Machine Head :
Hailed as the saviours of real hard rock, Machine Head blasted out of their Bay Area lair and onto the global metal scene in '94 with their ball-bustingly heavy debut, Burn My Eyes. Now on album number five, having briefly flirted with a more experimental sound, the band have come full circle.
These tales of hatred, alienation, disaffection and "battles raging inside my head" are deeply personal to mainman Rob Flynn, and no doubt he has some issues to contend with. But the delivery is one of uncontained rage rather than notable creative depth or power. This may be how he feels, but the album seems like yet another angsty and shouty version of how, as four-eyed poet Philip Larkin would have it: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad." In short, I've heard it all before.
Further on down the line, some neat tribal drumming heralds In The Presence Of My Enemies, a song that holds together with a whispering demonic voice then falls apart with a comical Bad News-style solo that tries to force emotion where it doesn't exist. There is a naivety about some of the playing, particularly on the opening bars of Days Turn Blue To Gray where childishness is mistaken for simplicity.
The real Spinal Tap moment is saved until last. Descend The Shades Of Night is a classic for all the wrong reasons. The sub-prog title and nigh on eight minute running time sets the alarm bells ringing. A faux-classical guitar intro comes across as the Machine Head variation on Nigel Tufnel's Lick My Love Pump theme. Ham-fisted military drums, indelicate vocal counterpoint and an almost desperate epic feel layer on the laughs. Redeemed briefly by a Jason Becker harmonised staccato guitar passage in the bridge section, the whole piece just disappears up its own fundament before finally imploding at the 7 minute 45 second mark. Good riddance!
:: Tom Alford