Kingcrimsonprog

Jimmy Neeson
MMA Special Collaborator · Honorary Collaborator
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 48 minutes ago

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879 reviews/ratings
MASTODON - The Hunter Progressive Metal | review permalink
MASTODON - Crack The Skye Sludge Metal | review permalink
MASTODON - Blood Mountain Sludge Metal | review permalink
MASTODON - Leviathan Sludge Metal | review permalink
MASTODON - Live At The Aragon Sludge Metal | review permalink
AMON AMARTH - With Oden on Our Side Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
AMON AMARTH - Twilight of the Thunder God Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
AMON AMARTH - Wrath of the Norsemen Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
AMON AMARTH - Surtur Rising Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
ANNIHILATOR - Live at Masters of Rock Thrash Metal | review permalink
ANTHRAX - Worship Music Thrash Metal | review permalink
ARCHITECTS - The Here and Now Metalcore | review permalink
BRING ME THE HORIZON - Suicide Season Metalcore | review permalink
CARPATHIAN FOREST - We're Going to Hollywood for This Black Metal | review permalink
CHIMAIRA - Chimaira Groove Metal | review permalink
CHIMAIRA - The Infection Groove Metal | review permalink
CHIMAIRA - The Dehumanizing Process Groove Metal | review permalink
CHIMAIRA - Coming Alive Groove Metal | review permalink
CLUTCH - Live in Flint, Michigan Stoner Rock | review permalink
CLUTCH - Blast Tyrant Stoner Rock | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Thrash Metal 113 4.19
2 Heavy Metal 102 4.01
3 Groove Metal 64 4.31
4 Hard Rock 63 3.66
5 Power Metal 61 4.12
6 Stoner Metal 41 4.18
7 Nu Metal 40 3.67
8 Progressive Metal 36 4.28
9 Death Metal 34 3.74
10 Stoner Rock 33 4.39
11 Alternative Metal 31 3.81
12 Metalcore 29 4.33
13 Metal Related 27 4.31
14 Melodic Metalcore 26 4.23
15 Industrial Metal 20 3.98
16 US Power Metal 20 3.83
17 NWoBHM 18 3.72
18 Heavy Alternative Rock 16 3.59
19 Sludge Metal 14 4.54
20 Melodic Death Metal 11 4.41
21 Hardcore Punk 8 4.06
22 Glam Metal 8 3.25
23 Gothic Metal 7 3.14
24 Non-Metal 7 4.07
25 Proto-Metal 6 4.00
26 Speed Metal 6 3.33
27 Rap Metal 5 3.70
28 Black Metal 5 3.90
29 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 4 3.38
30 Doom Metal 4 4.50
31 Symphonic Black Metal 4 3.00
32 Melodic Black Metal 3 3.67
33 Grindcore 3 1.83
34 Death 'n' Roll 2 4.50
35 Heavy Psych 2 3.75
36 Technical Thrash Metal 2 3.50
37 Funk Metal 1 3.50
38 Deathcore 1 3.50
39 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
40 Technical Death Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

SLIPKNOT (IA) The End So Far

Album · 2022 · Nu Metal
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I’ve said it before, but Slipknot album releases aren’t just album releases, they are life events as memorable as major elections, weddings, funerals, graduations and the start of new jobs for me. They serve as a significant moment against which memories will be anchored and where eras start and end. The provoke large quantities of discussion with friends, and the sort of in-depth analysis on your own normally only seen with Metallica or Tool album releases.

Not counting their 1996 demo album; 2002’s The End So Far is Iowan metal band Slipknot’s seventh full-length studio album. It follows up 2019’s really excellent We Are Not Your Kind record, and compared to the band’s typical timeline of going on break for many years between records, does so fairly quickly.

In the media, the band had been talking previously about wanting to make a big departure in sound, however saving that for on the next album after this, so this album feels in part like a progression and also in parts like a nostalgic regression and farewell to their origins and legacy. That sort of oil and water contradictory set of aims (Hey, I guess getting nine people to agree to one vision involves a lot of compromise) basically summarizes the whole record for me. Its trying to do two quite opposite things at the same time. There are notable, blatant and really on-the-nose call-backs to the old days, moments deliberately written to please old fans and keep the band aligned with the (glorious) past, but there are also departures, progressions and evolutions designed to bring the band into the (different) future.

