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MACHINE HEAD Catharsis

By George Antony, Australia Contributor
Monday, January 8, 2018 @ 8:09 AM


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MACHINE HEAD
Catharsis

Nuclear Blast




After touring for an epic 20 months off the back of Bloodstone & Diamonds and taking time off to re-connect with loved ones comes the latest album by MACHINE HEAD, Catharsis, released 26th January 2018. This is their ninth studio album and their second release with the Nuclear Blast record label. The usual suspects are back with Robb Flynn - vocals/guitar, Phil Demmel - guitar, Jared MacEachern - bass and Dave McClain - drums.

In a recent interview, Flynn considers that this is “the least thrashiest we’ve been in over a decade, and there’s no reason - we didn’t plan anything...” He describes the recording process was conducted in short chunks of no longer than 2 weeks in the studio at a time interspersed between a few months of writing. Flynn expresses he was happy with this method. “Every song was fresh. I mean, no song was more than 2 months old when we finally went into record it, so everything was brand new and it had this crazy energy to it and it had this spontaneity and it had this urgency. And I don’t know - it really just captured something. It was cool man”.

This release is a trove of all of MACHINE HEAD’s attributes and dabblings. Listening to the title track, "Catharsis", I was taken back to MACHINE HEAD’s mind blowingly raw Burn My Eyes days with the amazing fortissimo drums, Phil’s shredding and leads while Flynn thunders his vexations, and there’s a nod to PINK FLOYD with the line “I could never be another brick in the wall”. One of the standouts is the stellar track, "Beyond The Pale", with the trademark MACHINE HEAD harmonics and a killer chorus.

Although this album is not a steady journey through a style or subject matter, the one constant on MACHINE HEAD albums is Flynn’s running social commentary. His music is an outlet for the proverbial fire in his belly, as displayed on the combative "Volatile" track, pertaining to the Charlottesville riots. Flynn also blasts out an anti-Trump track, "Bastards", in an attempted Irish folk music style which contains none of the beloved wit and lyricism of the Irish that is imperative to this genre. There is no poignancy or satire, just blunt malcontent. Even the instrumentation has no ardency toward an authentic Irish folk music sound.

The vocal harmonies of Flynn and MacEachern throughout the album amalgamate aptly and are an effective direction for MACHINE HEAD, this being MacEachern’s second album with the band since leaving SANCTITY. The harmonies are especially apparent on the atmospheric "Screaming At The Sun" track, and on the finale track, "Eulogy", displaying the vocal harmonies alongside simple, elegant guitar strumming.

Notably, the hip hop/rap/metal fusion tracks, "California Bleeding" and "Triple Beam" don’t do much for me. A bow to their roots in the predominately black neighborhood of Oakland, California is understandable but should be a side project for the band as those genres deserve to be respected and skillfully performed. There’s hardcore with "Hope Begets Hope", psychedelic "Kaleidoscope" with Flynn’s melodic rhythms, nu metal in "Psychotic" and "Grind You Down", an acoustic ballad about alcoholism on "Behind A Mask" and also a grimy tribute to hard rock with "Razor Blade Smile". From another time altogether, "Heavy Lies The Crown", in reference to Louis XI of France, starts out with strings before moving into groove then speed and into heavy, all whilst keeping precision song structure.

Some may say Catharsis lacks a definitive direction with so many styles and subjects thrown together but in quoting Keith Richard, Robb Flynn concurs “we’re just a vessel and we’re just channeling what’s going through us” and then Flynn enthuses “I love the evolution, I love trying to find some new thing that, you know, keeps you going”.

4.0 Out Of 5.0


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