Review: Machine Head “Of Kingdom and Crown” [Nuclear Blast]

Review: Machine Head “Of Kingdom and Crown” [Nuclear Blast]

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This new Machine Head album has a pretty good dark groove. There are some heavy tracks, and some complex, odd ones, but they both work because of the sense of creativity and good songwriting that’s constant throughout the album. Really, this album is a lot better than its gimmicky use of a Ø instead of every regular O would imply.

We know it’s an unusual album from the first track, the ten-minute-long “Slaughter the Martyr”, a sort of haunting metal ballad with a dark melody that, in the middle, turns into a thrash number where Rob Flynn screams and sings raspily with some relentless speed and anger. That’s a pretty amazing introduction, but is the rest of the album as good?

“ChØke Øn the Ashes of YØur Hate” is another kick-ass thrasher with super-fast verses and a chorus that just yells the title and sort of sounds like Fear Factory without the electronic sounds. Also, “choke on the ashes of your hate” is a pretty good insult. “BecØme the FirestØrm” keep the same formula of fast trash verses and different choruses, but this time the loudly sung chorus remind me more of power metal. The bridge is super-heavy and it’s followed by a great guitar solo.

But we get into the more complex and haunting stuff with “My Hands are Empty”, which follows a short interlude about someone dying of an “ØverdØse”. It begins with gloomy, melancholic vocalizations that are heard later on the chorus, and give me even more of a cold, odd feeling that those in “Slaughter the Martyr”. “UnhallØwed” alternates between ballads where the weird effects on the voice can sometimes ruin the emotional impact, and some pretty cool and heavy groove metal riffs, with a thrashy bridge. “Kill Thy Enemies” is even more groove metal-inspired, maybe a little too slow for thrash fans but very heavy, with some nice raspy vocals and gloomy clean singing. “NØ GØds NØ Masters” is typical of this album’s sound, with a mixture of melancholic singing and melodies, and heavier parts, as well as some rebel, defiant, political lyrics. “Typical” can be a good or bad thing, depending on your opinion. That “no go-oh-oh-oh-ods, no masters” hook is also pretty catchy.

We go back to heaviness with “BlØØdshØt”. It reminds me a lot of Sepultura’s “Cut-Throat”, being a thrash/groove track that begins with a chorus that repeats the title at least four times before saying any full sentence. But I dare say it improves on its obvious inspiration, by being so fast and angry. That one kicks ass. “RØtten” has some angry groove and a pretty catchy, awesomely angry “Every day is rotten to the core!” hook. We get one more dialogue and weird noises instrumental before the last song, “ArrØws in WØrds FrØm the Sky”, a sort of melancholic ballad turning into a sort of angrier power metal track with occasional screams. It doesn’t change much, aside from a raspy, screaming bridge. It’s a nice ending for the album, but it doesn’t sound exceptional compared to what came before it.

Overall the album felt like a punch to the face, in a good way. It has some energy, anger and defiance, and all sorts of awesome heavy riffs to headbang to. It also has a really great vocal performance, effortlessly going from passionate singing to loud screams to melancholic vocalization. The more melodic parts really feel gloomy and haunting. It’s an album that made a strong impression on me, and it was a really captivating listen, and really interesting to review as well. For anyone who still has doubt about what Machine Head can do, and the potential of the groove metal subgenre, listen to this.

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