Album review

Machine Head : Hellalive

Machine Head : HellaliveIn retrospect, 1994 was a pivotal year for heavy metal. The foundations had already been eroded by Pantera and White Zombie, both of whom offered valid alternatives to old school thrash, and by Sepultura, whose '93 album Chaos AD brought a new kind of heaviness to the table.
    The breakthrough acts - Life Of Agony, Dog Eat Dog, Downset - all warned of what was to come one short year later from Korn. The signs were there if you knew what to look for.

It was into this environment that Machine Head spawned Burn My Eyes, surely the last great metal album before the dawn of what became known as nu metal. Certainly the ferocity of its opening trio of Davidian, Old and A Thousand Lies has rarely been challenged. Davidian in particular is considered a classic, and rightly so.
    By the time The More Things Change . . . was released in 1997, Machine Head were already swimming against the current, and they knew it. Post-Korn, post-Deftones and even post-Coal Chamber, the landscape had changed, and Machine Head hadn't. Ten Ton Hammer and Take My Scars were great tunes - and if anything The More Things Change . . . was a more consistent album than its predecessor - but the kids in the clubs were interested in other things.
    '99's The Burning Red and 2001's Supercharger attempted to update the Machine Head sound, but never strayed far enough away to alienate their core audience, who were even loyal enough to forgive a misjudged cover of The Police's Message In A Bottle . . .

. . . Which brings us to Hellalive, a live document of the band's last UK show before the departure of guitarist Ahrue Luster, plus a couple of tracks mixed in from 2002's German With Full Force festival. The majority of the above-mentioned tracks are here, plus the best bits of The Burning Red and Supercharger, including The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears, Crashing Around You and From This Day.
    Hellalive probably has all you could want from a Machine Head live CD, and for the already converted is no doubt an essential purchase - especially if you were at the Brixton Academy the night it was recorded. For the uninitiated, Burn My Eyes or The More Things Change . . . may be better places to start.
    As I write this, there's a lot of speculation that nu metal may be in its final death throes - more a passing fad than a brave new world - and that old school sensibilities may rise again. The irony being that Machine Head's dogged persistence may have granted them a second chance at greatness. Here's hoping . . .

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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