Another Machine Head album is imminent and as usual it comes laden with the usual heavy weight of expectation. There’s something about Machine Head. They certainly polarize opinion and it always seems as though they have something to prove with every release. They’re either making some sort of mini comeback or have an impossible task of topping an awesome previous album and then there’s always the talk of “Breaking through to the next level…”
Well, here at CackBlabbath, we’re just glad they’ve got a new record out and are heading our way again next month on a meaty looking tour.
The opening brace of ‘Now We Die’ and ‘Killers & Kings’ is a monstrous start. Both have been knocking around pre-release and are a couple of storming tracks to welcome Machine Head back. The opener is a perfectly pitched first album track and ‘Killers & Kings’ has been bolstered considerably from its demo debut into a devastating thrash track complete with massive bulldozer riffs in the breakdown.
So far, so good, so… it’s another belter of a Machine Head album, then?
‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ stops the predictability firmly in its tracks. For the next ten tracks of ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ you’ll be kept guessing and probably proven wrong. You’ll either find it exciting or you’ll storm off in a tantrum muttering all sorts of clichés only metalheads come out with when a band deviates from the norm…
Things are about to get dark and melancholic, brutal but melodic. As they say on the BBC: If you don’t want to see the results, look away now!
The tortured vocals from ‘The Burning Red’ make an appearance in places as does the classic squeaky Machine Head guitar crunch that has been quiet for a few years. The majority of the changes are looking forward however.
‘Sail Into The Black’ is a stunning track. Starting with monk chants, piano, strings and melodic whispers courtesy of Mr Flynn, it is just about as far away from Machine Head as you can get. Even ‘Descend the Shades of Night’ doesn’t have anything on this one. It’s a slow burning eight minutes that mixes subtle atmospherics with the most jagged of explosions in the riff department. Angry and dark, it’s a surprise stand out track from this album and possibly has the most mid-paced/slow guitar solo of the whole Machine Head catalogue.
As you’d expect after an epic slow number, ‘Eyes Of The Dead’ leaves scorch marks on the fretboard and is one of the more straight forward Machine Head tracks on here, but things rarely stay how you think they will. Try ‘Beneath The Silt’ for example. It simply doesn’t sound like a Machine Head track or indeed like… Machine Head. That one may be a little too much for even the most open minded headcase.
Now if this sounds like a massive love letter to Machine Head; it’s not. Whilst the determination to change things around and do things that are perhaps unexpected is both thrilling and brave; ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ is far from perfect. The album is front-loaded with the best tunes and the more experimental stuff is in the second half which can give you the feeling that it loses its way a bit towards the end. ‘Game Over’ almost commands that it should be the last track on the album, but it’s not, there are two more after that. Maybe that was the idea, a double bluff? Could it have done with just one more all-out Machine Head thrash track? Yeah it probably could have… but then we’d probably want just one more after that.
The beauty in ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ is the sweeping experimentation. Machine Head haven’t sounded this fresh since they rudely introduced themselves twenty years ago with ‘Burn My Eyes’. It will deliberately split opinion amongst fans and naysayers alike, but the overriding feeling this album leaves on CB is just pure and simple excitement.