Sunday 28 January 2018

Album Review: MACHINE HEAD - Catharsis

Machine Head - Catharsis

01. Volatile
02. Catharsis
03. Beyond the Pale
04. California Bleeding
05. Triple Beam
06. Kaleidoscope
07. Bastards
08. Hope Begets Hope
09. Screaming At The Sun
10. Behind A Mask
11. Heavy Lies The Crown
12. Psychotic
13. Grind You Down
14. Razorblade Smile
15. Eulogy

I have a love/hate relationship with Machine Head. I remember seeing them on their first UK tour, supporting Slayer on their 'Divine Intourvention', and buying their debut Burn My Eyes at the earliest opportunity. It's fair to say that I've followed them through their entire career. While many fans abandoned them when their Nu Metal third album The Burning Red came out, I loved it. However, I've been disappointed with every Machine Head album ever since. Some have one or two good songs on them, but I'd struggle to make a single great record out of all the tracks they've released since the confusing Supercharger album. I particularly hated The Blackening, and that whole era where they were clearly trying to ride the coattails of Trivium

Despite having previously given up on Machine Head, I decided to give Catharsis a listen, as so many fans online seemed to dislike it. When it comes to this band, the masses and I haven't agreed on anything for quite some time, so this negativity aimed towards Catharsis was actually a beacon of hope for me. 

To my ears, this new record sounds like a mix between all of the first three albums, in both terms of production and song writing. It has the heavy crunch, intense riffing and Hardcore savagery of Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change... coupled with the groove and bounce factor of The Burning Red. There is a little bit of Rap too, most notably on the track Triple Beam, which sounds like it's straight out of the late 90's.

There are some curveball tracks such as the electro-acoustic Behind a Mask, the trippy Eulogy and the Punk edged Kaleidoscope which are all refreshingly different, yet still sound like Machine Head. However, there's still plenty of material that's crushingly heavy and familiar sounding, even if it's interspliced with a bit more melody than expected.

Bastards is a real gem on this album. It's an emotive protest song, and is closer to something you'd expect from Rise Against than Machine Head, both lyrically and musically. Some of the best songs ever written are political, and the only people who seem to have a problem with them are the ones whose views differ greatly from that of the song. I'm sure that the racist minority will hate Bastards, but for most fans, myself included, the song strikes a chord with everyone who feels that the world is moving further in a more hateful, ignorant and fearful direction. It's a passionate track, and a brave choice of single too, given today's political climate.

Catharsis is a very good album, with enough superb songs to make it a significant chapter in the band's legacy. Personally, I think it's easily the best album they've released since The Burning Red. However, I appreciate that it's probably not the album many fans initially wanted from Machine Head, but I do believe that this one is like a fine wine, getting better with age, and will be looked at very fondly in hindsight.


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