Unto the Locust
Doing what they do best even better than before
No one could ever have thought that the band that delivered the brilliant debut Burn My Eyes would be on the verge of extinction less than ten years later. But in the period leading up to 2003’s Through The Ashes Of Empires, after an equally brilliant sophomore effort (1997’s The More Things Change) and two less than well received follow ups (1999’s The Burning Red and 2001’s Supercharger), Machine Head were a band without a label in their own country and down one full time guitarist. But they were not out. The events that followed – the remaining core nucleus of the group (vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn, drummer Dave McClain and bassist Adam Duce) bunkering down and writing an album true to their roots, and the eventual recruitment of guitarist Phil Demmel – saw the group return to the world stage in an unimaginable manner via 2003’s very well received Through The Ashes Of Empires. But it would be 2007’s mighty juggernaut The Blackening that would see the quartet tour the world several times for the next three or so years.
The critical acclaim and success of The Blackening would leave the metal world wondering just how Machine Head would follow it up. The answer finally comes in the form of the band’s seventh studio effort, Unto The Locust. Firstly, there’s no nine or ten minute epic numbers this time around but rest assured that the seven tracks contained within (clock in at around 49 minutes in total) are more complex and more epic sounding than ever. Flynn’s confessed classical musical lessons have clearly had a big impact on the material as clean classical guitars appear several times and the complexity of classical compositions has also made its way into Unto The Locust as a whole as well.
“But The Blackening was complex,” I hear you say. Yes it was, sure, but when you consider the compact nature of the songs here, complexity and intensity levels have been upped quite a bit. At the same time, there is plenty of room for soaring choruses – the groove heavy Be Still And Know, the blistering This Is The End and the epic finale Who We Are all deliver a welcomed return of Flynn’s clean vocals. But that’s not the only surprise on here. The emotion filled Darkness Within begins with a gentle combination of Flynn’s vocals and clean guitars as Flynn pours his heart into some deep, emotional and heartfelt lyrics. It’s definitely a song that sees the band pushing things well beyond what we have come to expect and the song absolutely shines as the centrepiece of an almost flawless album.
I say almost flawless as Pearls Before The Swine doesn’t quite hit the same mark as the rest of the album. It’s not a bad song per se, just not the same calibre as the rest of the material on offer here. It’s very minor blip though when you look at how the album finishes with the blistering Who We Are. The intro features “singing” by several children (including Flynn and Demmel’s own offspring amongst others) and what follows is nothing short of brilliant and will leave you wanting more. Once again it’s just another flawless closing track from these Oakland metallers.
Machine Head have done the unthinkable yet again. They have topped the album that kept the band on the road for the best part of several years. Unto The Locust is slightly more compact overall but at the same time, it’s overflowing with the group’s most complex and ambitious arrangements to date. To top it off, it has been executed to perfection. If you thought The Blackening was the album of their career, then you’re going to want to rethink that after hearing this one. Unto The Locust is that fucking good and proof that this band just gets better and better with each release.
(Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia)