Last In my previous review of Machine Head's "The Blackening", I called upon listeners to give what is undoubtedly this California based post-thrash quartet's best album a strong chance, and rightfully so.
Last In my previous review of Machine Head's "The Blackening", I called upon listeners to give what is undoubtedly this California based post-thrash quartet's best album a strong chance, and rightfully so. I don't feel like I need to repeat myself on what exactly "The Blackening" did right that makes it a worthy listen, but among it's many flaws, it was an album that left me with a lot of questions.
Where exactly was Machine Head going to go after "The Blackening". After hearing how positive of an effort that album was, I liked to believe that Machine Head had found a musical blueprint they could build off of. Well, it's been a few years now, and now Machine Head is upon his again with another full length album.
I have no idea where Machine Head's sudden fascination with etymology emerged from, so I'm going to give my own thoughts on what exactly this album should've been called. There is no other way to put it, this album is a pure mess up.
What Machine Head did with "Unto the Locust" is take some one staple ingredient from "The Blackening", long by average song standards song lengths, get rid of nearly all the progressions and melodies that made the music on that album so strong, and instead replace it with a whole lot of worthless guitar harmonies and bouts of monotonous chugging that absolutely does not work.
As a result, "Unto the Locust" seems absolutely senseless. I don't understand that after creating an album that was so progressive and actually a reasonably thrashy outing how Machine Head could become so mindless.
This is without a doubt one of the choppiest albums I have ever heard, and not in that overly technical or progressive way that is somewhat alright. No, this is choppy in a manner that make most of the songs sound unfinished.
Most of the progressions are completely overbuilt up to, and for the most part they absolutely suck. And then they end up shifting into something that sounds absolutely mindless. This is not a problem for just one song on Unto the Locust, it's a problem for every song on the album. No where is this worse then the intro track I am Hell. This track sounds like an unfinished song left off The Blackening's final cut, because it contains most of what that album's songs contained, except for the good things.
Also, there are way too many moments where Machine Head just tries to get into these dark, droning, moody passages. Admittedly, some of these bits are fine, but most of them go on for way too long. The intro harmony to Be Still and Know initially had me paying attention at first, but when it started going on for longer than twenty seconds I started losing interest.
That whole introductory harmony section to that particular song goes on for a grand total of forty seconds. That is so long that the harmony wears itself out. Pity, because that's the best part of the song.
The same can apply to the title track, which has a clean section that just goes on for way too long and just makes the song sound stale.
The musicianship has also degraded significantly from The Blackening. The riffs of Robb and Phil are far more rudimentary on Unto the Locust. They feature a lot of palm muted chugging and not much else. Yeah, there are some cool sounding harmonies here and there and some of the riffs that aren't just complete two chord chugging sound okay, but nothing really stands out here from the absolute viciousness that was the riff work on The Blackening.
Also, the guitar solos have also fallen off massively. Most of them are far too short to be any bit memorable, and they're about as rudimentary fast as they come. Just a lot of tremolo picked pentatonics, which absolutely bores the snot out of me. Adam Duce is Adam Duce, a supporting bassist who really deserves no merit. But perhaps the most disappointing musical drop-off is that of drummer Dave McClain.
After putting on what I thought was one of the best all around drum performances I have ever heard on a metal album, McClain's drums now stink.
Most of the beats just plod along lifelessly with the guitars and have no zest or punch that they used to. There just is sense that all he wanted to do was "play along" and there are no moments where the drums propel the songs forward like they did on The Blackening. All in all, a very boring performance compared to The Blackening. It actually is better than The Blackening's vocal performance.
A lot of the purely clean vocals were dropped from Unto the Locust, and it benefited Mr. Flynn as a whole. His voice sounds a lot more guttural and vicious then it did on The Blackening, less pissed off and more like legitimately possessed at some moments. Yeah, it's that deep and that clear at the same time. Some of the moments where things do get a bit more operatic per say, they sound a lot better.
The operatic sections don't sound as melodramatic as they did on The Blackening, they just seem to ring out more and echo louder than they did in the past. The lyrics aren't as terrible either. They're more introspective and abstract than the in your face banter of The Blackening, and I think it works. One problem though is that a lot of the vocal patterns are not particularly catchy, so these are not exactly memorable lyrics in that regard.
As far as the mix goes, it's not as good as The Blackening's mix was. It's simply too dry. Most of the time I can hardly even tell that there is bass present in the mix, and the guitars have no real punch to them the way they did on the previous album's mix. The drums sound okay, though they sound more like plastic then they did before and I don't like that. The guitar solo tone is improved to degree, but not that much to make me really say it's that amazing.
The vocals do get a nice treatment though, and they're pleasing in that regard. So all in all, Unto the Locust is not a good album. It tries to replicate the success of The Blackening without doing any of the things that made The Blackening such a good album, and in that regard it falls flat on it's face. Machine Head will have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to their next album, because this one is nothing but a mess up.
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