There’s a three song run (the uniformly excellent Screaming at the Sun, Behind the Mask and Heavy Lies the Crown) in the middle of Machine Head’s new album, Catharsis, where suddenly, after much laboured huffing and puffing, everything clicks and the band we all know and admire slip into top gear, reminding us why, over the last twenty-odd years, we’ve generally loved the band rather than hated them.
But three songs out of a total of fifteen is pushing the listener’s side of that dichotomy teetering towards hate, especially when much of the rest of the album is composed of dire nu-metal cack like California Bleeding, Triple Beam and Psychotic.
It’s a shame, because the opening brace of songs, Volatile and the title track, lull the listener into a false sense of metal-enshrouded security… Machine Head were basically saved by the arrival of guitarist Phil Demmel in 2002, his sure-footed and super-melodic soloing and merciless riff power seemingly inspiring main man Rob Flynn to ditch the trappings of whatever was flavour of the month at the time in order to get back to the serious business of banging heads, and it’s when the two of them lock together in classic latter day MH style – as they do on those afore-mentioned tracks -that all is right with the world of Catharsis.
Grind You Down is a serviceable, at times superbly brutal thrasher weighed down with little nods to Korn when it should be saying hello to Kreator, and Razorblade Smile ain’t bad either, but for too much of the album Flynn, ever the tortured genius, seems to be hell bent on dismantling the legacy he and his band have built for themselves over the last quartet of albums from 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires to Bloodstone & Diamonds from 2014, not least with misfiring attempt at revolutionary rabble rousing that is the execrable Bastards and it’s album-ending reprise, Eulogy…
It’s never pleasant delivering a damning verdict on a band that have been a constant in your listening diet for nearly a quarter of a century, but really there’s not enough on offer of quality here to recommend this album to anyone but the most die hard machine header, especially given the high quality of output the band has maintained for most of the twenty first century. Disappointing.
Catharsis is released on January 26th.