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Machine Head - "Unto The Locust" (CD)

Machine Head - "Unto The Locust" CD cover image

"Unto The Locust" track listing:

1. I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)
2. Be Still And Know
3. Locust
4. This is the End
5. Darkness Within
6. Pearls Before the Swine
7. Who We Are

Reviewed by on September 15, 2011

"'Unto the Locust' is a fantastic example of progressive groove/thrash metal, where every single idea just feels right despite the length of each of the songs."

Well, it certainly took long enough for a new Machine Head album to come out. Beginning “Unto the Locust” with Robb Flynn screaming out a distorted “I am death” just happens to raise expectations even more. Yet, album opener “I Am Hell” happens to really ram home exactly why I love this band, as it's truly an epic opener that contains some great riffs, an anthemic chorus and a solo that relies more on atmosphere than technical skill. All of these elements combine into one giant hodgepodge of awesome. The great part about this is that is that “I Am Hell” isn’t just a great song on its own; it sets the pace for the rest of the album.

Those who didn't like the version of “Locust” released earlier this year should be happy to know that after mixing and mastering, it sounds completely different. Those who did are in for a surprise, as “Locust” is improved in every way. The song fits with the high quality of the rest of the album, which more than meets the high standards that Machine Head set for themselves with “The Blackening.” “Unto the Locust” is a fantastic example of progressive groove/thrash metal, where every single idea just feels right despite the length of each of the songs.

The great part about “Unto the Locust” is that while it sounds like Machine Head, it is only vaguely reminiscent of “The Blackening.” As far as changes go, the only big one is that “Unto the Locust” is much more melodic than the two preceding albums, which focused more on big chunky riffs. It's not going to alienate any fans, but it stands beside “The Blackening,” instead of trying to surpass it, by making subtle, but noticeable, changes to the band's formula.

One track that Machine Head is certain to make into a live staple is “Darkness Within.” With a catchy chorus, melodic guitar work and an acoustic intro that all characterize the song, but with enough inspired moments of pure genius popping up throughout the track, it's safe to say that “Darkness Within” may very well be the best song that Machine Head has ever written, despite it coming out 16 years after the band's debut. Everything about this song is perfect and it's certainly good enough to make me want to see Machine Head live again.

After everything that “Unto the Locust” did right, it's a shame that the album has to end on such a weak note. “Who We Are” doesn’t flow with the rest of the songs, has an annoying chorus and simply lacks the power that the rest of the album has. Also, a children's choir is incredibly annoying and should never again be used in anything calling itself metal. There was actually a team of scientists attempting to create the most objectively annoying song ever, which made a heavy use of a children's choir, only further justifying my opinion that “Who We Are” is the absolute dumbest move made by Machine Head since Ahrue Luster was in the band.

Still, that's only one track out of seven. The rest of “Unto The Locust” contains enough brilliance to satisfy even the most jaded of metal heads. If this album didn't fall apart at the end, it would surpass “The Blackening” in terms of sheer metal ass-kickery.

Highs: Heavy yet melodic without falling into At the Gates worship, truly epic songwriting, every single second of “I Am Hell” and “Darkness Within,” different enough from “The Blackening” to justify waiting four years

Lows: The album falls apart at the end with "Who We Are"

Bottom line: "Unto the Locust" is one of 2011's essential albums.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)