Admittedly, I have never really understood the immense popularity that Machine Head has garnered over the years. For me there is nothing that makes their music stand out from the pack. With that said, I do find most of their music catchy, listenable and great for a pit. This is all just personal preference. I certainly do not begrudge anyone who loves Machine Head but even the band’s most diehard fans may be unable to put a positive spin on their latest effort.
Bloodstone & Diamonds is part mainstream alternative metal and part experimental nightmare. Robb Flynn sure gave Avenged Sevenfold a ton of shit last year for releasing Hail To The King, an album that he and some others felt ripped off other artists and placated too much to the rock radio crowd. Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones. Machine Head’s new album is fraught with formulaic, uninspired alternative metal jams like “Beneath the Silt”, “Take Me Through the Fire” and the most radio friendly track of them all, “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones”. Not to mention that Flynn and the band do their best impression of Corey Taylor and Slipknot on “Killers & Kings”, “Night of Long Knives”, “Game Over” and “Eyes of the Dead”. Although the latter track is really really excellent. There is not a lot of their classic neo-thrash/groove sound to speak of here and there are far too many over produced clean vocals.
Now let’s discuss the other half of the album. The pretentiousness is thick with this one, Obi Wan. A band that has always been known for heavy, thick grooves that their fans love have cast that aside in favor of what they want to do. There is a lot of strange experimentation that does not work well with any of their particular talents. There are the weird symphonic elements of “Now We Die” and “In Comes the Flood”. “Sail Into the Black” is a very off putting track featuring chanting/droning vocals, piano and a horribly slow pace. It does include an excellent heavy portion but by that time, it is too little too late. “Damage Inside” was a super clean and slow ballad that may remind you a lot of Stone Sour. Then there is the spacy instrumental, “Imaginal Cells” with its mixed acoustic, electric arrangement overlaid with political soundbites. While I feel that evolution is important for bands, Machine Head just reached way too far here. Subtle changes that play to their strong suits would have made much more sense.
Although Bloodstone & Diamonds leaves a lot to be desired, it definitely has its strengths. The guitar work courtesy of Flynn and Phil Demmel is downright excellent. The album features some of the best lead riffs and solos of their careers and that’s saying a lot. As I mentioned above, “Eyes of the Dead” is solid. It is better than any other song on the album by leaps and bounds. It is classic Machine Head with fast, thrashy riffs and a ridiculous guitar solo. As much as I disliked the conventional sound of many of the songs on the album and I riffed negatively on the album’s sound exploration, “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones” provides a very pleasing listening experience and I absolutely loved its trippy guitars.
Bloodstone & Diamonds was disappointing to say the least. The band hinted all along that they were breaking new ground. I was excited by that prospect because it seemed like Machine Head was a group in desperate need of some different elements. However, now I realize that it would have been better if they had just left the soil undisturbed. Yes, it would have been more of the same but at least we would have something somewhat enjoyable to hear. It’s sort of unbelievable that they recently canceled a huge headlining tour with Children Of Bodom and Battlecross in order to spend more time on this album.
Changing things up is always a great idea but not at the expense of what got a band to the game. Bands should never over reach so far that they lose their identities totally. This is exactly what happened here. In their quest to do something different, Machine Head not only went miles beyond what fits with their sound but they also took about eight steps backwards into the run-of-the-mill metal mainstream. Having things pulling in two drastically different directions makes for a very disjointed album. Remember that ill advised dive they took into nu metal in the late 1990’s that even the band admits was a mistake? This is much much worse than that.
Bloodstone & Diamonds will be released on November 10, 2014 through Nuclear Blast. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can check out a free stream of the album HERE. Take a listen and then give us your thoughts in our comments section. Do you agree or was I way off? Let me know. I can take it.