So, Machine Head have gone all nu-metal again have they?
In that case, we’ll just come straight out and say it. We’re fans of The Burning Red, it deserves more love and the likes of “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, “Exhale The Vile” and “Nothing Left” are rip-roaring groove monsters, thrashy as fuck and laced with rap-metal attitude. However, “Bulldozer” aside, the less said about 2001’s Supercharger the better.
It’s rare to find anyone willing to discuss these albums – nevermind sing their praises – but with Catharsis, Machine Head have completed their unholy nu-metal trilogy and it’s going to divide opinion more than any other album in 2018, that’s for damn sure!
Exactly why we are back in nu metal territory is anyone’s guess but Machine Head have always dabbled in hip-hop and rap and were just as at home with the likes of Biohazard and Downset as they were with Slayer when Burn My Eyes arrived on the scene in ’94. Just because Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel were in Vio-Lence together doesn’t mean shit in 2018 and, with a back catalogue as impressive as it is, Machine Head have earned the right to dabble in any sub-genre they wish. And that includes nu metal!
One thing is for sure though, long term fans who hated The Burning Red and Supercharger are going to leave the Machine Head fold in droves. Catharsis is not a grower or a game-changer but if recent interviews are anything to go by, Robb Flynn is “sick of your shit” anyway and he’s not written Catharsis for anyone but himself….hence the album title!
Which begs the question, how the fuck do Phil Demmel, Dave McClain and Jared MacEachern feel about this album? Considering it has the capability of derailing the upward career trajectory Machine Head have experienced since Through The Ashes Of Empires saved them from potential obscurity the last time an album like Catharsis was released, you’d think they’d be nervously waiting a backlash not seen since……well, Supercharger. Regardless, all 3 of Robb Flynn’s compadres deliver decent performances but behind the scenes you’ve got to wonder if this dictatorship will ruin the reputation of 15+ years of stellar releases. Time will tell.
We digress, on to the music.
With 15 tracks to get through, this monster of an album can feel like a marathon so we’ll focus on the songs that stand out; the good, the bad and those that nestle in between. As already discussed across internet-land, the main riff of “Beyond The Pale” is a complete rip-off of Strapping Young Lad’s “Love” and if you can’t get past that fact, you’ll find no merit in the song whatsoever. Which is a shame, as it’s actually pretty good, a nu-metal affair that packs a considerable punch but accusations of plagiarism will plague this track for a long time.
“Bastards” has been widely discussed and is a complete Machine Head anomaly. We’re still confused by it.
“Hope Begets Hope” is fairly by the numbers but it at least sounds like the Machine Head we know and love, and while “Behind The Mask” may be another departure, it’s a simply beautiful song that’s quite stunning and showcases a level of maturity not often explored. In direct contrast, “Psychotic” and “Grind You Down” are modern day Slipknot diatribes; so angry, emotional, opinionated and laced with melody, the influence of Corey Taylor practically feels like an elephant in the room! They’re neanderthal when compared to “Behind The Mask” but hit you square in the gut in a fashion not dissimilar to “Ten Ton Hammer”.
The ‘real’ nu metal moments are “Kaleidoscope” – which could be taken from the new Papa Roach album – while “Triple Beam” feels like a Spineshank off-cut…..and these are not bands you expect to be referencing when reviewing Machine Head. These comparisons don’t make them bad tracks per se, just not what was expected from the musicians behind “Davidian”, “Aesthetics Of Hate”, “Locust” and “Imperium”.
Perhaps that’s the issue here? Sky-high expectation.
Machine Head have been on such an untouchable run that Catharsis will simply be too much of a change for fans who bordered the MH train after the release of Through The Ashes Of Empires or The Blackening. Those who’ve been around the block since “Block” (natch) will be a little more familiar with this incarnation of Machine Head, having experienced the surprising transition from The More Things Change to The Burning Red, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll want to repeat the process nearly 20 years later.
One thing is for sure, in 2018 everyone will be talking about Catharsis. Whether they like it or not is another matter entirely. 7/10