Machine Head - The More Things Change
Roadrunner Records
Modern Thrash
10 songs (63:50)
Release year: 1997
Machine Head, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Al
Archive review

A sophomore release is always a difficult test for a band, far more so when their debut was as stellar an effort as Machine Head’s 1994 opus Burn My Eyes. In light of the looming release of Machine Head’s latest, The Blackening, I feel the time is right to award one more album by the band a place in the review archives alongside the others. I am of course speaking of the oft overlooked and underrated The More Things Change. Three years had passed since the release of their debut and the state of mainstream metal in 1997 was a sorry state of affairs. Nu metal was fast picking up steam towards its late 90’s orgasm of banality and big acts such as Maiden and Metallica were floundering badly. It is therefore quite laudable that Machine Head did something unusual with this release, particularly in light of the direction they took after it (before coming to their senses with 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires). Instead of further polishing and expanding on the sound they created on their debut or leaping toward nu metal aesthetics, the band took a more raw and visceral approach. The hook laden riff structures of Burn My Eyes were still present to a certain degree but everything simply sounded more stripped down and gritty. The album starts out pretty much where the debut left off with opening couplet Ten Ton Hammer and Take My Scars. Both combine addictive as hell riffs and Rob Flynn’s signature vocal style to fantastic effect however both contain the first indicators of Flynn’s later, more melodic style. That aside, both tracks could have comfortably fitted in with the rest of the stuff on Burn My Eyes and are thus a great way to start an album.

From that moment on, things become slightly less ‘by the numbers’. There are times when instead of the Pantera-esque, chunky riff heavy modern thrash the band played on their debut the listener is met by what can only be described as actual thrash, I’m talking about the bona fide 80’s stuff here in the finest Slayer tradition. Tracks such as the seminal Bay of Pigs and Struck a Nerve are slices of pure fast, aggressive riffing and drumming and it is this foray into the truer side of metal that made the band Machine Head became after it all the more shocking. There are also some intriguing curveballs thrown by the band in the midst of all this, Down to None builds up purely instrumentally for almost half its running time before giving way to a tremendous maelstrom of brilliant riffs. It’s structured like nothing else the band had done before and it sure as hell works. Album closer Blood of the Zodiac is also worth mentioning as in contrast to the punchy and aggressive closer Block on the debut, it is a meandering, off kilter song throwing up some interestingly unmelodic riffs and tempo changes.

There are a few downsides to be found. The most of which is that it is simply not as good as Burn My Eyes. While almost everything on this release is at worst competent and oft time very good, it just seems to be missing that ‘certain something’. It’s difficult to put my finger on but the album as a whole doesn’t grab you as powerfully as its predecessor. It takes a little longer to appreciate and even after repeated listening it is still outclassed. While I can respect the band’s less mainstream approach on this release there are times when I crave the awesome hooks I know the band are capable of as opposed to the sometimes desolate feel of this album. This is however comparably small niggle and doesn’t negatively impact all that much.

In all this is one album that sits firmly in the good half of the band’s output and furthermore is a damn good album in general. It is an absolute essential purchase for fans of the band and additionally it’s stripped down and desolate take on Machine Head’s sound warrants a listen from non-fans who may indeed find something to like here. However if you’re looking for a start with the band, this is not it and I would heartily recommend picking up Burn My Eyes or Through the Ashes of Empires before giving this one a go. It’s a sad fact that the band plummeted quickly downhill after this release but I can take consolation in the fact that they most definitely picked themselves up again. A good album from an excellent band.

Killing Songs :
Take My Scars, Ten Ton Hammer and Bay of Pigs
Al quoted 85 / 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 Blackening reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 97 / 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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