Machine Head – “Bloodstone & Diamonds” (Nuclear Blast Records)
One of the most fearsome beasts ever in metal, Machine Head spearheaded a second wave of American metal in the mid 90s that fought back the onslaught of grunge. Already familiar with co founder guitarist Robb Flynn from his days in the rabid Vio-lence, Machine Head’s debut ‘Burn My Eyes’ has since become a legendary opus that I still play to this day. Over the years the band grew into their god like headliner status of today, incorporating heavy groove and technicality as new members brought in new styles. “Bloodstone & Diamonds” is the band’s 8th album and following this years split with co founder bassist Adam Duce, once again heralds a new evolution that will clearly be a mind fuck for some! Incorporating string quartets, choirs, trippy passages and a liberal use of melodies I can already see some readers shedding sweat on what may have become the unfolding of their favorite metal band after the mastery of “The Blackening” and it’s brilliant successor “Unto The Locust”. If only for the faithful! In what must be one of the most revolutionary albums in the annals of thrash, Machine Head have given their beast of a band a wash and a slight makeover but that it smells prettier than the rank odour of past does not mean its teeth nor its bite have been pulled. Indeed Flynn is a truly evil man, skillfully disguising his still bitter and socially discontent angst by dressing it up in frills and fancies that will lure many into its charming embrace, before the darkness of lyrics like ‘…As we hail our sacred cow, To the bankers we will bow, Endless profit from their wars, Making slaves of all the poor..’ envelopes them on ‘In Comes The Flood’. Musically its still the same with massive monster dervish riffing from fellow ex Vio-lencia guitarist Phil Demmel and Flynn himself still throwing in those ugly guitar squeaks that I first heard on the mighty ‘Davidian’. Thanks to the highly polished sound and some subtle backing harmony vocals even his hoarse base voice sounds good giving the furious ‘Now We Die’ an almost alt or modern metal feel despite Dave McClain’s double bass drumming hammering relentlessly away in the background! That trend continues even more so on ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’, which has a suave, futuristic alt sound that is sure to appeal to anyone into the likes of Prime Sth while an instrumental in ‘Imaginal Cells’ has an audio collage of spoken word snippets (think ‘Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies’) by Dr. Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman, taken from their audiobook ‘Spontaneous Evolution’ which is sure to baffle anyone questioning Machine Head’s cerebral quotient! Just for old die hards like myself there’s the classic furor of ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ and the deep ‘Killers And Kings’ with its almost biblical lyrics of ‘….we stand atop the mountain with the hermit and the lamb…the devil and the emperor could keep us locked in chains…’. This album took me a while to fathom out and as Flynn has stated the title’s reference to gemstones encapsulates their hardness, but also their richness as well as their spiritual significance, and I’d have to agree listening to the material while glossing over the impressive 48 page (!) hardcover leather-bound media booklet on the special edition. Moreover, its complexity is less from safe introspective composing but more from a bold spiritual opening of the soul to find new ways to say the same thing – as such “Bloodstone & Diamonds” is truly the big bad wolf in granny’s dress!