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From 1998 to 2002 it seemed there were three bands I would see at least once every nine months by pure happenstance. Sevendust, Coal Chamber, and Machine Head. Always opening for a band I was there to see or playing to early risers at festivals. It just seemed I couldn’t go too long without seeing them. While I saw Machine Head around five times in that four year period. It wasn’t until the release of 2007’s Unto The Locust that I actually paid attention. Had I been the self-proclaimed respected rock journalist at that time that I am now (thanks, Loose Cannon), that record undoubtedly would’ve been in the conversation for record of the year.
Seven years and two albums later, Machine Head are back with Catharsis. A record with only one glaring weakness upon arrival. It’s too long. 15 tracks totaling almost an hour and twenty minutes. In this era of short attention spans its unlikely the songs after the 50-minute mark will resonate with the average listener. That’s not to say the songs aren’t good. They are. It’s just that the Super Album isn’t necessary and tends to bore. Put it this way. Do you really want a four hour Star Wars movie? Hmm. Probably not the best analogy.
That aside, Catharsis is pretty fucking good. As much as Locust will probably always be my personal favorite record. Catharsis is probably the most complete Machine Head record. At times it goes back to Machine Head‘s Nu-Metal roots. And occasionally it reminds you of their hip-hop influence. And at other times it is fucking classic thrash. And before you know it you are entrenched in an epic metal odyssey ala Unto The Locust.
It opens with “Volatile”. A blistering assault in the vein of Slipknot‘s “The Heretic Anthem”. A brutal aural assault followed by the title track. Which may be the closest thing to Locust you will hear on this record. It almost serves as a reminder just how good the guitar work in this band is. “California Bleeding” is Nu-Metal. I am reminded how fun and influential that whole scene was.
The rap is back with “Triple Beam” along with some Nu-Metal. “Kaleidoscope” sounds like some of the Warped Tour hardcore. “Bastards” is a great song with brilliantly written current state commentary with melody and aggression. But it’s after this that the record takes on a weight for the listener. Which kind of sucks because “Hope Begets Hope”, “Behind The Mask” and “Heavy Lies The Crown” are great tracks. And it is so fun to relive the late 90’s/early 00’s with tracks like “Psychotic” and the Slipknot inspired “Grind You Down”.
As good as those songs are it feels like they are speed bumps on the way to the record closer “Eulogy” with its tip of the hat homage to “Bastards”. Nitpicking aside, this is an album that begins as strong as it ends. Anger. Execution. Deliverance. Robb Flynn cemented his place in Metal lore long ago. Catharsis does nothing to set that back.
As someone who has been tasked with sharing an opinion, I can respect that for some fans this record may be hard to accept. No one is wrong for not liking something. Until they insist the artist was wrong for doing it. There are plenty of examples of a band I dig doing something I didn’t. And the only time it’s wrong was when it was clear or seemed like they didn’t try or were going through the motions on order from a suit. This isn’t a label ordered cash grab covers record. This is Machine Head 2018.