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Machine Head - Catharsis album review

Robb Flynn’s groove metal mavericks hit the jackpot

Cover art for Machine Head - Catharsis album

Machine Head have walked their own path for so long that no one should be alarmed that their ninth album has a few surprises. In truth, a 74-minute album without curve balls would be exhausting. Fortunately, Catharsis still provides plenty of the expected skull-flattening heaviness.

More importantly, nearly every last song here is among Machine Head’s best, starting with ferocious state-of-the-nation opener Volatile and the almost indecently stirring title track, which could well be the metal anthem of 2018. Kaleidoscope blends steroidal swagger and a massive chorus amid a haze of psychedelic wooziness, Heavy Lies The Crown is an insanely thrilling nine-minute metal symphony, and the snotty Razorblade Smile pays tribute to Lemmy by actually sounding like a runaway freight train.

And then there are the curveballs: Triple Beam is a fiery burst of rap-metal fury, Behind A Mask is an elegiac acoustic ballad with shades of Opeth. Best of all, thematic centrepiece Bastards marries frontman Robb Flynn’s heartfelt dismay at Trump’s America to frenzied, irresistible folk-rock, with spine-tingling (if potentially polarising) results.

Frankly, no other modern metal band have the balls or the brains to pull off an album like this. Catharsis is a brave, life-affirming masterpiece.

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.