Machine Head The Blackening

What the hell is going on here? A look through the track listing for this eight-song disc from Machine Head shows a heck of a lot of nine- and ten-minute tracks, including the first song on the album, which clocks in at ten minutes and 27 seconds. Boy, last time I checked in with this band they were hopping on the teenie metal train with pretty lukewarm results, a far cry from the thrashing majesty of album number one all those years ago. But man, does that first song, "Clenching the Fists of Dissent,” ever smoke; it’s epic but not boring, raging and angry but not angst-y, with some good solos to boot. It’s too bad the rest of the album doesn’t hold up. The clean singing on "Beautiful Mourning” is so positively uninspiring it killed my whole afternoon and "Aesthetics of Hate,” while a bit of a thrash rager, with great riffs, is just too long, much like every other song here. With songs that dip way too deep into the well of nu metal and others that just barely exist, this one ends up going in one ear and out the other, even after repeat listens. Bizarre, but at least they’re trying something different. And hey, one ten-minute tune that totally smokes isn’t bad, I guess. (Roadrunner)