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Sunday Old School: Machine Head

Photo of Machine Head

Band Photo: Machine Head (?)

Who says gang violence is restricted to rap music? If it weren’t for a fight between a local gang and Californian thrash metal band Vio-Lence, we may have never heard Machine Head, for it was this incident that inspired guitarist Robb Flynn to leave the group and form one of his own. Joining forces with bassist Adam Duce, drummer Tony Costanza and Canadian guitar player Logan Mader, the collective soon named themselves, Machine Head simply because, as Flynn states, "It sounded cool." Before long, they found themselves signed to Roadrunner Records, after a label representative heard the band’s demo tape which had been recorded in a friend’s bedroom. Costanza was soon replaced by Chris Kontos and Machine Head recorded their first album, "Burn My Eyes." The album was a success, reaching the top forty in albums charts in such countries as Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom and selling over 400,000 copies, a record for Roadrunner at the time. After supporting Slayer in Europe, the band found that they had become popular enough to head back to the continent and headline the same venues for themselves.

Following the tours, the group once again replaced the man behind the drum kit, this time bringing in German drummer Dave McClain, who had spent some time with American thrashers Sacred Reich. This new formation gave birth to Machine Head’s sophomore album, "The More Things Change," which was released in 1997 and entered the Billboard album charts at number 138. Machine Head then had the honour of participating in the first Ozzfest tour, during which they fired Mader after a backstage incident, replacing him with Ahrue Luster. They followed "The More Things Change" with perhaps their most controversial album to date, "The Burning Red." The record polarised critics and fans alike, who were unsure at best about certain musical aspects, including rapping vocals and an image change which saw some ridiculous outfits and hair cuts. Despite these factors, the album is currently the band’s second highest seller in the United States and the album’s inclusion of "Message In A Bottle" (originally by The Police) is considered by many to be one of the best versions of the song.

The criticism continued when the band released, "Supercharger" on October 2nd 2001. Musically, it was a continuation of "The Burning Red" and resulted in a feud between the band and Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who claimed after the album’s release that Machine Head had sold out. Although it sold quite well, the "Supercharger" years weren’t too kind to the band either, as the promotional video for the song, "Crashing Around You" was banned by radio stations owing to the recent 9/11 attacks, it was for this same reason that the music video for the song was also banned from being aired on MTV. The group took exception to this and left Roadrunner Records, touring in support of the album by their own means and without the support from a record label. The tour produced the live album, "Hellalive," which was released through Roadrunner to fulfil a contractual obligation. They then suffered another blow when Luster left the group, joining Ill Nino soon after. Machine Head were unable to attract any interest from other record labels in the United States, but were still signed to Roadrunner in Europe, through which they released their fifth album, "Through The Ashes Of Empires," now with new guitarist (and Vio-lence founder and long time friend of Flynn) Phil Demmel in tow.

Surprisingly, it was the American branch of Roadrunner who offered Machine Head a North American record deal and so, four months after it’s European release, "Through The Ashes Of Empires" was released in North America. Musically, it comprised of elements from all four of their past releases, ultimately being hailed as a return to their groove metal roots. The album featured the songs, "Imperium" and "Days Turn Blue To Grey," which became something of a minor hit in the United Kingdom, receiving regular airplay on music video channels. The album allowed the band to perform in the Middle East for the first time, taking part in the Dubai Desert Rock festival, as well as performing their largest headlining show at the time on the True Metal Stage at Wacken Open Air and releasing a live DVD, "Elegies" in 2005. Their next album took a little longer than usual to write, record and release, but when "The Blackening" hit the shelves in March 2007, fans finally received the Machine Head album they’d been waiting for. It garnered a strong positive response from most reviewers, with several naming it as album of the year, with many also going on to proclaim it as the best metal album of the decade. The album was notable for the song, "Aesthetics Of Hate," which was written in response to a journalist who praised the murder of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell and was seen as a different way to honour the fallen guitar player’s memory.

The touring schedule after "The Blackening’s" release was enormous and saw Machine Head taking to the stage all over the world, both headlining and supporting massive names like Metallica. After a stint as part of this year’s Rockstar Energy Mayhem tour, the band revealed that their eagerly awaited seventh album, "Unto The Locust" would be released on September 26th in Europe with a North American release of September 27th to follow. The record has not even been out for a week and already is being hailed as one of their best works to date, receiving unanimous praise from fans and critics alike, proving that they are still one of the most important metal bands going today.

Machine Head – "Davidian"

Machine Head – "Ten Ton Hammer"

Machine Head – "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears"

Machine Head – "Days Turn Blue To Grey"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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18 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Machine Head"

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sonictherapy's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

1. sonictherapy writes:

I saw them many years ago in LV, and the singer was so angry at the LVMPD that they put on a great show. It turns out he was crossing the street to get a taco at Tacos Mexico, and a cop mistakenly thought that he was a pedophile - since he "fit the description" of one they were looking for.