So, speaking of harkening back to the late 90’s/early 00’s; there are a lot of moments on this record that are clearly meant to evoke the sound or spirit of great moments from the band’s early days; there’s a little vocal tail here that is clearly meant to remind you of “Purity” and a drum & bass thing that is overtly trying to remind people of “Eyeless” and you may notice for a second or two, a drum part trying to remind you of “The Blister Exists” or a breakdown that is clearly meant to imitate that 3:11 groove from “Three Nil.” There’s a moment of creepy tinkling additional percussion that exists specifically to remind people of the intro to “Scissors” for a second. There’s also creepy churning guitar parts here and there that evoke “Gently” or “Iowa” for a second, although more subtly than the aforementioned things. Its usually only a couple of seconds each, but it often feels like the have written a really modern record and then went “oh no, it needs to sound more like Slipknot…” and then just thrown in some extra cheeky nostalgic icing on the cake to stop it sounding too different. Many songs that aren’t even so specifically hinting directly at specific previous songs, sometimes its just some extra DJ-scratching here, or keg smashes there. The biggest thing is probably the entire song “Yen” which seems designed to give people “Vermillion” vibes (although maybe that’s not fair, perhaps its just continuing the tradition of those type of songs, which “Killpop” also did).

Apart from the aforementioned very clear nods towards the early days, which feel like garnish rather than the main course, the actual song-writing feels more like a mixture between their two previous records, .5 The Gray Chapter & WANYK, than anything they made their name on way back when. Now don’t come at me with a history lesson, I know Slipknot have been putting clean vocals into heavy songs ever since their debut self-titled album (eg. “Me Inside” and before that if you count demos) but there was a notable switchover at some point (possibly “Sulfer” from All Hope Is Gone?) where a song with a good start and heavy verse would be dominated by a big radio chorus that somehow makes the whole song feel safer and smaller and less blistering. The guitar lines here would usually also feel less metallic and more alternative-rock. (Around the time everyone on the internet incorrectly decided to say “sounds too much like Stone Sour” every time Slipknot did anything). With a few notable exceptions (“Sarcastrophe,” “Custer,” “The Negative One”), 2014’s .5 The Gray Chapter album was perhaps the worst offender of this stylistic decision where a radio chorus off-balanced the rest of the song, but it is also present in part on WANYK and present quite a bit here on TESF. You could take that thing as one of the dividing lines which could be considered the difference between classic and modern Slipknot song writing.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s all very interesting and everything, but the quality of an album always lives and dies on the strength of the tunes.” I agree. A direction you like, or a direction you aren’t keen on will generate discussion, but what will make you decide if you like it or not will usually be how much you like the songs.

The songs have pros and cons. Cons: The lyrics aren’t great at times. It feels like it is missing one more fast song. It is probably their least heavy album to date overall. Some of the experimentation doesn’t work so well. If you can’t get over how pandering it feels, some of the fan-service feels distracting. It isn’t as instantly gratifying as most Slipknot albums. While many songs are quite satisfying when they’re on, few leave the sort of lasting impression that older Slipknot albums did and you get a bit of a sense that in a few albums time, the songs from this will be a bit forgotten. You can’t imagine much from this record overtaking classics from Joey’s era in the setlist live or on compilations and playlists.

Pros: It is concise and succinct compared to some of their previous albums. It features arguably the best lead guitar / guitar solos of any Slipknot record to date. Jay Weinberg’s drumming is unrestrained and much more confident than back in 2014. Some of the experimentation works well, and you certainly can’t say its devoid of ideas or creative spark. If you can get over how pandering it sometimes feels, on a gut level all the keg smashing/DJ scratching/double kick and blast beating stuff is just great fun. It gets better with repeat listens. With the exception of the opening track, the album sequencing works well so there are highlights throughout, so its not frontloaded and there’s no dip on the second half.

