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Machine Head / Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn a delightfully solid Heavy Metal album

Probably one of the most divisive bands in the world of Heavy Metal, Machine Head’s trajectory has been anything but easy. Releasing one of the best debut albums of all time, Burn My Eyes, in 1994, the band rolled through the good and the bad for the next two decades, culminating with world domination in 2007 when The Blackening crushed all around for about three years. Machine Head were everywhere, festivals, arena tours, club gigs.

Machine Head – Øf Kingdøm and Crøwn (Nuclear Blast)

Release Date: 26 August 2022

Words: Paul Hutchings

The follow-up albums maintained the momentum, although the band were always in danger of imploding internally. The departure of Adam Duce in 2013 saw Sanctity vocalist and guitarist Jared MacEachern arrive in time to be part of the band’s eighth album, Bloodstone and Diamonds before long-time members Dave McClain and Phil Demmel departed in 2019 after the less than thrilling Catharsis (let’s face it, it was rubbish).

Four years after their last album, we arrive at album number ten. An hour-long conceptual record, set in a futuristic wasteland where the sky is always crimson red, Øf Kingdøm and Crøwn follows two characters who face immense trauma and whose tales become wrapped up with each other as the story progresses.

Machine Head. Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn cover
Machine Head Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn

Loosely inspired by the Japanese anime series Attack On Titan, there is no good or bad, just two sides committed to doing what they feel and believe is right. Whilst Alston is part of the band, the ferocious drum parts are handled here by session drummer Navene Koperweis, formerly of Animosity and Animals As Leaders, with Vogg’s lead guitar work as vicious as always. Artwork is handled by the legendary Seth Siro Anton (Septicflesh), with band leader Robb Flynn as the main composer.

It’s instant Machine Head with the opening track Slaughter The Martyr. A ten-minute plus song that opens with dissonant notes and Flynn’s vocals, the song soon embarks on its epic journey. It resonates with The Blackening era, with reference to “the angels”, “Sodom and Gomorrah” and MacEachern’s soaring harmonies adding layers to the choruses.

It’s ferocious, aggressive, heavy, and typically Machine Head. Followed by the sledgehammer single Chøke Øn The Ashes Øf Yøur Hate, which is a pure thrasher which many will already be familiar with. It’s relentless in its power, Flynn’s snarling vocal delivery revitalised after the pandemic.

Two songs in, and it’s a bit of a rager so far. The challenge with most Machine Head albums in recent times is how they maintain the momentum. Becøme The Firestørm provides the first warning sign. It’s almost a Metal cliché, with every trick in the book thrown in. Fans will no doubt feel that this is Machine Head fixing their groove, yet despite some pleasing melodic dual guitar work, it’s a little forced and, dare I say, predictable. Sure, it is punishing in delivery, but it’s nothing that the band haven’t already released, mainly nearly two decades ago.

The challenge with an album of over 60 minutes is whether it can maintain the interest. The linking of songs with sound clips under a minute, such as Øverdøse and Assimilate, do add curiosity, atmosphere and provide breathing space. Unhalløwed certainly brings emotions of helplessness front and centre, expanding the storyline before moving on to one of the more melodic yet still crushingly heavy songs in Kill Thy Enemies.

I keep using the word traditional, but that’s exactly what you get here with the dual guitar harmonies, the gentle interludes, and vocal harmonies combining on epic choruses.

“Drowning in the deepest depression of his life, Eros is at a breaking point,” Robb Flynn says of Unhalløwed. “Collecting heartaches, loss, and near-psychotic isolation, Unhallowed is the beginning of a powerful shift of our story. An introspective narrative starts the song lyrically, which is a collaborative effort written by myself, guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka, and bassist/backing vocalist Jared MacEachern and encapsulates the collective strength of this writing team.

“Anchored by an absolutely monstrous groove, the vocals melodically mirror the state of mind of Eros as he reels from the loss of his mother to a drug overdose and begins a slow downward spiral into madness. However, the culmination of the track infuses some much-needed light, but will it be enough?”

Nø Gøds, Nø Masters is about as mellow as Machine Head go without dropping to Descend The Shades Of Night territory, and it contrasts with the savage battering of Bløødshøt, all spit and gang chants, ferocity, and chug.

It’s compounded by Røtten, the third four-minute track in a row and a song which inevitably will incite pit action when the band hits the road next month. It’s a song that, for me, sounds like a leftover from Catharsis with pinched harmonics, Flynn roaring in his papa bear style and the pace changing from balls out thrasher to heavy groove.

Does it feel new? Well, yes and no. Undeniably Machine Head, the challenge will always be to create a new sound or tinker with the existing style. The former is unlikely to happen. Therefore it’s more about working with that trademark sound and adding as many variables as possible to mix it up.

There is a lot of Robb Flynn singing on this album. Hell of a lot. Switching from raging spittle, venomous enunciation, spiralling cleans and his usual throaty roars.

He saves his best performance to the end, the majestic Arrøws In Wørds Frøm The Sky, which veers more towards an MFH-type ballad. It’s wrought with emotion, passion, and drama. There are some delightful harmonies, the playing is intricate, and the overall song stands alongside those epics from the past. And thankfully, very few hugely lengthy songs, with only two tipping over the six-minute mark.

The bottom line with this album? It’s a new Machine Head record. It’s miles better than their last album, which contained very little to excite and quite a lot to irritate.

If you like Machine Head, then I’d wager that Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn is going to delight you. It’s well produced, the songs are classically crafted, and the style is familiar. If you don’t like them, then this won’t change your mind. Not at all.

And if you sit in the middle? Then I’d suggest giving it a go for underpinning all of this is the fact that it is a very solid Heavy Metal album.

august

31aug7:00 pmMachine Head, Glasgow *SOLD OUT*Garage

september

02sep7:00 pmMachine Head, InvernessIronworks

04sep7:00 pmMachine Head, Aberdeen *SOLD OUT*Lemontree

05sep7:00 pmMachine Head, DundeeFat Sams

06sep7:00 pmMachine Head, Edinburgh *SOLD OUT*Liquid Rooms

08sep7:00 pmMachine Head and Amon Amarth, NottinghamMotorpoint Arena

09sep7:00 pmMachine Head and Amon Amarth, CardiffMotorpoint Arena

10sep7:00 pmMachine Head and Amon Amarth, LondonSSE Arena

12sep7:00 pmMachine Head and Amon Amarth, ManchesterAO Arena

13sep7:00 pmMachine Head and Amon Amarth, Dublin3Arena

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