that resonated with the overwhelming emotional power exerted by Through The Ashes Of Empires’s closing epic. A departure from the band’s usual sound, perhaps, but every bit as heavy as their more straightforwardly brutal material. Signifying a clear maturing of Robb Flynn’s lyrics and the sharpening of his band’s songwriting and arranging skills, it’s a heart-rending cry of defiance against the dying of the light. Goosebumps guaranteed (particularly during that solo).

3. Imperium

When Machine Head released Through The Ashes Of Empires in 2003, virtually everyone acknowledged that it was a blistering return to form and a thunderous reaffirming of the band’s bruising ethos. A brilliant opening salvo for album and live show alike, it still thrums with destructive intent: the sound of a band rediscovering their metallic mojo and making sure that everyone knows about it. When it bursts into that fast bit midway through… just hold on to your pint, basically.

2. Darkness Within

As the release of Is There Anybody Out There confirms, Machine Head have never been afraid to experiment or try something unexpected to keep their own enthusiasm levels high. Darkness Within was a curveball on an album, Unto The Locust, that was full of them. The combination of its spine-tingling dynamics, Robb Flynn’s furious poetry and a sentiment – ‘Music, my savior!’ – that most of us could instantly relate to made this bold leap into new territory an instant live favourite and one of the most celebrated songs of the band’s career.

1. Davidian

The first song on the first Machine Head record is simply one of the great metal anthems of the last 30 years. Burn My Eyes was a groundbreaking and utterly ferocious debut, and its opening track still wields the sort of jaw-shattering power that most modern metal bands would kill for. If you’ve ever stood in a dark, sweaty room with a large crowd of fellow Headcases and bellowed ‘Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!’ then you know exactly what we’re on about. An immortal classic.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.