Robb Flynn has had a rough few years. A critically derided album, band members departing and being unable to tour, some started to worry this might be the end of Machine Head as we know it. But in the new issue of Metal Hammer, Robb isn't backing down - if anything, he sees Of Kingdom And Crown as a fresh start, the first step towards a bright future. Here are 10 things Hammer learned from speaking to Robb.
The Catharsis backlash came as a shock
At best, you could say Machine Head 2018 album Catharsis was divisive. Musically, lyrically, politically, that record pulled no punches and was viewed as a colossal mis-step by many fans and media outlets alike.
While Robb isn't about to hold his hands up and apologise for the record, he does admit the backlash came as a major shock. "The Catharsis cycle was nothing like I've ever dealt with from the metal media," he tells us. "It was really un-fucking-believable."
Breaking up was never an option for Machine Head
The departure of Dave McClain and Phil Demmel in 2018 had fans worried that it was curtains for Machine Head. But Robb was never worried. "Literally on the day that they quit, I started writing [2020 single] Bulletproof," Robb explains.
There's no bad blood with Phil Demmel and Dave McClain - so far as Robb is concerned
Although Phil Demmel has made disparaging comments about Robb since his departure from Machine Head (calling the band a "Robb Flynn solo project"), Flynn maintains that there is no animosity towards his former bandmates.
"For me, we ended it in a very classy way. I got the audience every night to give it up for Phil and Dave and for everything they've brought to the band - all the good times, all the good shows, all the good music."
Even as the old line-up was bowing out, Robb was building Machine Head's future
While on off-days during the last Machine Head tour with Phil Demmel and Dave McClain, Robb and bassist Jared MacEachern went into a studio in South Carolina.
"We ended up coming up with the music for My Hands Are Empty," Robb says. "So it was as early as that. I just wanted to stay busy, I just wanted to focus on work and writing music. I didn't need to think about the future."
Machine Head's 2019 European tour was exactly what the band needed
In 2019, Machine Head headed over to Europe to play some mammoth, three-hour sets as part of their ...An Evening With format. The first part saw Robb reunite with former members Logan Mader and Chris Kontos to play Burn My Eyes in full. The second set saw Machine Head joined by guitarist Vogg (of Polish death metal merchants Decapitated) and drummer Matt Alston.
"It was a very unusual situation," Robb admits. "And it was awesome! Jamming with Logan and Kontos again for the first time was so cool, and there were literally magical nights with them onstage."
Robb works out to death metal
Despite singing for one of the most groove-friendly bands on the planet for the past 31 years, Robb goes straight for the heavy stuff when it comes to his workouts. In fact, that's how Vogg ended up on his radar at the first place - he'd been bombarded with Decapitated while working out. "I call it the death metal gym, it's super-hardcore!" Robb says.
The original plan wasn't to do a Machine Head album
For all the recording Robb got up to since 2018, initially he hadn't planned on making another Machine Head album. Instead, he was happily working away on singles. "At first, all I wanted to do was put out songs," Robb says. "I felt a record would take too much time. I love that we're in an age where I can record a song today and everyone can hear it tomorrow."
Robb has been planning a Machine Head concept record "for ages"
Of Kingdom And Crown is Machine Head's first concept album, but it's something Robb has wanted to do for ages. "I've talked about doing a concept album for years," Robb tells us. "To me, most of the time they're done not very well, and when they are done well, magical."
Robb's touchstones for concept albums are pretty surprising
Discussing the concept albums he thinks are "magical", Robb lists a couple of obvious examples: Pink Floyd's The Wall, Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime... but more surprising is his inclusion of My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. "I'm a huge My Chemical Romance fan and loved The Black Parade. That's a desert island record for me."
Of Kingdom and Crown isn't based on anime series Attack On Titan
Some early reports suggested that the concept behind Of Kingdom and Crown was actually based on the anime series Attack On Titan. Robb is quick to clarify however, and gives some explanation of the actual narrative.
"There's character number one, named Ares [pronounced Aries]," Robb explains. "He loses the love of his life, Amethyst, and goes on a murderous rampage against the perpetrators who killed her. Character number two, named Eros [pronounced Arrows], he is the perpetrator, the one who killed Amethyst. He loses his mother to a drug overdose, and in his downward spiral, he becomes radicalised by this charismatic leader and he goes on his own murderous rampage. The lyrics detail how their lives intertwine."
Read the full feature in the new issue of Metal Hammer, out now. Order your copy here (opens in new tab).