Machine Head - The Blackening - 2007 - Roadrunner Records
1. Clenching The Fists Of Dissent 2. Beautiful Mourning 3. Aesthetics Of Hate 4. Now I Lay Thee Down 5. Slanderous Love 6. Halo 7. Wolves 8. A Farewell To Arms
And so it is. Finally the age old question is answered. After years and years of speculation and intrigue, the final piece of the puzzle is laid before us.
What is the greatest heavy metal album of all time?
The answer. Machine Head's "The Blackening".
Obviously that sort of question and answer format could be derived from any sixteen year old fan forum commenting on any notable mainstream record release. However I feel that my justification of this album comes from experience. Forgive my somewhat arrogant approach, but I feel that I have been around the block a few times over and have lived to tell about it. My metal expertise lies within thirty long years of ear and neck damage, stretching tendons, muscles, and joints in a never ending quest for everything heavy metal. I've seen the rise of Bay Area thrash, the invention of death metal and it's sub-genre innovators, the dark drape of black metal, the false hope of rap-core, and the ugly face of nu-metal. Along with those famed landmarks comes the underground facets of our shiny little nugget, those smaller but equally powerful movements like power metal, hard rock, AOR, stoner, and the loveable but quirky Teutonic invasion. Through a personal milestone of three-thousand CDs bolted to the studs of my household walls to an insurmountable stack of demos and CDRs of bands twice the world over, I have been left with ONE album that simply dwarfs all others. ONE album that simply achieves the proverbial "top of the mountain". This, my fellow headbangers and friends abroad, is Machine Head's "The Blackening".
I remember hearing Machine Head on the "Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight" soundtrack way back in 1994, weighing in with a barrage of sonic annihilation on the selection "Demon Knight". From that point on my collection has always been updated semi-annually with whatever bombastic bad-ass Machine Head tunes dropped from the sheer heights of metallic aggression. From Robb Flynn's gravel scraped voice to Dave McClain's obviously under-rated talent and skill behind the skins, Machine Head have adopted and captured a metal sound that is simply like no other. With countless followers and clones, this band, this gigantic beast of sound still chugs away with the most abrasive output ever recorded on an audio format. I dare any leatherneck worth his salt to find me any "extreme" metaller that is this heavy, melodic, and groove friendly yet still educates masses with lyrics that are not blasphemous or Satanic.
The bay area band made a serious impact with their debut "Burn My Eyes" in 1994. The band's sophomore release, "The More Things Change", rivaled only Pantera in sheer heaviness and aggression. The group changed things and leaned more towards mainstream musical philosophies with "The Burning Red" as well as 2001's "Supercharger". In 2003 the band enlisted former Flynn bandmate (Vio-lence) Phil Demmel and recorded "Through The Ashes Of Empires" in 2004. The album went on to be the highest selling record for Roadrunner Records UK and made a big splash domestically. In late 2006 the band once again partnered with sound genius Colin Richardson to produce this generation's "Master Of Puppets", an album simply entitled "The Blackening".
Never in my life have I heard any band make this type of sound on a record. The music coming out of my speakers is simply revolutionary. This is innovation at work, the beginning of something entirely new and fresh in today's modern heavy metal world. While over a decade ago Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" took the headbangin' man to extraordinary heights in terms of brutality and musicianship, it is this decade and this time that sweeps a brand new sound into the fold, a polished and perfectly executed album that simply contains every single drop of blood, sweat, and tears that heavy metal has spilled forth in thirty plus years of bands, music, and madness. This is a relentless assault, an iron lunged, super-heated frenzy of musical might, never compromised and never bowing to any maker or master. What could easily be assumed as a by-product of today's political climate and the war, "The Blackening" is simply mesmerizing in its ability to add so many elements together to fuel a supersonic sound machine. From Flynn's pulverizing vocals to six-string maniac Demmel's lead playing to the concrete sledge hammer of Adam Duce's bass, this is simply metal on metal, scraping the rivets, steel, and bolts from a society that has simply become hostile.
As the old metal world simply grows tired, weak, and weary, Machine Head rises like a phoenix, a steel winged savage that simply exists as the symbolic force of heavy metal. It simply does not get any better than this. As the years go by and song after song hits CD, MP3, and any other digital invention yet undiscovered, the tempered metal fan will always call upon "The Blackening" to soothe distress and fuel any desire to achieve, dominate, and overcome. For these are the days of "The Blackening".
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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