Machine Head, live in Nottingham

Robb Flynn's men raise hell at deliciously intimate club show

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Much like popping on GTA when you've got work to do or lending a slim-fit shirt to your mate Chubby Charlie, Machine Head playing a 450 capacity venue seems – in theory – to be a bad idea. Actually, scrap that – it's downright ludicrous. Tickets for such a gig were seized in mere minutes after going on sale, entering the postboxes of punters with an obscene level of hype attached. Can the Bay Area bruisers hope to live up to expectations tonight?

Of course they can. It’s Machine Fucking Head: One of the most influential, inspirational and indebloodystructable metal bands to emerge this side of Iron Maiden. As the lights fade and Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary Of A Madman obnoxiously booms from the PA system, it’s plain to see just how important Machine Head are to the Nottingham faithful. And when the band stroll on stage, all sense of self-control is completely abandoned and the triumphant roar of ‘Hear me now!’ signals the rise of Imperium. No gimmicks. No frills. Just Machine Fucking Head.

And how do you follow up such a kick-arse, high-octane opening gambit? Well, you could play Beautiful Mourning and Locust straight after… Which is exactly what they do. Machine Head know exactly what their devotees crave and they deliver – for just under two hours, the Rescue Rooms are baptised in the blood, sweat and tears (beers, piss – whatever) of an audience going fifty shades of bonkers to some of the finest metal ever crafted.

The band are just such an overbearingly strong unit – Robb Flynn’s venomous bark during Ten Ton Hammer remains a highlight of the set; Phil Demmel’s incessant love for pulling funny faces never stops being endearing and new bassist Jared MacEachern looks like he’s been in the band since the beginning, albeit having the appearance of a James Hetfield impersonator. Machine Head are tighter than ever, stronger than ever and they just seem like they’re having a right old romp – cramped in a venue about as big as a shoebox, applause and circle pits (lots of circle pits) are all they need.

New track Killers & Kings sparks immense promise for the band’s future, exhuming a swathe of vigour and determination that was slightly lacking on 2011’s Unto The Locust. Basically, Machine Head are on an absolute winner, and if this song’s anything to go by, we should probably start clearing space in our ‘Albums Of The Year’ lists.

While timeless cuts Davidian and Old have security pooing their pants as crowdsurfers throw caution and limbs to the wind, it’s Flynn and Demmel’s elegant, grandiose masterpiece of a guitar solo during Halo that remains the evening’s crowning moment. This is a band that has sold millions of albums, toured the world for over two decades and also happened to tour with a little group called Metallica. Machine Head are legends, and to witness them in such an intimate setting is a truly one-off experience.

Amidst the sea of perspiring, knackered metalheads, it’s one of Robb’s self-deprecating quips that really sums up this band and its fanbase: ‘We never got to be as big as The Beatles.’ You are to us, Robb. You are to us.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.