Still surfing on the crest of a wave of acclaim that began in earnest with 2007’s all-conquering The Blackening, Machine Head arrive at their eighth studio album safe in the knowledge that they continue to stand proudly alone from the rest of the mainstream metal scene, both in terms of their still pointedly distinctive sound and the fearless bravado that has long typified their records.
Even bearing all that in mind, Bloodstone & Diamonds is a towering achievement, a monstrous consolidation of everything the Oakland crew have stood for during their career and a bold leap into exhilarating new territory. Their trademark brutality and knack for a mesmerising melody remain intact, of course, as evinced by thunderous opener Now We Die, the muscular thrash of Killers And Kings and the lumbering pugilism of Beneath The Silt. Elsewhere, shades of brutish hardcore punk add fuel to Game Over’s vitriolic blaze and the seething, scything Night Of Long Knives dissects the Manson Family murders with a flurry of jarring scalpel jabs.
Pleasingly, the cloying sterility of much modern metal is not welcome here: even at its most straightforward, this is nuanced brutality with edge. But it’s the more textured and dynamic moments – the insanely epic dirge of Sail Into The Black, the sprawling political rampage of In Comes The Flood and sinister quasi-interlude Imaginal Cells – that raise this Herculean slab of cutting edge heaviness into the realms of a stone cold classic./o:p