Machine Head has been on a roll. Since releasing the abysmal "Supercharger," each release has been even better than the one before it. This culminated with the brilliant "Unto
the Locust," which was basically their masterpiece. Where could Robb Flynn and company go from there? "Bloodstone and Diamonds" is the result and, unfortunately,
it breaks the streak of outdoing their last release. Granted, that was a daunting task.
The main problem I have with this album is that it's wildly inconsistent. For every great track that could sit alongside anything off of "Unto
the Locust" (such as "Now We Die" or "Sail into the Black"), there are so many mediocre tracks. The album is VERY long at over 71 minutes, so perhaps eliminating some of the weaker tracks would help. On the weak side, you have "Killers and Kings," a generic track with gang vocals on the chorus. I've never liked gang vocals because they seem so cheesy in this day and age.
Robb has also gone back to his over-the-top, neurotic vocal style at times, which I have always found annoying. Check out "Game Over," which has both that vocal style AND gang vocals. The
continual narration over "Imaginal Cells" might be the point of the track, but it's so annoying
that it renders the song a one-time-only listen. The shouting of "hey hey" on the closing track "Take Me Through
the Fire" is also incredibly cheesy.
On the positive side, "Now We Die" sounds like it could have been on the last album, complete with orchestration. The epic "Sail into the Black" is one of the best songs the band has ever done. And "Damage Inside" is a quiet number that is intelligent and unique in the band's catalog due to its style. So "Bloodstone and Diamonds" is a real Jeckyl and Hyde album. I suppose it was impossible to top the last record, but at least with the release of this album, the next album has a good shot of being better.