Machine Head Are Becoming Manowar!
by: Paul Schwarz
Returning from the Lost Weekend at the London Arena a mere few hours ago, it suddenly dawned on me that I could kill two proverbial birds with a mere single stone. The first "bird" was fulfilling our beloved editor's recent request for something opinionated and discursive in our anniversary issue. The second was the niggling in my mind after watching the around-an-hour-long performance by Oakland's non-finest (try Neurosis for that), that I -needed- to share my thoughts about the "performance" they put on with a wider audience.

First, some background. (*) In 1987 Manowar changed. They stopped being simply an honest, musically brilliant metal band and turned themselves into "Metal Gods". Proclaiming their own greatness, Manowar showered about cheap religious imagery and even included a cheesy writ on the reverse of their album characterising the playing of metal music as taking part in a war. I think Manowar got away with it, and I enjoy the fantasy of their present larger-than-life personas, but there is something cheesy and excessively brash about their output and attitude post _Fighting the World_, and a part of me wishes they had left more of their honesty intact. I give Machine Head two albums to do their _Fighting the World_. The performance tonight at the London Arena may have suffered from bad sound, and the band may have triumphed over this "adversity" and made a lot of kids, down in the pit, mosh-happy, but their attitude and stage banter tonight was about as bad as Manowar at Dynamo last year, and far less tolerable. Machine Head didn't try to strip a woman on stage and Machine Head didn't play a rock 'n' roll ending for every one of their songs, but give 'em a few years and I'm sure they can reach Manowar's levels of on-stage sexism, masculine single-mindedness, and rock 'n' roll indulgence; but I guarantee they'll never get away with it like Manowar do. As I said, I love Manowar's image as a -fantasy-: I don't believe it and I -certainly- don't need another band taking on such an image, least of all Machine Head -- though after being bored by _The More Things Change..._ and uninterested in _The Burning Red_, it wouldn't really make much of an impact on my life. However, before I get ahead of myself, I'll present my evidence.

About half way through the evening's set, in a pause from thrashing his guitar or rapping at "da mike", Rob Flynn got on the proverbial soapbox and spoke his mind. Beginning innocently with Machine Head's absence from the UK live scene over the last six months, Rob went on to voice his anger at what "certain magazines" -- he didn't (wouldn't?) say which -- had been saying about Machine Head. He went on to criticise the same "certain magazines" for "saying heavy music was dead and then putting N-Sync on the cover of their magazine", if I remember his words correctly. I had no idea what magazine he was going on about, and the bemused looks of some knowledgeable friends suggested that I wasn't alone in my ignorance. I shouted "Which magazine?" at the stage, but my question went unheard or, at least, unanswered. Rob then asked everyone to look at the person next to them and remember that "they" are what keeps heavy music alive. He then got the crowd into a chant of "I say "fuck", you say "you"" (or was it "yeah"?), seemingly in answer to the people that -he- claimed were trying to destroy heavy music. Now, I'll take this all back if someone can show me -evidence- to suggest that Rob was -really- trying to rally the metal troops and save heavy music, but to me this all seemed like a cheap gimmick to get a crowd of boozed up punters shouting, and thinking that Machine Head were some kind of saviours sent from on high. Or maybe it was to show that Machine Head were just (professional musicians and...) ordinary metal-mad kids, just like their audience. Maybe what Rob was saying, if we read between the lines, was that we were all, I don't know, Brothers of Metal, maybe? But it gets better. Rob also went on and on about drinking and partying. Nothing wrong with that, but it all seemed cheap. Machine Head were posturing, they weren't giving a considered opinion, they were soaking up cheap claps, cheers and shouts from a drunk, adrenaline-fuelled crowd.

However, Rob clinched my feeling that next time round he might as well ride onto stage on a Harley clad in leather chaps (lacking any style in doing so...), when he finished with a final few words which went something like "rock out, drink beer and fuck girls!". Could that be the same as the reverse of one of Manowar's t-shirts -- "Born to rock, drink and fuck" --, only put in a -more- sexist way? Rob, at least a quarter of your audience were women, I'd estimate, are you saying they all are, or should be, lesbians, or are you saying that only the men are -real- Machine Head fans? -Brothers- of Metal? Funny that Rob's words were -so- close to Manowar's last year at Dynamo where, I think, Joey DeMaio asked the crowd two questions about sexual preference: "How many guys here like girls?" and "How many girls here like girls?". Machine Head at one point pretty much played the drumbeat to "Fighting the World": I thought for a minute they might have realised how stupid they sounded and were going to do a cover of the aforementioned to, as it were, end the joke. Alas, no, Machine Head must have been, marginally speaking, serious.

Well, if Machine Head want to ham it up like Manowar, that's cool, they'll just look stupid doing it. However, if they want to be taken seriously as musicians -and- as lyricists (which, if I recall rightly from the Machine Head interviews I have read in the past, I believe to be the case: Machine Head never seemed to be merely "good clean fun"), then I'd suggest they stop acting like testosterone-driven rockers who just wanna have a good time, fuck groupies, drink beer and claim to be the saviours of metal. I love Manowar, but if Manowar did a song about a world issue (say, I don't know, sexism in the workplace!) and Joey DeMaio complained in interviews that no-one was taking him seriously, I wouldn't be terribly sympathetic.

So, that's pretty much it. If Machine Head want to discuss this issue, or want to fight me over it, then judging by tonight's performance I'll win in the case of the former and lose should they choose to unleash their Oakland-bred brutality on my suburban ass. However, since the chance of even getting to talk to Machine Head will probably involve -hours- of running around after Roadrunner's PR department, I doubt we'll ever find out the truth about any of this, unless I go back to working for a "high profile" magazine like Metal Hammer.

(*) Thanks and credit go to Matthias Noll for leading me to the realisation of Manowar's change in character on _Fighting the World_.

(article submitted 12/8/2000)


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