Brutal truth both on and off stage
After speculation and loose discussion of a Machine Head video release, the wait is finally over. At a time where the band are enjoying a resurgence in not only the strength of their music but in their fan base as well, the timing is perfect for the San Francisco Bay Area (California, U.S.A.) based quartet to satisfy the hunger of long time fans who have stood by the band through the good and the bad. On the back of their 2003 album Through The Ashes Of Empires (which received a release the following year with a bonus track Seasons Wither in their home country), the band (who are vocalist/guitarist Robert Flynn, lead guitarist Phil Demmel, bassist Adam Duce and drummer Dave McClain) toured the world playing to packed out houses before settling on a show at London's (U.K.) Brixton Academy in December 2004 for their first ever DVD release, Elegies.
The main feature as you'd expect is the 90 minute concert itself to a sell out crowd at the Brixton Academy that represents a solid cross section of the band's catalogue including classics such as Old, Ten Ton Hammer and Block as well as newer material such as Imperium and Seasons Wither. There are a couple of sublime moments in the band's performance of The Burning Red, In The Presence Of My Enemies and Descend The Shades Of Night as well. The solid, massive wall of sound that strikes a match between the band's performance and the audience's reactions is well mixed and sounds very good but only being encoded in Dolby Digital Stereo is a little disappointing. It would be a much more enveloping experience if that audio was able to make use of a full 5.1 digital surround system. Having said that, there's plenty of bass rumbling from McClain's kit and Duce's bass to keep any subwoofer busy and Flynn's vocals are as strong as ever as is his lead and rhythm work along side that of Demmel. Visually, there are plenty of cameras that capture every essence of Machine Head live with all band members getting their fair share of camera time. Whilst the footage is good, the use of effects (such as adding grain or the “old film” scratches and lines) is excessive at times. It doesn't really detract from the concert itself but it does feel a tad overused throughout the course of the concert.
The concert has two viewing modes - Concert Movie or Concert Only. The former includes two chapters of “on tour” footage including Flynn and Co. discussing life on the bus, instore appearances and touring as well as plenty of additional footage such as the Through The Ashes Of Empires karaoke contestants and a certain, rarely seen touring persona by the name of Rufus. As the name suggests, the Concert Only option allows for those who prefer to experience a concert with no interruptions (akin to being there) to do just that. Props to Machine Head for providing that option! As you'd expect from just about any band's DVD nowadays, there are several film clips included in Imperium, Days Turn Blue To Grey (both from Through The Ashes Of Empires) and the Hellalive clip for The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears; all of which also include Making Of segments which are chock full of behind the scenes footage and interviews for each clip.
By far the most interesting extra feature on Elegies is the band's brutally honest 30 minute documentary simply titled The Making Of The Album. Flynn, Duce and McClain describe their torment, inner turmoil and fears as they tell the band's story since the release of Supercharger in September 2001. Amongst other things, they discuss the departure of Ahrue Luster (who replaced original guitarist Logan Madder and has since joined Ill Nino), the uncertainty that lay ahead in the wake of parting ways with Roadrunner Records, Demmel's temporary recruitment and eventual permanent enrolment, the soul destroying process of demoing to major labels and the harsh reality that the band may have reached it's end. As the band continued in the face of adversity, the documentary soon becomes a story of triumph as Through The Ashes Of Empires is released to critical acclaim.
During the interviews on this DVD, renowned metal journalist Steffan Chirazi summed things up perfectly when he said “I think one of the things with Machine Head that you can always say is that their honesty has been absolutely prevalent throughout everything they've done. If they've made mistakes, they've made mistakes honestly. I think Machine Head's career is a testament to their absolute honesty, passion and ultimate triumph.” Elegies definitely presents a band who have ultimately triumphed and there is nothing more honest and passionate than what the band have captured and presented on this release.
(Roadrunner Records/Universal Music Distribution)