Machine Head - Through The Ashes Of Empires - 2003 Roadrunner Records - reviewed by: EC
Track Listing1. Imperium 2. Bite The Bullet 3. Left Unfinished 4. Elegy 5. In The Presence Of My Enemies 6. Days Turn Blue To Gray 7. Vim 8. All Falls Down 9. Wipe The Tears 10. Descend The Shades Of Night
Robb Flynn and company return with their newest album of fierce, urban metal. This follow-up to 2001's "Supercharger" album finds the band driving into more "traditional" metal landscapes. New guitarist Phil Demmel adds a much needed power vibe to the factory scrapings of the Machine Head signature sound. Demmel adds huge leads on a few tracks here, and seems to really enjoy NWOBHM stylings, bringing this act a new life in 2003.
"Through The Ashes Of Empires" is an album that seems to be more in line with the band's breadmakers, "Burn My Eyes" and "The More Things Change". Those first two records really destroyed all opposition at the time of their release, catapulting Machine Head to the top of the metal ranks, only to see the band squander every opportunity at metal domination with the disappointing "Burning Red", which found the group delving too deep in their Urban heritage, with plenty of rap-core tantrums from vocalist Flynn. 2001 brought the band back to a heavier, more focused sound with "Supercharger", an album that is well rounded with bay area thrashers crossed with streetwise rap-core elements.
Now, with this new release, Machine Head have gone back to the roots. Opening track "Imperium" could have easily been lifted straight from the band's debut, while Phil Demmel showcases his flashy guitar dynamics halfway through with a great romp through In Flames and Iron Maiden riffwork. I really appreciate the fact that Machine Head know they need to offer a little something more, sticking to the harsh, brutal attitude they have always showcased, but adding that extra "flashy" dimension that so many bands need. I love "In The Prescence Of My Enemies", and there again Demmel throws in an epic guitar solo that would make Priest and Maiden smile from ear to ear. "Days Turn Blue To Gray" is perfect songwriting, telling the story of troubled youth and broken homes, giving this record some "up and down" melody and emotion, but still bashing in heads at every opportunity. ""Bite The Bullet" and "All Falls Down" are real headsmashers, probably sounding more like "The More Things Change" era of Machine Head. Closing track "Descend The Shades Of Night" is pure gold, providing a much needed ballot that is just hauntingly beautiful. The band really storms the beaches with this album, adding mixtures of doomy Sabbath tunings, hardcore, rap, death, and plenty of bashing and thrashing through an aggressive assault of all fronts.
Sometimes the Urban hostility gets a bit out of control, and there is no argument from me that this type of album has already been made before, but all in all, Machine Head have created a really good album here. We all know Robb Flynn is an angry, coke-snorting ghetto thug who wants to make sure EVERYONE knows he came from a broken home. If the band could just get past their niche, some really great things could happen. But we basically have to take what we can take here, and the band seems to offer some decent tunes on every album. For fans who want more, they may need to look towards acts like Overkill, who seem to be playing this sort of metal better than anyone else right now. But for this type of sound, Machine Head really have become well versed. I enjoy it.
Note: Roadrunner Records have dumped Machine Head from their US roster, HOWEVER this album is available on the European market through Roadrunner. No North American deal is in sight for the band, so most fans will be shelling out those $30 and $40 import prices.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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