Machine Head - _The Blackening_
(Roadrunner Records, 2007)
by: Jackie Smit (
With _Through the Ashes of Empires_, Machine Head succeeded in what had for the better part of a decade seemed unachievable: they made us care about another release besides _Burn My Eyes_. Key to the success of the aforementioned opus was an acute vitality that seeped into the pulse every track; and moreso perhaps than even on their critically acclaimed debut, Machine Head embodied the metallic collosus they'd always set out to be.But great albums make for greater expectations, and after all of Rob Flynn's caterwalling on Blabbermouth about how great the band's sixth album would be, you'd have expected _The Blackening_ to be right up there with _Master of Puppets_ and _Rust in Peace_. Sadly for him and everyone else who's been expecting something momentous, _The Blackening_ sets out on a fast-track to dullsville almost from the minute that "Clenching the Fists of Descent" rears its bloated head. Whatever commendable riffage there could have been smacks of past glories, and the rest just seems like pointless self-indulgence.It gets worse from there, when Flynn tries his best to be Matt Heafy of Trivium on the chorus to "Now I Lay Thee Down" -- a track which will no doubt be coming to a music channel near you very soon. After plundering the playbook of an lesser act, _The Blackening_ then reverts to wounded animal mode, and like the most cringeworthy bits of the hopelessly adolescent _The Burning Red_, "Halo" beguiles us with over nine minutes of insipid proto-core dross, replete with a melodic break toward the end that's guaranteed to get many a pimply fourteen year-old laid.I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture; and to be fair to them, _The Blackening_ isn't a complete disaster. It's well performed and boasts a production job for the ages. There's even the odd few occasions where a hook or breakdown will pique the attention of the most cynical (try "Aesthetics of Hate" for starters). Sadly however, the fact remains that Machine Head have been at this too long that it should be acceptable for a band of their stature and reputation to deliver a record that for the majority is so candidly uninteresting.
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