Few bands resonate so fully with their audience as Machine Head, and perhaps only Iron Maiden and Slayer can rely upon their fans for such unflinching dedication. The crucial difference is that these Bay Area maestros are of a newer generation who enjoy none of the misty-eyed, sometimes forgiving nostalgia of their predecessors. And considering 2007’s The Blackening was Metal Hammer’s album of the decade, the pressure to outdo themselves on album number seven was most assuredly immense.
All the more reason to applaud Unto The Locust, a breathtaking metal masterwork that screams their supremacy as songwriters from the rooftops.
Kicking off with the three-part thrashing cannon blast of I Am Hell, it’s clear that this is an album of light and shade, or as it were – howitzer fire and napalm. Be Still And Know is a breathtaking exhibition of Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel’s towering abilities with a six-string, all supercharged by Flynn’s gravel-throated ferocity. So intense you can almost imagine the glee in the studio when it was being tracked, this is the stuff classics are made of, and the classical guitar intro of This Is The End is a welcome breather before the dial gets twisted back to 11.
But it’s probably The Darkness Within that sees Machine Head at their most courageous. Beginning with Flynn’s Springsteen-conjuring mid-tempo balladry, it gives dimension to all the fast-riffing bravado before the epic slab of Pearls Before The Swine and the haunting Who We Are wrap up these scorching proceedings.
It’s all mindblowing testament to a brand of heavy metal that refuses to chase its tail but sprints boldly into uncharted territory. Catch ‘em if you can.