Published Oct 04, 2011When San Francisco thrash metallers Machine Head dropped The Blackening back in 2007, it confused a lot of fans out there. The band had just left an ill-advised nu-metal era that went on for one uncomfortable album too long after dropping one of the best debut thrash albums of the '90s, Burn My Eyes. Add in tons of inter-band turmoil and conflict, and you get the impression it's not been an easy journey for the band so far.
But on their recently released new album, Unto the Locust, the band have taken their post-nu epic thrash sound to new heights, and the results are stunning.
"There were a lot of people telling us we should just play it safe," guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn tells Exclaim! in a recent interview. "We got Metallica tours and Grammy nominations, and if it ain't broke don't fix it. Maybe it's just our attention spans are really short, I'm not sure, but that just didn't appeal to us."
There is no playing it safe on the new album, which contains a mere seven songs, many of which stretch out to questionably long lengths, which Machine Head amazingly manage to pull off. Despite what Flynn calls the band's short attention span, they still manage to craft songs that sometimes push the ten-minute mark. Actually, he says it's because of their short attention span.
"There's a lot of things going on in the songs," he says. "We rarely have a bar go by without something changing, whether it's a drumbeat picking up, the riff changing, the vocal cadence changing... we still want to write songs in the classic pop sense of what a song is. But in the middle of it all we take the listener on a journey. We don't want riff soup; we don't want to be just sticking riffs in a row."
They also didn't want to just be repeating The Blackening, an album that put the band back on the thrash metal map after many years off of it. And while Unto the Locust certainly has similarities to that album, it really takes its blueprint and flies off the handle, honing the songwriting skills, stepping up the chops, doing everything one step better than its predecessor.
"For the whole last six months of The Blackening tour cycle, all that we heard, every day, every interview, first question: how are you going to top The Blackening?" says Flynn. "At first we didn't really know because we hadn't started writing yet. After a while it just got so fucking irritating hearing that. In some ways it lit a fire under our ass, like, alright, we're going to show you.
"It wasn't about bettering The Blackening. We're not trying to beat The Blackening. For us, it's not about comparing the two. We just wanted to make a record that will allow The Blackening to stand on its own legs, and make another record that could be different and stand on its own legs. And that's what we shot for. Whether we achieved it or not, that's for the world to decide."
Unto the Locust is out now on Roadrunner Records. You can read more of Exclaim!'s Machine Head interview here.