Complex and impressive.
There's one thing you can't deny about Machine Head, and that's that they have a massive sound, and so as you would expect, "The Blackening" their sixth full length album is loud, fast and incredibly heavy, but surprisingly it manages to be melodic and memorable as well. Despite last album "Through the Ashes of Empires" being heralded as a return to form for the band, they needed to continue the trend with a solid follow up. Luckily, it seems that M.H. have finally managed to produce an album that makes us want to forget their dodgy nu-metal days – this time they stay on the traditional side of metal, with a little (but not too much) prog injected to keep things interesting.
"The Blackening" is epic stuff from start to finish, never letting up the aggression and pace. Opener, 'Clenching the Fists of Dissent' clocks in at a mighty 10 minutes plus and starts with a gentle acoustic guitar leading into some military sounding drums before letting rip with a ferocious barrage of insane bpm, thunderous guitars and growling, and eventually, six minutes in we hear the first of the album's manic solo's. It's a really good start. The variety is what keeps this record interesting right until the end, even though the majority of the tunes come in at over eight minutes you stay hooked throughout because each track has something really distinctive about it. Memorable moments like the melodic croony vocal section on "Beautiful Mourning", the brilliant catchy riff at the beginning of 'Slanderous', the sheer intensity of the guitars on 'Halo' and the quiet reflective prog opening to final track 'A Farewell to Arms' make this an album that's really easy to get into.
The only minor issue on the record as a whole is the lyrics; Robb Flynn pens most of the tracks himself (though not all) and obviously has a lot to get off his chest, however, while they are obviously very overtly political, they can also be quite unsubtle and a little cheesy at times, but saying that, he does get his point across and there's no mistakes about where he's directing his anger. Overall though it's hard to find much to gripe about, this is an epic and complex metal album with aggressive but technically sound riffs, impressive pace and excellent production. Recommended.