The one song unarguably generating the most discussion on the whole record is the opener “Adderall” which stylistically is the most unique and un-Slipknot moment on the record, coming across as some sort of mixture between Radiohead’s The King Of Limbs with QOTSA’s “Autopilot” and The Beatles’ in general. It seems a very clearly political decision to make it track 1 on the record, in a deliberate attempt to make this album stand out in their discography. Quite interesting since some reviews had been saying this album isn’t so much its own entity as just “WANYK-Part-2,” and there is a prominent interview circulating at time of writing with a key band member suggesting that the album was rushed, and that Shawn had said just to get it over with and that it wasn’t a real album, just an extension of the WANYK touring cycle. Of course, I guess that interview could be a) incorrect, or b) Shawn could have changed his mind later, or c) it was just a passing comment out of context. Whatever the case, sticking the very out-of-character jangly prog-pop song first seems like an identity-creating decision. The song probably wouldn’t have generated such large volumes of discussion had it just been track 10 like “Spiders” was. The album might flow better though.

As much as some diehard fans may feel otherwise; for me the album as a whole isn’t flawless, and not every song is utter timeless gold …but it isn’t a poor album either and there are some nice highlights. If you like the band at their heavier, then “Hivemind,” “Warranty” “Heirloom” and “Hell” are going to be enjoyable. I certainly enjoy them. If you like the band being moody and dark, you’ll enjoy “Medicine For The Dead,” “De Sade” and “Finale” (with its memorable choir section part). I’ve seen people online saying these are the finest moments on the album, and I don’t disagree.

Ok. I misspoke earlier. Its not always 100% all about the songs. While not as important; Little things like the artwork, the reputation/reviews and the production can play a part in your opinion and enjoyment of albums too, even if maybe they shouldn’t. The artwork is the same usual thing they’ve been doing since Vol. 3. Unremarkable really. Unlikely to affect your opinion one way or the other. The reviews have been mixed, there’s a lot of “bold new direction” and “same old, same old” comments, and basically every song has been called out as the best or the worst one. Tough record to pin a consensus on. There’s as many different views of the record as there are listeners of it. I think the only thing people are in agreement on generally is that it isn’t as good as the first three records (but realistically “what is, right?”). The production job is ok. The previous album was produced by Greg Feldman with co-production credits for the band, whereas this album is produced by the band with coproduction credits from Joe Barresi. Part of that was due to the pandemic and the difficulty of getting a nine-person band and the production team in one room at the same time. It is better than the somewhat thin production of .5, but not as clear and well-balanced as WANYK which I feel set the standard of what modern mature Slipknot could and should sound like. The production job here really lets you know there are nine members, its quite layered and rewards repeat listens so you can figure out what Craig, Sid or Shawn are doing at any given moment, when last time you were only focusing on the drums and guitars, but it can be a bit cacophonous, messy and slightly overwhelming at points and could give a bad first impression.

The band are so incredibly important and popular that I don’t need to recommend you get this album, but my one recommendation would be not to trust any gut reaction or first impression, and give it some serious dedicated no-distractions time to get in multiple repeat listens before forming an opinion. I’ve been listening to it basically on repeat since it was released at time of writing, and my opinion of it has changed and evolved numerous times since then. This is a grower for sure, and its biggest charms aren’t necessarily readily apparent on first listen.

CLUTCH Sunrise On Slaughter Beach

Album · 2022 · Stoner Rock
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Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.

I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.

The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.

Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.

There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.

Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.

This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!

PARKWAY DRIVE Darker Still

Album · 2022 · Alternative Metal
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To say I was highly anticipating this album would be something of an understatement. Australian metalcore turned stadium band Parkway Drive’s 2015 album Ire had been my album of the decade, their 2018 album Reverence was a very strong follow-up, and when I saw them live it was and remains to this day, the (no exaggeration) best concert I have ever seen. Better than Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, Ghost, Tool or any other famously good live band I’ve ever got a chance to see. Since those two concerts I saw from that tour (one at Download Festival and one in Cardiff headlining) my estimation of the band has only been higher and higher over time.

When I heard the first single from this album, “Glitch,” I was a bit underwhelmed to be honest, but then the second single “The Greatest Fear” got me properly excited, and having listened to “Glitch” so many times since then, I actually really like it now too.

Now, realistically, I can never expect this album to be as good as Ire, literal album of the entire decade, but if they could make something even half as good as Reverence then I’d still be a very happy customer, and it would still be an album of the year contender. The first time I listened to the record in full, it didn’t totally land with me. Part of that was my fault, I rushed in right as it came out, listening to it for a song or two in the shower, then a song or two when I was getting ready for work and the kids were screaming, and then listening to the rest at work in one earphone only whilst preoccupied.

