23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A long awaited and overdue return to form,
This review is from: Through the Ashes of Empires (Audio CD)
In 1994, Machine Head made 'Burn My Eyes,' a great (and very original)
heavy metal album. But from about that year until now, things went downhill
for the band. They still made albums, but almost no one was interested in
them. Starting with 'Burning Red,' an album that essentially put a dividing
line between fans, the group became nu-metal (or if not nu-metal, than
something very close to it) and also came close to copping other bands,
like Tool. M.H. risked being one of those bands that put out a strong debut
album, then didn't release anything else worthwhile for the rest of their
2004, however, is a new year, and a new album ('Through the Ashes of the
Empires') that might be the best album of their career. If it's not, then
it is at least, hands down, the most inspired, brutal, and all around
strongest Machine Head album in ten years. Some accuse them of jumping off the sinking nu-metal ship and onto the popular New Wave of American Heavy Metal. That is probably true, but, since the new sound is so awesome, I
hardly care. Plus, maybe it wasn't a desperate attempt to stay relevant--maybe Machine Head just got a kick in the butt and decided to go
back to their roots.
'Through the Ashes of the Empires' is sort of like a cross between new
Fear Factory and old school Sepultura, but the new album doesn't sound like every other
metal C.D. that is popular right now. There are no typical NWoAHM riffs
here, and no acoustic interludes. To add diversity, many of these songs
start differently, and some of them are a completely different speed than
others. Plus, singer Robert Flynn sometimes lowers his voice and even
'Imperium' starts out lightly, with one guitarist playing slow, simple
strings in each headphone. After hearing the opening, the listener wonders
what kind of album they're in for...but all that changes around the
40-second mark, when the power chords make a booming entrance. On top of
that, the drummer (Dave McClain) sounds like he's trying to crack his snare
drum. The guitars speed up (with the drums hitting at the same time) and
the vocals begin around a minute and forty seconds into the song. Part of
this song is cleanly sung, part of it is yelled, and there's a really cool
part during a pause when you can hear Rob breathing in. Machine gun bass
drums end this song.
'Bite the Bullet' has a small smattering of drums at the beginning, then
Rob snarls like a demon and the guitars turn to heavy, rhythmic riffing.
'Left Unfinished' begins with noise from what sounds like a baby's toy or
crib. This abruptly ends, however, when Rob belts out like he's been
punched in the stomach ('Ew!') Then he launches into a tirade against his
mother and father (he was put up for adoption by his real parents). These
lyrics are very personal, heartfelt, and show that he's both pissed off and
hurt. At one point, he yells 'I'll never forget...parents that brought me
'Elegy' has a screeching intro (which sounds like pick slides), then the
guitars turn to heavy chugging. Rob almost croons again at the beginning
(and during the middle, which is soft). After the mid-section, the next
verse builds and erupts with a wall of metal.
'In the Presence of my Enemies' opens with slow, pounding drums. The
guitars on this song lurch so smoothly that they almost groove, and the
vocals are almost whispered, at first. A good, ten second guitar solo is
included, and near the song's end, the vocals become a capella (even though
Rob is barking as furiously as ever).
'Vim' has another drum intro, but this one is fast, a bit longer, and it
almost sounds like a drum machine. But it's when the guitars begin that I
know this might be the best song on the album. This whole song is very
fast, with a running beat, deft drumming and blinding guitars. After the
middle (which features guitar work that's even faster than usual), there's
a speedy, two part solo that keeps up with the pace of the song. Near the
end, the listener can really tell how crazy the drum work was during this
'Descend the Shades of Night' is partially acoustic (both the intro and
outro is), with more proper singing.
Megadeth are another band that experimented with and commercialized their
sound. And, just as Megadeth did in 2004, Machine Head made a triumphant
return with a killer C.D. But where do they go from here? Have they come
full circle, and reached the pinnacle of their career?
I believe both bands are at the top of their game, and have brought their
careers full circle, but I also believe that they still have plenty of good
material left in them. Granted, this album raises the bar high, but I think
if Machine Head keep the sound they have now, and aim their sights high,
they will succeed in making another great album.
But, even if they don't ever make another C.D. of this quality, that
doesn't mean that you can't enjoy 'Through the Ashes of the Empires.' The
bottom line is this is great metal and I highly recommend it.