Machine F**KING HEAD

It has been twenty years since Machine Head released their debut album Burn My Eyes. Think about that for a moment. Twenty years. Most bands don't even make it past ten. So here we sit, twenty years later with Bloodstone & Diamonds as the band's latest offering and whilst it is a lot different from Burn My Eyes it shares something quite key with that album - the fact that it is absolutely excellent. You can often look at Machine Head's career in two sections. There was the first wave leading them up to the conclusion of the Supercharger touring cycle and then came phase two, a reawakening if you will with Through The Ashes Of Empire. This new momentum ultimately led to one of the finest Metal albums of all time and a new focus and energy towards grander, more epic sounding tracks. This is no different here, with the average track time around 6-7 minutes long, each containing a phenomenal balance across an intricate weaving of different layers. Huge riffs? Check. Dual guitar solos? Check. Thunderous drumming? Check. String sections? That's right, check.

As the album opens with Now We Die you'll be slightly thrown by the sharp, dramatic strings section but as Robb Flynn's distinctive cries rip their way through we enter the familiar crushing world of Machine Head. Right from the off you'll forget all about the change at bass after Adam Duce's departure because the band sounds as tight and as impressive as ever. The strings reappear sporadically throughout the track, but if you're reading this thinking what on earth they're doing, it actually works spectacularly. Robb Flynn sounds as venomous as ever, with lyrics that will easily have crowds chanting along at live shows. And honestly, it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Structurally the tracks are of a similar mould to those found on The Blackening but as the album progresses it does feel like at times they've over-reached (much in the same way as Unto The Locust), but their desire to try new things, and expand their sound is admirable - check out Beneath The Silt and In Comes The Flood as the clearest examples here. Also if you think the intro for Now We Die is a bit nuts, throw Sail Into The Black on. The track has a brooding slow, intro which builds up to a phenomenal solo and it will be interesting to see if they crack this one out on the tour. Imaginal Cells is another interesting track, one that is effectively an instrumental track, as the band lay down the music which ends up being accompanied by some very politically driven statements taken from one can only assume some form of news piece or interview. Again interesting, one we'll likely see used as part of the interlude live.

Yet again with recent Machine Head releases, for so many of the tracks the absolute star of the show is Dave McClain on the drums. We're going to stick our necks out here and say that he has got to be one of the most underrated drummers in Metal. Robb Flynn is the General, Dave McClain is the Puppeteer. He drives each song on, with the sound mixing for the kit almost flawless.

So the verdict is in then, this is another excellent Machine Head album. We're living in the post The Blackening era, so naturally whether the band like it or not everything is going be drawn up in comparison to it. It is obviously not as good, and a little drawn out at times (quite a few of the tracks could be cut to make it more of a concise slab of chaos) but it is important to note that it is because of that album we're able to be treated to the kind of tracks that are on Bloodstone & Diamonds. One thing is for sure, this will be yet another Machine Head album which will divide opinion but no matter what you feel about the band, you cannot fault them when it comes to leaving absolutely everything they have on every release.