MACHINE HEAD – Through The Ashes Of Empires


Road Runner Records
Release Date: December 16, 2003

User Review
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Through their almost ten year long recording career Oakland’s very own metallers Machine Head have provided fans of heavy music with some classic albums, most notably their 1994 debut Burn My Eyes – no less than a milestone within modern metal – and 1997’s follow-up The More Things Change… which continued along the same path. Furthermore, enigmatic frontman Robb Flynn has always worn his heart on the sleeve, writing brutally honest and personal lyrics of much more profundity than what is usually the case with this type of music.

However, those first couple of albums it seems like the band lost their focus and stumbled into a creative deadlock. The following releases were thus mediocre at best; The Burning Red was all but stripped of memorable tunes, a wicked cover of old The Police-classic “Message in a Bottle” being the only highlight. 2001’s easily forgotten Supercharger did nothing to alter the picture of a struggling band. This year’s live outing Hell alive only confirmed the weaknesses in Machine Head’s latest material compared to the early stuff. It’s thus somewhat of a paradox that I should happen to write these words in my (largely negative) review of Hell alive earlier this year: “We’ll just have to wait eagerly on Machine Head’s next studio effort and hope for a return to form, which will give them some new classics to perform live”

Well, what can I say? Obviously, my prayers have been heard – Through the Ashes of Empires signals a breathtaking return to form. It’s easily their best album since Burn My Eyes. What have they done to rediscover former strengths? The answer is that they’ve simply returned to the magical formula of those early days. That means less pointless experimenting and more focus on what Machine Head does better than most of their contemporaries: Writing hard-hitting, yet inventive, songs with catchy choruses. There are no weak tracks on this album. That in itself is a seldom luxury these days. In fact, there are so many ace tracks here that it is really difficult to pick any clear favorites. Mighty opener “Emperium” sets the tone with its brilliant and powerful riffing. This is Machine Head at their meanest! “Bite the Bullet” and “Left Unfinished” are almost thrashy in their configuration and both very strong songs. The ultracool “Elegy” shows Robb Flynn’s ability to vary his singing, which ,by the way, is very convincing throughout the entire album. Closing track “Descend the Shades of Night” includes a neat acoustic guitar and leaves you begging for more. Unfortunately, there are only ten songs on this album, but when they are of such high quality you can’t really complain, can you now? A very warm welcome back to Machine Head, then…

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