Sunday Old School: 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"
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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