Machine Head
The Blackening
Style: Thrash Metal
Release date: March 23rd 2007

2 months have passed since this album saw the light of day, and I have been given it it's fair share of spins in my CD-player, sometimes many times in a row, sometime only once, and for the past 14 days it has only been gathering dust on the shelve. Something I now must admit I regret a lot...

I feel that Machine Head has been struggling to live up to their own very high standard, a standard they set with their groundbreaking debut album 'Burn My Eyes'. It set a new standard for modern day thrash metal and still does.

Many felt that their last album 'Through the Ashes of Empires' was a step in the right direction. I never really got that album under my skin, so when I put 'The Blackening' on for the first time I wasn't expecting a whole lot, and certainly wasn't expecting this massive wall of sound, which this impressive album turned out to be.

While many of the competitors tend to move towards death metal and play as hard and fast as possible, Machine Head has their focus on positive song writing. Fundamentals are still heavily based in neck-breaking fast thrash metal with razor-sharp breaks, which leads into dark and atmospheric soundscapes, acoustic parts and even some Rush-like high-tech progressive parts. The tempo constantly changes and I can understand why people tend to add the word progressive when they try to describe this new album, but mind you this is still faster, harder and heavier than 99% of your 'normal' progressive metal music.

Machine Head is still a full-blown attack on your senses; ultra-precise drumming and powerful double-bass attacks from Dave McClain, hard and aggressive shouting from Rob Flynn, and brilliant leads from Rob Flynn & Phil Demmel are just some of the ingredients, which makes this album their best and mature to date! They thrash and groove their way through eight brilliant songs. Most of the songs reach epic proportions, just take the excellent opener "Clenching the Fist of Dissent" with its 10 minutes plus. After a classic acoustic beginning this song pretty much sums up what Machine Head is all about right now.

Seven more follows, all of them representing smash-mouth thrash metal in its purest and best form. I do not understand why people compare this album with 'Master of Puppets', sure there is a good cover-version of "Battery" on the limited edition of this album, but this album has a lot more in common with Pantera's 'Vulgar Display of Power' in terms of powerful, fast thrash metal and style.

This is how I want my brutal, fast and aggressive thrash metal to sound! With this excellent piece of metal Machine Head has managed something I thought was impossible, they have surpassed their debut album and has delivered what surely will go down as one of this years best albums.

But this album has so much diversity and depth that it might take you way more spins than usual in your CD-player to fully open up and show it's true colours. It goes without saying that the production is of the highest standard, produced by Rob Flynn and mixed by Colin Richardson, so the pieces are in place and I feel Machine Head has taken advantage of situation and delivered an album, which others will be judged by.

All I want to do when the last tones of what I consider to be one of the best Machine Head song ever: "A Farewell to Arms" runs out is to push play once more and listen to this brilliant specimen of modern thrash metal. So with a few months delay I have finally come to terms with this excellent CD, a disc, which I feel is a mandatory buy for any fan of aggressive metal. I seriously doubt any album in this segment of metal will bring as much to the table as this masterpiece does.

Label: Roadrunner Records
Distribution: Bonnier/Amigo (Denmark)
Reviewed by: Kenn Jensen
Date: May 27th 2007