Machine Head - Unto The Locust
Three years ago Machine Head unleashed arguably one of the finest metal albums, well, ever; The Blackening is without doubt a remarkable and brilliant record that refines and distills all the elements of modern metal into one perfectly formed hour of headbanging ecstasy. So how the hell do you follow a trick like that? Initial impressions are that Unto The Locust is not much more than seven variations upon the track 'Halo', the zenith of its predecessor with its intricate, yet melodic guitar work - but a few more spins soon disabuses anyone of that falsity, and the highly addictive complexity of the record begins to emerge.
The opening 'I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)' sees Machine Head start as they mean to go on, the track weaving its way through multiple movements as the eight and a half minutes fly by. Despite the extended length of most tracks on Unto The Locust, none feel drawn out or overly long, instead shifting and evolving gracefully and never getting bogged down. The following 'Be Still And Know' is as about straightforward as the band have been in years, and proves they don't have to complicate matters to still write a bloody good song.
This record once again sees Machine Head so beautifully combine the holy trinity of technical prowess, unbridled heaviness, and deft songwriting. This is no more so apparent than on the sublime 'Locust', a track expertly balanced between crushing weight and melodic potency; the riffs are instantly memorable, and will have you coming back for them time and time again. Add to this a crisp yet punchy mix that doesn't skimp on the bottom end, and you have a headbanger's dream (and neighbour's nightmare...)
Things drop a few gears and grow dramatically bleaker for the introspective 'Darkness Within', an acoustic led track with what appear to be autobiographical lyrics from frontman Robb Flynn. Talking about the power of music, this is one of his finest moments as a wordsmith, with lines like "So pray to music, build a shrine / Worship in these desperate times / Fill your heart with every note / Cherish it and cast afloat" that will resonate with many a soul to whom music is so important.
Unto The Locust triumphantly closes with 'Who We Are'; introduced by a chorus of kids, this marks an almost perfect summation of what Machine Head have been producing over the last few albums. Probably the most melodious composition the band have ever unveiled, it is both definitely Machine Head with its coarse hatred and spitting bile, yet also something more as elements of pop-inclined rock worm their way in; the result is a jubilant rattle through a blinding slice of catchy metal.
I think it can be agreed that Unto The Locust might not have the magic that made The Blackening quite so special, but what Machine Head have succeeded in producing is a great record that has its own identity. This isn't just the regurgitation of an acknowledged modern classic, but an album with its own merits and character: a blistering dose of fantastic thrash.