MACHINE HEAD Bloodstone & Diamonds: Album Review

by Mike Lawrence on November 6, 2014

Machine Head-Bloodstone & Diamonds-review

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.

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

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.

Rating: 2/5

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

lasciv November 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm

word

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lasciv November 6, 2014 at 3:25 pm

rather buy overkill, exodus or cannibal corpse

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Mike Lawrence November 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Agreed. All much better albums

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Jordan November 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Dispicable review. Fantastic album

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Mike Lawrence November 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for us. Just an opinion though.

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Treph November 9, 2014 at 6:38 am

The review reads like it was written by someone who ‘really’ doesn’t like the band. To compare the ambition and experimentation on B&D to Robb Flynn’s remarks on A7X (what an awful band that is) is ridiculous IMO. Truly laughable in fact. On first listen I wasn’t sure what to think but after one day with the CD and several spins it just ‘clicked.’ I honestly think that if you listen to this record with an open mind and no preconceptions, chances are you’ll end up liking or even loving it. This is a daring, challenging, ambitious and ultimately successful album, one of MH’s best make no mistake.

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Mike Lawrence November 9, 2014 at 9:23 am

Treph. I actually like the band’s music quite a bit. What I said in the review is that I do not understand their immense popularity. I absolutely went into it with an open mind because the band had said previously that it was much different. That intrigued me a ton because I thought they could benefit from a few new wrinkles. However, it felt like some things went way too far and others were an attempt at more radio friendly more formulaic radio friendly metal. This was a surprise because Flynn was so critical of A7X for doing the same thing (Also I agree A7X is awful). I listened to this record 10 times and it got worse every time. Just my opinion but because the album had both heavy experimentation and formulaic alt metal, it was just way too disjointed. New wrinkles that fit their talents mixed with their more traditional sound would have been plenty of change. This went way too far forward and backward where it’s hardly recognizable as a Machine Head album.

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Treph November 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I respect your opinion but I suppose you either connect with a band or you don’t. I’m a longtime fan, actually bought BME the day it was released in 94.’ I connected with the first 5 records and while I think The Blackening and UTL are solid efforts displaying good musicianship for the most part they just left me cold. B & D is the first Machine Head album since 2003 that gave me goosebumps. On first listen I seriously wasn’t sure but after a few listens it clicked and each day a song that I may have disliked on first listen reveals more layers. MH chose not to get stuck in a rut and instead have made an ambitious and challenging record which I think is going to be a grower album for many people, if they give it a chance. ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Game over’ will be future MH classics for sure but I’m not saying it’s perfect either (‘Night of long knives’ is a low point for me but then UTL had ‘who we are’) and a couple of tracks don’t veer too far from the UTL sound and whilst being heavy are a little formulaic (‘Eyes of the dead’ ‘K&K’). As for the Corey Taylor comparisons I also find that rather amusing as I’d say it was more a case of Taylor being influenced by Flynn if anything. Also lol at ‘Flynn being so critical of A7X for doing the ‘same thing’ uggh please this is a long way from being a radio friendly covers album! I for one don’t think it’s ‘unbelievable’ that the band decided to spend more time on this record. This is their life, their art. They had to do it, concert dates can be rearranged. My advice is to give this record a little time and you may enjoy it, I’m fairly sure that 90% of MH fans will find something to get excited about on Bloodstone & Diamonds, I hope so for you all anyway. Cheers.

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Jax November 9, 2014 at 8:57 am

I have been a huge Machine Head fan for close to 20 years now and I can tell you that this review is spot on. Robb and the guys went way too far with their attempt at trying to do something different. They totally lost their way and came up with something that doesn’t fit with the rest of their catalog. The album is all over the place. The vocals are way overdone and sound like many other popular acts out there. I thought the Corey Taylor comparison was interesting. I never thought of it quite that way but the vocals are not good nonetheless. Where are the signature heavy grooves and kick ass songs? I am fully disappointed with this one.

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