My initial gut reaction was something along the lines of “Oh, they’ve gone too clean, too commercial, too stadium and the good bits of Nu Metal that they’d mixed into the last two albums have been replaced with the bad bits of Nu Metal.” However, I’d paid for it, so I was damn well going to listen to it again and again, in all sorts of different conditions, walking, driving, working, resting, on in the background and hyper focused.

…Well, I’m glad I put the effort in and didn’t go off my initial disappointed reaction, because this album is a delight. Its definitely more of a grower and a slow burn than the instant gratification of Deep Blue or Ire, and its less an obvious natural progression than Reverence was, but the more you listen to it, the more you see why this was absolutely the right album for them to make.

There’s no getting away from it, Parkway Drive are a massive band now, who play big stages to big crowds, and they just couldn’t get away with Killing With A Smile-level heaviness anymore… it just wouldn’t sound right on those big stages. While my initial assessment that this album is cleaner and more commercial than previous records, and that there are more touches of Nu Metal in the sound, it is in all the right ways. This album is an album to jump up and down to, an album to sing along to, an album to have a good time with, an album that sounds like a party, perfect fodder for big concert fun. The songs are deliberately designed to worm their way into your memory and make you want to move.

I wouldn’t say its been dumbed down, its been stream-lined for maximum fist pumping. Songs like “Soul Bleach” and “Like Napalm” just feel good. Dynamic, catchy, crunchy and bouncy. ‘Napalm also has some really tasty lead guitar lines that would feel at home on a European heavy metal festival. I love how Parkway mix that element in more and more as their albums go on.

Its not all festival bopping bouncy fun though. The album does feature some diversity, a few slower more contemplative, darker moments. There are strings, moody moments and a touch of class. The title track is quite understated and subtle (well, at least until the huge November Rain music video mountain top style guitar solo bursts out), and the closer “From The Heart Of Darkness” tries to be a hybrid of the heavy and quiet ones and succeeds really well, with the violins adding a really triumphant feel.

I could talk for hours about this album, but at the end of the day, I think the take home message of the entire review is going to be, “don’t listen to your cynical first impressions, just let it wash over you, accept it for what it is, and with repeat listens it will seriously frow on you.” I really love it now. I find myself singing “Imperial Heretic” in the shower or when doing the dishes without even realising it.

MEGADETH The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!

Album · 2022 · Thrash Metal
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2022’s The Sick, The Dying And The Dead is Thrash Metal legends Megadeth’s 16th full-length studio album. At just shy of an hour, the Mustaine / Chris Rakestraw produced record is a nice, easily digestible slice of modern Megadeth.

The album’s backstory will doubtlessly overshadow the music (you know it all by now, Dave’s triumph over cancer, Ellefson’s removal from the band, Steve Di Giorgio’s stepping in etc). The music probably won’t be talked about as much, especially in a few year’s time.

Stylistically, its sort of the same direction the band have been doing since United Abominations. There are some pretty strong tunes that fans will love “Soldier On” “Celebutante” and “Night Stalkers” are all quite memorable, but there is a little bit of filler and like the previous album, Dystopia, its a lot of the right style with great guitar and drums, but slightly forgettable actual songs, that don’t live up to say Endgame or the first six albums.

The special digital edition of the album ends with two cover tunes, a Dead Kennedys B-side and a Sammy Hagar tune where Sammy himself actually provides guest vocals. A nice bit of fun as a bonus to round out the album and send you on your way. They end up being two of the most memorable tracks on the record. I would recommend this version.

TSTD&TD is an absolutely fine modern Megadeth album, and there are three or four songs from it that could make it into the live show for a short time, which at this stage in their career is really all you can ask for. Ranking it against their back catalogue, it feels kind of around the same tier as maybe Thirteen. Go in with tempered expectations, and you should have a good time. Just don’t expect an absolute career highlight. It’s the best album you can reasonably expect… just remember to have reasonable expectations.

MACHINE HEAD Of Kingdom and Crown

Album · 2022 · Groove Metal
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For me, Machine Head are one of the most important and definitive bands in Metal as a whole, and while their popularity and respect have waxed and waned over the years, and while band members have come and gone, they always release top quality live material, and have at least some utterly killer songs on even the most critically and fan lambasted studio records.

