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About Machine Head
If heavy music stands for anything, it’s freedom. Formed in Oakland, California in 1991, Machine Head have forged a formidable reputation and huge global fan base by never surrendering their artistic liberty or compromising their belief in the power of heaviness. Exploding into the consciousness of metalheads worldwide with their seminal 1994 debut album Burn My Eyes, the band led by singer/guitarist Robb Flynn have consistently raged against the grain, producing a steady stream of lead-heavy but fiendishly inventive modern metal records that have both defined and redefined the sound of metal in the 21st century.
From ground-breaking triumphs like 1999’s The Burning Red to the planet-conquering might of 2007’s The Blackening, which saw the band traverse the globe several times as headliners and as main support to both Metallica and Slipknot, Machine Head have remained at the forefront of heavy music with ease. Meanwhile, their reputation as one of metal’s most potent and unifying live bands has long been beyond dispute.
Recent years have seen Machine Head gaining momentum and confidence. The release of 2014’s universally lauded Bloodstone And Diamonds album and the subsequent birth of Machine Head’s ‘An Evening With’… shows – several hours of Machine Head, no support band, guaranteed fan satisfaction! – have all added fuel to the band’s already blazing fire, and 2018 promises to be their biggest and best year yet, starting with the release of long-awaited ninth album Catharsis.
A full-throttle rollercoaster through every facet of Machine Head’s increasingly diverse sound, Catharsis looks certain to be one of 2018’s most acclaimed metal records, not to mention one of precious few that dares to confront the harsh realities of the world. From the explosive opening salvo of “Volatile” (written and recorded the day of the Charlottesville, VA murders) to the soaring melodies and spine-tingling, cinematic-grandeur of the title track onwards, the band’s ninth studio album lives up to its name, delivering an exhilarating tsunami of emotions, both positive and negative.
“This album is like a movie… a really looong movie… Lord Of The Rings-type stuff!” laughs frontman Robb Flynn. “There are a lot of special songs on this record, and of course, whenever you finish an album, you always feel proud, but this time… we’ve got something really special here. We can feel it. We know it. Nine albums deep, it would be really easy for us to coast and write some middle of the road shit that won’t offend anybody, but we pushed ourselves, and pushed the limits of what we felt Machine Head could be.”
Offering vast quantities of style and substance, Catharsis is a 75-minute, 15-track eruption of pain and fury, hope and joy, melody and savagery. By far the most hard-hitting album Machine Head have ever made, both musically and lyrically, it sustains their long tradition of writing songs about the real world and the authentic, heartfelt emotions that define the human condition. Instant classics like the thunderous, riff-driven “Beyond The Pale”, the lurching grooves and drug-dealer poetry of “Triple Beam” and the grinding psychedelia of “Kaleidoscope“ are among the most evocative and powerful that Flynn and his decades-long band-mates, drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Phil Demmel have penned to date, while snarling, thrash’n’roll bruisers like “California Bleeding” and the Lemmy-saluting “Razorblade Smile“ revel in Machine Head’s thuggish, obnoxious side. All human life is here, expressed with maximum honesty and brute force.
“When we were writing the record I’d get up at 4.30 in the morning, damn near every day, and I’d just write lyrics,” Robb recalls. “80% was garbage, but 20% of it was gold, and the things I liked this time round were just really clear, really straight ahead, completely non- metaphorical, coarse, vulgar language. The language of hip hop, the language of how people speak in the streets, how we speak now. I didn’t want somebody to go ‘Oh I wonder if he’s talking about…’ No, you know exactly what the fuck I’m singing about. It may not be for everyone, but we’re releasing an incredible amount of emotions on this album.”
In the era of short attention spans, Machine Head are proudly going against the grain on Catharsis, delivering a bona fide musical journey that demands total immersion and surrender to the album’s dramatic peaks and troughs. Long-time fans will be immediately sated by the crushing heaviness of songs like historical epic “Heavy Lies The Crown”, which tells the tale of Louis XI, the ‘Spider King’ of France, and the swaggering crunch of the grunge-tinged “Screaming At The Sun”. Meanwhile, Machine Head are conquering fresh territory on Catharsis, via the deeply poignant folk-punk curveball of “Bastards“ and the all-acoustic melancholy of “Behind A Mask”, one of numerous songs that showcase the blossoming vocal harmony partnership between Flynn and bassist Jared MacEachern.
“We’ve got some brutal shit on the record, some classic Machine Head ragers,” Robb grins. “But we also have straight up pop elements. When I think of pop, my earliest influences were The Beatles, the early-Beatles, the ‘Love Me Do‘,‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’-Beatles, because my parents wouldn’t let me listen to the drugged-out hippie-Beatles!” Flynn laughs. “We started doing a lot more vocal harmonies and we’ve really explored that on this record. There’s a lot of melody and a lot of singing. It was Jared and me, 50/50, John and Paul kinda vibe!”
Notorious in recent times for following their own defiant and idiosyncratic path, Machine Head are both godfathers of the modern metal realm and instinctive outsiders, ploughing their own unique furrow. Catharsis once again highlights the intense individuality that has long set the band apart from the crowd, not least through the album’s overwhelming sense of collective chemistry and shared adrenalin: this is a real, living, breathing and hard-working heavy metal band.
“These days that’s a weird thing, four guys getting together in a room and all writing together,” Robb notes. “We don’t just email riffs around to each other. We get together, we collaborate, we go through all the highs, we go through the lows. We went on this journey together and everybody contributed, forming it into what it became. And I think knowadays, it’s easy to forget… it takes a lot of goddamn work to be a band! People always ask, ‘why was music so much better before?‘ Because bands worked hard! You hear about The Beatles jamming in Hamburg for 100 days in-a-row, or Springsteen’s recording ‘Born To Run‘ for 6 months, or Skynard rehearsing for 6 hours a day in a hot-ass swamp in Florida… to us, that’s why that music was so powerful back then… they worked their asses off to stay a band, and create as a band.”
An epic demonstration of their growing power as a band, Catharsis may well be the finest record Machine Head have ever made. Whatever happens next, however, the band will unquestionably continue to do things their own way, not least on stage. Having firmly established their widely praised ‘An Evening With’ gigs as the ultimate Machine Head live experience, Robb Flynn and his comrades will be keeping that wheel spinning as the hardest touring band of the last 25 years.
“I feel like metal could really infiltrate the mainstream with this album. And it needs to… now more than ever. A lot of consideration went into making these songs more identifiable to a wider audience. Simplifying ideas, simplifying hooks, really concentrating on story-telling as opposed to ‘brutal poetry’ or whatever. And while I’d love to say it was all some grand-plan, there was no ‘plan’” Flynn adds laughing. “You never know where you’re going to end up when you start writing a record… you just write… but I tell ya what… we ended up with a landmark here. An album that has the potential to be huge. If people get behind this, believe in this… Catharsis could really elevate our genre here.
“Right now, with an album like Catharsis under their collective belts, this band look, sound and feel unstoppable.