We’d like to welcome back Machine Head into the pantheon of quality metal with their brand-new album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, on Nuclear Blast Records! This is a band that has weathered a tremendous amount of criticism over the years, yet they still have the wherewithal to release one of the best albums of their career and continue to be a vital voice in the metal community. [Editor’s note: this was supposed to coincide with Decibel’s Machinehead cover story. We reference that issue a lot in this episode. Alas, *sigh*, Spencer is slack and took 4 months to edit the damn thing.]
“Davidian” from Burn My Eyes (1994, Roadrunner)
Oakland, CA-based guitarist Robb Flynn played with ’80s Bay Area thrash bands Forbidden Evil and then—and most famously—Vio-lence on three full-length albums and an EP. After a falling-out with the band, he left and formed Machine Head (NOT named after the 1972 Deep Purple album, contrary to popular belief). Monte Connor signed them to Roadrunner upon the strength of their demo, which later became Burn My Eyes, one of the greatest debut albums of its time. Heralded as the missing link between Pantera and Slayer, it was Roadrunner’s #1 top-selling album until Slipknot’s 1999 debut. It was produced by the famous Colin Richardson (Carcass, Napalm Death, Fear Factory, Brutal Truth, Fudge Tunnel, Bolt Thrower, et al.).
“Struck a Nerve” from The More Things Change… (1997, Roadrunner)
Once again produced by Colin Richardson, their sophomore album showed the band already aligning themselves with the nü-metal movement. The video for the album’s first single, “Ten Ton Hammer,” shows Flynn dressed like Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies with a kerchief on his head, looking like a gangsta rapper! They didn’t use their signature MH diamond logo on the cover of this album—a visual cue to their stylistic shift—and other songs had those nü-metal underpinnings. Drummer Chris Kontos left and was replaced by Sacred Reich’s Dave McClain.
“The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears” from The Burning Red (1999, Roadrunner)
One of the most maligned albums of the ’90s, this is Machine Head’s #2 best-selling album behind BME. The single “From This Day” contained their first blatant rapping, and the subsequent video placed the band firmly in the nü-metal camp, with Flynn sporting spiky, Korn-esque hair and a red track suit! The first and only album produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Sepultura), TBR gained legions of fans of the nü-metal craze from Coal Chamber, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, et al. but lost fans from their core metal audience, who naturally thought they were selling out. Guitarist Logan Mader left for Soulfly and was replaced by Manmade God’s Ahrue Luster. This was also MH’s first standard release to include a cover: the Police’s “Message in a Bottle.”
“Bulldozer” from Supercharger (2001, Roadrunner)
This album somewhat continues the rappish metal of TBR, though the music is heavier. The cover art did bring back the original MH diamond logo, but the music didn’t translate to anything that we were remotely interested in at the time…which is a shame, because they are some strong tunes on this release. It was produced by Johnny K (Staind, Mushroomhead, Disturbed, Sevendust), and in 2003, the band released their first live album, 2003’s Hellalive, and satisfied their contract with Roadrunner.
“Imperium” from Through The Ashes of Empires (2003, Roadrunner)
Roadrunner re-signed the band and released this album, which marked their re-ascendance to metal greatness: epic-length songs, darker material, and NO rap! Most bands that started out brutal then lapsed into mediocrity for whatever reason have this option to return to previous sounds, and this marked the beginning of Machine Head’s extreme metal Renaissance. Luster left for Ill Niño and was replaced by former Vio-lence guitarist Phil Demmel. This was the first album produced by Robb Flynn himself, and he would produce all albums henceforth.
“Aesthetics of Hate” from The Blackening (2007, Roadrunner)
Before this, the band released 2005’s Elegies, their first live DVD. The Blackening won awards, finally: “Album of the Decade” by Metal Hammer, and “Album of the Year” by Kerrang! “Aesthetics of Hate” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance but lost to Slayer; this was controversial, since Slayer had already won a Grammy the year before for the same album: 2006’s Christ Illusion.
“Pearls Before the Swine” from Unto the Locust (2011, Roadrunner)
Chris should’ve made this one of his albums of 2011, but he heard it too late! This album fires on all cylinders, and there is not one note wasted on it: incredibly dark and heavy. Many cite The Blackening as the best modern MH album, but we think this one is king. It contains covers of Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel” and a phenomenal take on Rush’s “Witch Hunt.” After this, the band released their second live album, 2012’s Machine F**king Head Live.
“Eyes of the Dead” from Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014, Nuclear Blast)
Their brand-new album with solid material continues the band’s impressive career turnaround. Overall, it’s much more melodic than Unto the Locust, and this time the band adds strings to a few songs. Longtime bassist Adam Duce was replaced by former Sanctity guitarist Jared MacEachern. The album is produced by Flynn and mixed by Colin Richardson.