If metal were sports, then "Supercharger" wouldn't have been so much of a career-ending injury as much as it was Machine Head's spine shattering in about 20 places. Still, despite a murky two album trip into trend hopping, Machine Head did manage to well, trend hop back to the sound they should have never abandoned. Not surprising then that their recent success has emboldened them to take it even further with this latest outing, "The Blackening".
To say the band thickly lay on the epic Bay Area thrash here would be an understatement. Five minutes is about as short as the songs get (well technically four minutes and 50 seconds), and it's not uncommon for the nine minute to ten minute running length to be hit. During these stirring, if not long-winded forays, the band channel the spirit of their early albums ("Burn My Eyes" in particular) as best they can while adding in some substantial prog aspirations and comfortably saddled lightning rides.
But while the group easily capture the aggression and energy of their youth on this release, that's not to say it's a riveting listen from start to finish. There's gnarled riffs and solos, fantastic drumming and some brutish vocal aggression that attacks humanity and the current political clime. There's even a few soothing croons to be found as well. But as the effort continues on with breakdown after breakdown and bridge after bridge it becomes clear that Machine Head are stretching the limits of their creativity.
As much as they try to hide it, there are more than a few moments where the songs can become repetitive - a trait readily exacerbated by their marathon-like length. If that's not enough, there's also moments where some of the parts just sound forced. Sure memorable hooks and catchy riffs aren't necessary, but at least one or two would definitely help here. For the band this outing is a towering achievement - both in their technical playing and ballsy songwriting. But for the metal scene of 2007 it falls just short of hall of fame material.
Skeptics will be quick to question the bands motives on this release, especially since thrash metal has taken a turn back into the public eye. Others will view it as the group merely finding themselves and embracing their roots. However, this all remains irrelevant in the long run though. The only real issue here is that the band were perhaps just a bit too ambitious and could have greatly benefited from a slight bit of restraint as their indulgence, if not arrogance, can get the better of them. In turn "The Blackening" may once again leave eyes burning, but this vision loss is only temporary.
(3.5 / 5)