Machine Head - The Blackening
Roadrunner Records
Modern Thrash Metal
8 songs (61.13)
Release year: 2007
Machine Head, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
Album of the month
I did not see this one coming. Even though Through The Ashes Of Empires was and is an extremely good record and even more a huge return to form, I did not expect an album like The Blackening from Machine Head. Mind you that labelling this album was anything but simple. To me, a prevalent mix of thrash and aggro metal is the closest thing to base it on, since the powerful, heavy grooves are very much present among the frantic guitar work and furious drum work. But this is not your average aggrothrash, oh no. There is more of everything that is good and metallic.

The Vio-lence background of Rob Flynn and Phil Demmel is brought out many times as thrashy riffage is all over the place on the album. Loads of Maiden and Priest have also been digested for the record as melodic leads and harmony guitars are the order of the day. Speaking of harmonies, they don’t end with the guitars. Flynn shines with the vocals like never before. When he goes gruffy and pissed off, it is like his throat is on fire. But the increased amount of melodic vocals is what I’m especially digging, more so because they are so damn good. I don’t know if Flynn has taken vocal coaching or anything, but these clean vocals are sweet.

Also noteworthy is the length of the album. The are two songs clocking over ten minutes (Clenching The Fists Of Dissent & A Farewell To Arms) and two passing the nine-minute mark (Halo & Wolves). Might sound like overindulgence and it would be very easy to end up there. But the Head-boys have made it work beautifully as all the tunes, shorter and lengthier, grab a hold of your throat and let go when you’re good and moshed up. The record lasts for over an hour but does not feel that long at all.

The opening giant Clenching The Fists Of Dissent takes a intro with some chanting that sounds like the wake-up calls that muslim mosks perform each morning from their towers, along with acoustic guitars into a grinding riff that is a very good sign of things to come. The thrashy verses mix brilliantly with the groovy, modern-sounding choruses. Hear that searing dual soloing and tell me these guys can’t play like monsters! The certain-future-live-favourite-interlude with the gangs shouting “Fight!” remind me much of Metallica’s Creeping Death.

Beautiful Morning throws some speed metal and very melodic choruses into it while Aesthetics Of Hate thrashes mightily until the very slow, slightly doomy outro changes moods completely. Slanderous delivers more dazzling guitar harmonies and schorching solos. Halo is probably my favourite tune off the whole album, with a gargantuanly catchy chorus and even more blazing lead work. I mean that chorus is sheer brilliance! Flynns flawless vocals mixed with that simple, yet mind-drilling guitar melody creates pure magic. A Farewell To Arms – a Hemingway-reference or not, who knows – brings close to the record with another lengthy sermon of awesomness. Someone might get tired of the mellow beginning-into hard-edge main parts that the long tunes use, but when it is done this well, I don’t really mind. This last song actually works as a touching ballad for the first couple of minutes, until those inevitable chords come crashing down. The build-up that the tune has from a mid-tempo steamroller into slightly faster-paced destruction is beautiful.

The production is expectedly top-notch and everything is in brilliant balance. The rhythm section keeps the widdling, harmonizing package grounded with deadly precision. Drummer Dave McClain could be praised in a whole chapter of its own, but I already did that in my previous MH-review, so I’ll spare you this time. The guys playing is fantastic and above all, very versatile.

Overall, The Blackening is amazing. No, this is not the Darkness Descends-/Extreme Aggression-type thrash metal of the “better” days, but something different, brilliant in its own time. I think the record is like a melting pot of many of the best things from 80s as well as 90s metal, added with slight progressive leanings in very twisted riffs and put through the Machine Head-grinder. I must also emphasize, that The Blackening smokes Burn My Eyes. It dwarfs it. The Blackening is the best album of Machine Heads career. The only thing stopping me from slapping an Album Of The Year on this sucker right now, is the knowledge that Iced Earth and Symphony X are both scheduled to release a new record within the year. But even they will have to pull out all the stops to top this.

Killing Songs :
All Of 'Em!
Aleksie quoted 97 / 100
Al quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Machine Head that we have reviewed:
Machine Head - Unto The Locust reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Machine Head - The More Things Change reviewed by Al and quoted 85 / 100
Machine Head - Burn My Eyes reviewed by Al and quoted CLASSIC
Machine Head - Through The Ashes Of Empires reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 92 / 100
Machine Head - Supercharger reviewed by Danny and quoted 68 / 100
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