Review: Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

Location: Oakland, California
Genre: Groove/Thrash Metal
Released: November 7, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: National Uprising – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

In July of this year, an interesting tour through North America was announced: Machine HeadChildren Of Bodom, Epica, and Battlecross would have combined a number of mainstream metal acts from different genres, and all of these bands had something different (and good) to offer. But Machine Head went and cancelled the tour because they couldn’t record the album in time. Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho was naturally pissed off, and Machine Head frontman Rob Flynn responded with a series of petty insults directed at Children Of Bodom fans, many of whom already listened to Machine Head. Of all the bands on that touring bill, Machine Head and Children Of Bodom are the most similar to each other, with the latter essentially being a Finnish rehash of the former. This kind of argument is just bound to piss people off even further.

I’m not a huge fan of any of these bands. I used to really like Epica before I got tired of their cheese. Bodom has been completely mediocre for about ten years, but I still want to see them live (I missed a shot at seeing them in Finland by six days). Machine Head has a few songs that I like, and their live show is okay, but I already had my fill of them during the 2012 European festival season. I would have gone to this tour to see Bodom, but I have no qualms about not having to spend a shitload of money to get to Cleveland.

Nonetheless, with the album taking so long to record, I had some expectations that it would be pretty good. I was wrong. Simply put, it sucks.

The most annoying aspect of Machine Head’s sound is any time Flynn does this thing with his vocals in which he breathes in with his mouth open, and that occurs too many times on this album to mention in detail. The songwriting is basically terrible; “Game Over” is the most generic hard rock track I have come across in recent memory, and songs such as “Eyes Of The Dead,” “Take Me Through The Fire,” “Damage Inside,” and “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones” are boring beyond reproach. Then there’s “Imaginal Cells,” an utterly pointless instrumental with political samples from an audio book. So with half the album already receiving some blanket criticism for being just plain boring, let’s look at what’s wrong with the other tracks.

“In Comes The Flood” has boring music, but interesting lyrics. Essentially, this is an anarcho-left wing anthem (“I want to burn down Wall Street, baby/And fan the flames of discontent like Hades.”) There are several good lyrics here:
-“Saints of Red, White and Blue/Pass bonds of junk to you/Our flag has all but bled to green.”
-“Moneytheistic religion”
-“We’re fighting for the scraps/We’ve let our conscience lapse/By turning cash into a god.”

And then there are some really stupid lyrics like “I don’t give a fuck if I’m rich, motherfucker.” The rest is somewhere in between and could just as easily have been ripped directly from any political discussion: A few interesting bits but a whole bunch of generic talking points that you would expect to hear on MSNBC.

“Now We Die” tries way too hard to be an epic opener and comes up well short. “Killers & Kings” has some potential, but Flynn is basically screaming in your face for the entire track without any regard for dynamics. “Sail Into The Black” has a cool introduction which features some low vocal chanting. The problem is that the introduction goes on for almost four minutes and doesn’t really go anywhere after that. And “Beneath The Silt” is another boring song musically, but Flynn shows that he is capable of doing something other than shouting at you or doing that annoying breathing thing he always does. This is his best vocal display on this album.

If I were to pick a track that I like on this album, I would choose “Night Of Long Knives.” It has a solid introduction that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and there are some cool moments, especially in the prechorus. I also like the “prophet/profit” wordplay. The chorus itself is nothing special, but I like the rest of the track. This song is based on Charles Manson, his “family,” and their murders. This has a solid premise, except I have one key issue with the lyrics: None of this has anything to do with the actual Night of the Long KnivesWhat in the world was this band thinking when they came up with this title? If they wrote a song about the original event, it would have fit well with the introductory lyrics:

“You won’t see us come/In the night/With these knives/And these bloodstains on our hands/Paint the walls/Taste the blade/On the night of long knives…”

And then Flynn starts rambling about the “summer of ’69” in Hollywood. The history nerd in me screamed in agony as I listened to these lyrics unfold. Why do you do this to me, Machine Head?

Is this the worst album of the year? Absolutely not. For starters, I was able to listen to it all the way through, which is a lot more than I can say for other albums I nearly reviewed (looking at you, Megaherz). But there are so many things wrong here that it does get the worst rating I have given an album to this point.

Overall: Forget the Bodom fans; even Machine Head fans should be angry with this one.

Rating: 0.5*

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