The last few years have been another dip for the band, who were beloved in the early-mid nineties, gained some more recognition but lost a lot of respect in the late nineties, had an almost-breakup-causing critical and commercial flop at the start of the noughties, later to rise phoenix-like to become many people’s favourite band for over half a decade, around the time guitarist Phil Demmel (Vio-Lence) started working with the band. Eventually iconic bassist Adam Deuce exited the band. Then they released the critically and comments-section savaged Catharsis album from 2018 and their popularity took an absolutely massive hito the point where the band became a joke in the eyes of many, and unique drummer Dave McClain (Sacred Reich) who’d been on every single Machine Head release except for the debut sadly left the band, with Phil Demmel who’d become one of the most fan-beloved members also exiting in tow... leaving the band seemingly a smoking ruin.

The intervening years have seen sporadic one-off singles, short EPs and pre-pandemic a reunion of the line-up of their debut album playing that classic record live in full, (plus a new drummer and guitarist playing the other songs for the rest of the concerts... two different band line ups at the same show... all very...untidy), and session players on some of the recordings, making them lose that unified band unit feel. In short, its been a mixed bag.

Now the thing is, realistically, Catharsis is nowhere near as bad as people made it out to be, sure it’s a bit overlong, sure there are some questionable stylistic shifts for a few songs (and a few parts of other songs). Agreed; the lyrical direction was ill-advised and turned a lot of people off… but for the most part, the main basis of the album at the end of the day was exactly the same stuff that people loved about albums like ‘Ashes and The Blackening, it wasn't that big a deal frankly. People were also complaining about the use of slur in a song (but this was a song actively decrying prejudice and preaching unity, and making a deliberate point against the use of slurs by the way) yet seemed happy to ignore the fact that “Slanderous” on everyone’s-favourite (or at least second-favourite if you prefer the debut) album The Blackening did the exact same thing and no one ever talks about it.

There were also a load of negative Americans with different political views than lyricist Robb Flynn getting upset about Robb writing about politics, despite the band making their name on the album Burn My Eyes which is absolutely dripping with politics and current events... and no one gave them grief about that album's political lyrics.

In short, everyone took leave of their senses, blew everything completely out of proportion, and the band took a devastating hit that would have killed most bands, over some absolute mountains-out-of-molehills nonsense that in a sane and rationale world would just be seen as just a minor blip in an otherwise superb run of albums.

The internet trolls, the clickbait writing websites and the crowd-following print journalists who seemed afraid to defy the mob and stick to rational and measured criticism (eg. “It’s a bit flabby, and there are some problems, I dislike the lyrics, but mostly, its pretty much the same as the last four albums really,” rather than “OMG this is the worst crime against my ears since nails met chalkboards y’allz. Stop talking about politics and literally commit suicide, Robb Flynn!”) had spoken. I even saw hatchet job negative reviews of the live shows, even though I know from personal experience they were brilliant live on that tour.

So, here we are four long and gruelling years later, and Machine Head have released their next full-length studio album, and have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the public, right the ship, and navigate themselves back into their position of one of the most beloved bands in the genre (well, in the UK and Europe at least, I know the US has always been a bit less doe-eyed about them than us Brits have been).

Of Kingdom And Crown (I’m not typing out all the caps or “Ø”s) is the band’s tenth proper album, first concept album, and first with Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka (Decapitated) on guitar.

Lyrically, it is a large course-correct for the band, who got savaged for talking about politics and using hip hop style delivery last time, instead now focusing on a Red Sky nightmare world and the intertwining story of two tragic characters Ares and Eros with a much more Locust/Blackening vocal delivery on most of the songs.

Musically, its also a course-correct, in so much as all the bits from the last album that people criticised are gone, (which as I keep saying, was only a small part of the album anyway, blown way, way out of proportion), which leaves it pretty much sounding exactly what you would expect from any Machine Head album released after The Blackening.

There are big crunchy grooves, fun pinch harmonics, intermittent speedy Thrash sections, furious guitar solos, a mix of growls, screams and shouts in the vocal department, some ballady parts but in songs that transform later into either groovers or thrashers later on.

There is a fair bit of clean singing, but nothing more than was on 'Ashes or Locust anyway, not excessively so. Even the cleanest, most commercial song “My Hands Are Empty” which came out near the start of the pandemic as a standalone single, does have some big dirty stinkface riffs in it to balance out that “woah-oh-wah-oh-a-oh-a-oh-oh” chant (which as a random side note, Five Finger Death Punch have totally stolen on their new album - listen to their song "Judgement Day" - pretty suspiciously close vocal melody, right?).

