2012
10.22

From WheelScene magazine, November 2011.

The Oxford Dictionary describes locust as:
noun
A large grasshopper with strong powers of flight. From time to time it migrates and causes extensive damage.

In a way, this insect shares a work ethic with American metallers Machine Head. Their last release, 2007’s The Blackening, sent them on an extensive tour which included several treks across the world, during which they rubbed shoulders and shared bills with Metallica, Slipknot and Heaven & Hell. Such tireless globetrotting cemented them as one of the most defended and most sought-after bands in heavy metal, vocalist Robb Flynn recently revealing his fear for the fans’ safety amidst the intense frenzies that the band invokes in their live audiences. Now, after a well-earned rest and with the release of new record Unto The Locust, the destructive Californians are ready to swarm the world once again.

Taking a four-year gap between releases, for a contemporary band, can be a risky affair. Fame is a fickle mistress and, in a seemingly constant stream of new talent, it would be unsurprising if she were to find a new dance partner. Machine Head fans, however, simply grow hungrier, seemingly never satiated by the band’s semi-regular visits during the lengthy gaps between albums.
“Our process is that when we finish the tour cycle for an album, we write for the next one.” drummer Dave McClain tells WheelScene. “After The Blackening tour, we went our separate ways for a while. Robb and Phil have families, so they had spent some time at home. A few months later, we got together and started piecing together ideas that we’d came up with over the three years on the road.”

The end result is a tour de force of crushing grooves, wailing guitars and sneering riffs but, while it’s unmistakably the same band, the cogs of the machine have been oiled and are now turning in new directions. It opens with layers of haunting Gregorian chants and ends with a choir of children, while sandwiched between are classical melodies, folksy flirtings, and edgings into darker territory.
“It’s not ‘The Blackening Part II’.” states Dave with an insistent air of confidence. “It continues our progression over the last three records. That’s something we haven’t really had a chance to do, since pretty much all of our other albums have had a line-up change of some sort. It’s great to have the same four people for so long. It’s like a sports team; you have the nucleus of the good players, you go on to win, and then you bring the same people back next season.”

The Head have never an act to be shy and reserved about their opinions, and this offering is no different with its insights into the obsession, madness, betrayal and desperation present in today’s world. Perhaps the best example of this is their 2007 track Aesthetics of Hate, written in response to an article in which conservative writer William Grim insulted murdered Pantera guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott. Flynn’s rebuttal of “you son of a bitch / I hope you rot in Hell” was obviously a popular one, as the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 50th Grammy Awards that same year. This lyrical honesty is what Dave believes inspires such devotion in fans.
“I think the stuff that Robb sings about strikes a chord in a lot of people.” he muses. “They’re very emotionally-charged lyrics, and I think people hear that honesty in his voice. They hear music on the radio and have no emotional attachment to it, but we’ve built ourselves on our interaction with fans. During our concerts, whether you’re by the soundboard or on the balcony, Robb, as a frontman, can make you feel like part of the show.”

The singer also donned his producing hat once more, focusing his “very strong vision” to shape the album into one that, in time, may prove to be their definitive work.
“Robb wasn’t credited on the albums with other producers, but he was always basically co-producing.” reveals Dave. “He’s very headstrong and will take that producer out of their element. I think having an actual member at the helm has the best results for a band.
“We never really talked about a direction. We knew that we would be feeding from the evolution we’ve gone through since [2003’s] Through the Ashes of Empires, but we had naturally improved as songwriters and had new elements coming through which set the tone for the whole process.”

Early winter will see the band play South America before touring through mainland Europe and ending the year on these very shores, shaking the foundations of arenas from London to Glasgow with Bring Me The Horizon, DevilDriver and Darkest Hour in tow. The drummer seems happy about this.
“Dude, I absolutely love the United Kingdom.” he drawls, pausing for emphasis. “I’m super happy that it’s at the end of the tour. No matter where we play there, every show is insane.”
He pauses again, this time to reflect.
“It’s weird; for as long as we’ve been doing this, you would think that we would be on autopilot sometimes, but we try to challenge ourselves. We try to make it exciting for ourselves.”
And, if Machine Head are even half as excited about the future as their fans have shown they are, that mission is already well and truly accomplished.

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