# Oct 2, 2011 @ 1:43 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

Member

2. Blindgreed1 writes:

Nicely done Oz! @ST: Never heard that one before. Now I have something to rib Rob about the next time they run through!

# Oct 2, 2011 @ 2:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

3. R10 writes:

Wow,a sos piece on a band thats still on top of thier game. Nice! My greatest memory of these guys live came on that 97 Ozzfest,small stage. Massive double figure 8 circle pit. Sat in corner endzone off Giants Stadium thinking surely people were getting fvcking trampled,beaten,in that carnage. Such a sight to see. Still gotta get the new album,reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

# Oct 2, 2011 @ 4:08 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. hunter65 writes:

seen them 3 times. seen them on both mayhem fests. unto the locust is an amazing album!!!! not as good as the blackening but a damn good follow up. SUFFER UNTO THE LOCUST!!!!

# Oct 2, 2011 @ 8:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
alyssamwbc's avatar

Member

5. alyssamwbc writes:

One of the best acts live, definitely. Halo live is practically a religious experience. Can't wait to pick up the new album.

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 12:37 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

6. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers BG! I've never been a massive fan of Machine Head but I saw them supporting Metallica at Wembley Stadium in 2007 and they were absolutely incredible. Fantastic live act.

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 9:01 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. Fuzzypiggy writes:

Best live album I've ever heard is Hellalive. Lot of respect for Mr Flynn, he works so hard and always comes over as a complete psycho. However when you see video of him working in the studio he's so polite, well mannered and focused on his work.

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 9:23 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
KREDD's avatar

Member

8. KREDD writes:

seen them twice, incredible. one of the shows had the biggest circle pit i've ever seen. it was like standing in a wind tunnel. haha

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 10:43 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

Member

9. silvermountains writes:

great band, really like unto the locust.

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 6:47 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
OlafBerzerker's avatar

Member

10. OlafBerzerker writes:

Thanks for the read Oz. I hear alot of positives about Machine Head from most of you guys. I dont own any of their material and dont knowingly remember hearing them. Im gona jump in and check this stuff out.

# Oct 3, 2011 @ 9:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

Member

11. Blindgreed1 writes:

Burn My Eyes is a great place to start Olaf. Fvcking LOVE that album. On my 3rd CD now because I wore the other 2 out.

# Oct 4, 2011 @ 11:57 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

Member

12. Drum_Junkie writes:

Agree with BG1. BME is a great intro to MachineHead. Loved Chris Kontos drumming on that one. Davidian, Old, Blood for Blood, and Block are some standout tracks.

# Oct 4, 2011 @ 12:31 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
13. DB writes:

BEEN A HUGE MACHINE HEAD FAN SINCE '95....HIT ALL THE SHOWS IN SUPPORT OF ALL THE ALBUMS!!f***IN AWESOME LIVE BAND...REALLY GOOD FRIENDS WITH ROBB AND DAVE!! GOTTA LOVE THE TWIN GUITAR STUFF, VERY SIMILAR TO VIO-LENCE DAYS!! ROBB AND PHIL WERE MEANT TO JAM TOGETHER!!! THIS BAND IS GONNA BLOW UP!!! HELL YEAH!! MACHINE f***ING HEAD FOR LIFE!!!!!!

# Oct 5, 2011 @ 11:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
14. KM writes:

New album is great!!! Looking foreward to seeing them live again.

# Oct 6, 2011 @ 3:02 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jackrum's avatar

Supporter

15. Jackrum writes:

I was at the gig recorded for HELLALIVE... it was abso-truckin-lutly AWESOME...

# Oct 6, 2011 @ 2:14 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
16. alfred writes:

THE BEST METAL BAND EVER!!!!!!!!!!!

# Oct 7, 2011 @ 12:33 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
psythe's avatar

Writer, Reviewer

17. psythe writes:

So, so, -SO- glad this band is back on track. That whole Burning Red sh** was a real blow, man. Since Ashes of Empires tho, have not looked back :)

Burn My Eyes is a classic must-have. Supercharger and The More Things Change didn't honestly phase me much, tho Ten Ton Hammer is a rad song (also the first I ever heard by Machine Head).

# Oct 7, 2011 @ 6:36 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

Member

18. Blindgreed1 writes:

Supercharger is without a doubt my least favorite album. Didn't mind Burning Red so much. There were a couple of real burners on that one. Devil With A Kings Card immeadiately comes to mind.

# Oct 7, 2011 @ 2:14 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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