Some of the standalone singles released prior to this record but after the band imploded were good ("Do Or Die"), but some of them were weak, (Circle The Drain") and lacked a certain magic. I was worried that without Phil and Dave, that maybe Machine Head would be forever lessened and wouldn’t ever fully recover, even if they got close.

Some of the tracks from this album (actually, about six) were released in advance, which reassured me somewhat, as tracks like “Rotten” appeared to be mixing the best parts of Catharsis, (deleting the controversial parts) with a kind of Burn Me Eyes / The More Things Change vibe, and tracks like “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” seemed to be going for that pedal to the metal speed and aggression that made The Blackening so enjoyable.

Sometimes hearing too many songs in advance can harm an album (I still don’t like Megadeth’s Thirteen as much as I should for this reason, it only feels like a half a new album to me) but in the case of this album, I think it was nice to get used to parts of the album in advance to cleanse the palate and clear the air. When hearing the record as a whole, with each song in context and in the correct order… it takes shape as a proper full album.

Without hearing those tracks repeatedly and letting them sink in over weeks (or in some cases months, or in one case years) I would have just been sat here nervously wondering: Will it end up as a soulless carbon copy of old glories to please an ungrateful fanbase? Will it end up a misjudged technical death metal album due to Vogg’s inclusion? Will it be a repeat of all the mistakes of the over-discussed Catharsis now that Rob lacks Dave and Phil to talk him out of bad decisions?

In reality, none of those things were true. Its just a good Machine Head album. Its not just better than Catharsis, its upper half of their whole discography. It would be unrealistic to expect it to be the best album of their whole career or anything… but its not going to be one of those forgotten pity-comeback albums either, thr ones that people say they like for a year or two, then talk trash about once the next album is better.

There are some intro/interlude tracks to help with the story, that I have seen some people criticise, but you can just skip them, like we all do on River Runs Red or World Coming Down, without it ruining the whole record.

If you are an unpleasable internet troll who only likes Burn My Eyes or The Blackening and nothing else, then this album won’t win you back into the fold. If however, you are the sort of person who finds Through The Ashes Of Empires or The Locust among their favourite albums, then this record should be very satisfying for you. The album is consistent, flows well, has some diversity so it doesn’t get boring but sticks to what the band are good at, it gives the fans what they want without being pandering about it. It is in short, an exercise in Robb Flynn doing what he is good at, with a capable backing band that stop it feeling too differently than the glory years. The concept, while not all that inspired, very handily keeps Rob away from his worst lyrical tendencies too. Always a bonus.

I really do hope as a community, we can now just sweep all the negativity of the past four years under the carpet as the minor blip it should have always been, and get back to loving Machine Head unashamedly without having to listen to a load of negativity about it. I look forward to reviewing their next album, when hopefully the review can just start with what the album sounds like and how good it is or not again. I've already got tickets to see the band live and I really hope they play a lot of material off this record live, it will fit in really well with the 2003-2014 material.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted more than 2 years ago in MMA's Top Stoner Metal Albums
    Shit, that's hard. Three-way-tie for me between Welcome To Sky Valley, Blast Tyrant and Deliverance.
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in Helloween Albums (Updated 2016)
    Keeper 2, Then 1, Then Oath, Then 7 Sinners, Then God Given Right.
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in People's reaction after finding out you like metal
    I got nothing but grief for it in high school. Constant teasing, people shouting in the street from moving cars, people squaring up and starting fights, always having people talk shit behind my back. I even remember going up to a bar once and the non metal guy at the bar just looked pure hatred into my eyes and said 'get out of my face you're making me fucking sick.' That was a small, backwards town full of racists, homophobes and general idiots anyway though. In university it was just a bit more like, oh, well, I'll not be your friend but I won't actively be a dick about it. Nowadays as an adult, people just look at me like 'Why?' My stock answer is either 'Some people like horror films, if music was film, metal would be horror.' Or 'Not everyone can eat really spicy food, but that doesn't mean no-one can.' I generally don't bring it up. Recently, one of my co-workers noticed a motorhead pin on my backpack, and decided to throw the horns at me instead of greeting me for the next month or so, but not in a mean spirited way. 

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