Have a listen to 'Heavy Lies The Crown'
Machine Head – Catharsis
Release Date: 26th January 2018
Nuclear Blast Records
When one of the biggest names in metal releases a new album, there is always a lot of anticipation to hear it and compare it to everything else that band has released. For Machine Head, that is no different for their ninth studio album, ‘Catharsis’, one that has already divided opinion through the singles unveiled prior to the release.
It’s easy to see why there is a divide, and it all comes down to what kind of Machine Head you prefer. Is it the 90s groove metal era? what about the early 00s nu-metal/alt-metal period, or the post-2007 theatrical and epic approach? ‘Catharsis’ touches on all of it, combining elements of ‘Burn My Eyes’ with the likes of ‘The Burning Red’ and ‘Supercharger’, plus hints of ‘Unto The Locust’. Then on top of that, we get some new influences that Machine Head haven’t dabbled with before.
It isn’t shocking that Robb Flynn and co are experimenting with a more modern sound; they haven’t been afraid to try new things before. This is the part that seems to be upsetting a lot of elitists, but the variety works, if you have the patience to sit through the album several times and soak it in. This album is a grower after all, much like most of Machine Head albums have been over the years
We kick off the release with ‘Volatile’ a pure shit kicker of a song that is reminiscent to self-titled era Slipknot, from the grooving riffs of the guitar to the Corey Taylor-esque vocal style, it’s very late 90s/early 2000s, and a vicious opener to the album. This moves into the self-titled single track, ‘Catharsis’, which takes a Machine Head in a much newer direction. More of a modern metal sound, perhaps metalcore in some instances, similar to Bring Me The Horizon on ‘Sempiternal’ with synth sounds effects and breakdowns following an impactful bridge. “Can you feel my Catharsis” even sounds incredibly close to “This is Sempiternal”. It’s still very much a Machine Head sounding song, the riffs and Flynn‘s vocals are still incredibly distinctive, but with a fresh twist on the traditional sound.
‘Beyond The Pale’ may have a meaty as hell intro riff that sounds ridiculously like Strapping Young Lad, though it sounds more like Pantera in the verse. Robb Flynn seems like he’s channelling Phil Anselmo’s brutish vocal stance for sure, while the chorus and bridge are almost like a copy of the epicness that ‘Halo’ is known for. It’s a heavy as fuck song with a killer anthemic vibe to it. ‘California Bleeding’ is more like an alt-rock alt metal mix from the early 2000s, delivering some dark, angst-ridden tones in the verse, yet counteracting that with an infectious vocal melody in the chorus; the riffage is also rather catchy. Using the terms “Catchy” and “Infectious” is new for describing Machine Head, and it feels odd at first, but not necessarily a bad thing.
‘Triple Beam’ will be the ultimate opinion divider, and the first real throwback to nu-metal. It’s a pure Limp Bizkit song, whether Machine Head will want to admit it or not. The Fred Durst-like rapping vocals and eerie, ominous guitars take you right back to the likes of ‘Boiler’, especially with the harder hitting guitars coming in during the chorus. Other opinion dividing tracks would be slowburning tracks ‘Bastards’ and the entrancing ‘Behind A Mask’. This wouldn’t be the first time have gone for the acoustic or atmosphereic number either, ‘Darkness Within’ was originally met with scepticism when we first heard it, yet it became a fan favourite, with the epic closing segment. However, neither of these new tracks have that same pulling power. ‘Bastards’ is a lot more whingey in the delivery, like it’s a post-hardcore track if anything. As the music crescendos, the vocals get raspier and sung through gritted teeth. The message behind the song is strong, it’s about not letting the so-called bastards win. The “No No No No No” rant at the end just sounds like a toddler having a paddy though.
Two of the most appealing tracks are towards the back end of the album, ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ and the follow-up, ‘Psychotic’. ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ is a throwback to ‘The Blackening’; an 8-minute monster that builds up slowly with a strong payoff, like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ blended with ‘Scandalous’. It has it all from the soft intro to the thrashing shreds and face melting solos and beautiful guitar melodies, a pure pit starter with some real epic segments. ‘Psychotic’ is rather different and leans closer to the likes of ‘Supercharger’ *GASP*. The name of the song seeps into the lyricism and the erratic way Flynn delivers each sentence. He talks about being trapped in pain and comes across as if he’s losing his mind and in a straight jacket. It’s easy to just picture him sat there rocking away like a madman as he’s singing this. Musically its a lot simpler, a reminder to what was modern metal in mid-00s.
The variety of styles flows all the way towards the end of the album; ‘Razorblade Smile’ for example is an out and out heavy metal track. Musically it shows influences of mid-2000s NWOAHM, with similar guitar tones to Killswitch Engage. Yet towards the end, the tone turns sleazy in the riffage and lyrics that openly talk about partying and sexual antics like it’s a heavier Steel Panther song. The groove is a pure headbanger for sure. ‘Eulogy‘ is a soft album closer that is more like an ambient piece with smooth vocals and what sounds like piano, there is a small crescendo, it, however, feels more like a reprise to the likes of ‘Behind A Mask‘; than it does its own song,
You’ll come into this album expecting to hate it based off what’s already been said, and even after the first full listen you aren’t won over. ‘Catharsis’ needs time to lure you in, certain tracks don’t come off as Machine Head songs and you’ll wonder what the hell the band was thinking, but it’s easy to get past who wrote it and enjoy the song over several listens, ‘Bastards’ is a prime example, as is ‘Triple Beam’. Both tracks are bound to alienate some fans, but I grew to like them as I heard them more.
‘Catharsis’ is a good listen and a solid metal album with some real bangers and outright punishing moments. This album feels like it could appeal to a wider ranch of fans than previous album based on all the different influences used. The overal quality is quite weak compared to some Machine Head releases, and that doesn’t include ‘The Blackening’, but on the plus side, this album is alot more memorable than ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ ever was.
One last thing to add, there isn’t a song that sounds like Dropkick Murphys, I’m almost a little gutted.
For fans of Slipknot, Pantera, Limp Bizkit, Bring Me The Horizon, Atreyu, Killswitch Engage