The first thing you notice about Machine Head's latest release The Blackening is that four of the CD's eight songs exceed 9 minutes in length. Does this mean that Machine Head are venturing off into prog-rock like territory? Not really, but they are showing here that they know how to put together lengthy extreme metal epics that recally early 90's metal as well as the modern scene. Filled with tasty guitar solos, bone crunching riffing, relentless rhythms, and the always impressive vocals of guitarist Robert Flynn, The Blackening is a solid follow-up to Through the Ashes of Empires.
The opening "Clenching the Fists of Dissent is quite a monster track, truly an epic metal track if ever there was one, littered with lightning lead fills, technical riffs, and tight arrangements that never get boring over the songs 10 minute length. "Beautiful Mourning" is a crunchy modern metal track, with Flynn's varied delivery of clean and harsh vocals working quite well. On "Aesthetics of Hate", the band goes for the juggular with non-stop thrash riffing and some impressive lead work from Phil Demmel, while on "Now I Lay Thee Down" the sound is more in line with melodic metalcore. Technical riffs meet thunderous rhythms on the sledgehammer "Slanderous", a real aggressive piece and one of the heaviest on the album. The final three tracks all go over the 9-minute mark, and really show the adventurous side of the band. "Halo" is a moody number big on heavy riffs, moments of textured atmosphere, and angry vocals, sounding very much like some of the bands earlier material as well as well as a hint of Fear Factory. There's plenty of hot lead guitar on this one as well as the next track, "Wolves" a real scorching metal tune that picks up the pace to almost thrash intensity. The closing monster "A Farewell to Arms" mixes prog rock, doom, and thrash, easily the most adventurous piece on the CD, and a real mature statement from the band. Flynn's clean vocals are quite effective hear, proving to be a great foil to his violent screams, and the thunderous riff-o-rama from he and Demmel are crushingly heavy.
There's no doubt that Machine Head will please their longtime fans with The Blackening as well as potentially appeal to those into the more progressive side of metal. Alongside some of their classic earlier albums, this one ranks up there quite nicely.
1. Clenching the Fists of Dissent
2. Beautiful Mourning
3. Aesthetics of Hate
4. Now I Lay Thee Down
8. A Farewell to Arms