1/5/2018 - Review by: Eric Compton
Hard-hitting, heavy-handed slabs of abrasive metal
Aside from early jeers, I honestly think this new Machine Head record will have a surplus of fans. Flynn already advised the masses to "lower your expectations for the heaviness, lower your expectations for the speed". After the dust settles, the Nu-metal finger pointing should subside, making way for 'Catharsis' to find its rightful place among the band's heftiest albums. It contradicts Flynn's promise of less heaviness with a massive wall of sound and weighty production values. Zack Ohren (Immolation, Deeds of Flesh) co-produced with Flynn and the duo's excessive experience provides the perfect stability for an album that's...unstable lyrically.
Right out of the gate, "Volatile" proclaims "fuck the world" with a backbone of double bass, heavily distorted guitars and Flynn's gravel throated command to put your head on the block. While moments of the album's Nu-ish 'Supercharger' come to mind ("Bulldozer"), the band's effectively washes the factory grit with Maiden-styled melodies at the minute mark. That same vibe ebbs and flows on "Beyond the Pale", a monumental cut that builds in intensity with shovel-headed groove while still injecting loads of melody over Flynn's clean, soulful singing. The album's early writing hinted at more rock-oriented sensibility and that overflows with what I consider album highlights--"California Bleeding" and the Lemmy ode "Razorblade Smile", the latter utterly filthy with lyrics like "eating p*ssy by the dumpster, beard stinkin' like snatch". It's that kind of writing that proves Flynn and the boys just throw the middle finger up to everyone and anything. It's angry and socially preachy when it wants to be, but has a bearing of imprudence that is mistaken for immaturity.
Early detractors have found fault with rap-rock influences, citing the failed experiment of the band's 'The Burning Red'. Certainly "Triple Beam" parks in that neighborhood, but Flynn has always had a bit of street scrub--it's part of the appeal. The song is rap, but arranged within meaty slabs of groove, swirling leads and a hardcore stance. Lyrically, it's more violent and daunting than any extremist act's "1-2-3 Kill" anthem. "Kaleidoscope" is the most symbolic track of the record, a modern approach that is similar to Bring Me the Horizon but firmly encased in the band's early and later characteristics. "Bastards" is the downgrade for me personally and just doesn't fit the album's motif. That song, as well as non-album track "Is There Anybody Out There", were written and released years ago. Unfortunately, the band chose "Bastards" to include on the album, excluding the far better song to a vinyl 7".
At 15 songs, or a destructive hour and 15 minutes, there's plenty of meat on the bone. If you can't find seven or nine songs here to like...then maybe hard-hitting, heavy-handed slabs of abrasive metal just isn't your forte. Like 'Bloodstone & Diamonds' and 'Unto the Locust', 'Catharsis' is another "safe" album despite its reckless sense of abandonment. It's a steadfast, safe effort in terms of longevity and preserving the band's legacy. This decade has shown that Machine Head still has a whole lot of creativity and drive in defiance of their nearly 30-years as a band. The group's discography is one of the strongest of any artist, of any genre. While 'Catharsis' will have its unbelievers, I think there is very little weakness being exhibited from this indomitable metal giant.
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