Takes a while to appreciate

Sometimes it takes patience to get to an end result. Sometimes, what first appears as excessive is actually perfectly coordinated. Machine Head’s 8th studio album Bloodstone & Diamonds is a proverbial grower. The band have clearly challenged their boundaries, once again expanding their sound, delivery and structure. The addition of Jared MacEachern on bass and backing vocals help to push the overall sound into an even heavier direction, making them sound mammoth. Robb Flynn has again pushed himself both lyrically and in his vocals, utilising his strong depth incorporating light shades and a passion he has touched on in a few recent albums, notably ‘Darkness Within’ from 2011’s Unto the Locust.

At first there is a definite air of excessiveness. Besides the use of piano, a choir and orchestral parts in some songs, there are TV grabs, Flynn’s almost spoken word diatribe in some parts and, as stated, a lot of shade amongst the usual Machine Head beast. It’s abrasive. It’s different. This is definitely not The Blackening or Unto the Locust – Part II. The album appears disjointed on first approach, whether that’s from expectations or intention, only you can decide.

Already available, ‘Now We Die’ and ‘Killers & Kings’ kick off the album. ‘Now We Die’ is strewn with orchestral overtones before being battered by the twin onslaught of a Phil Demmel/Robb Flynn guitar attack. Bombastic, and one of the best Machine Head songs in their expansive repertoire, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser for the remainder of their careers. Delivering patent Flynn licks ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ delves back into Burn My Eyes/The More Things Change era, though the vastness of the track ominously displays the band’s development. Again, Demmel shines as the track gathers momentum.

Things start to deviate from there with ‘Night of Long Knives’, an epic, haunting tale with Flynn decreeing: “You won’t see us come, in the night, with these knives”. Never has the story telling been so compelling. ‘Sail into the Black’ is most definitely exorbitant. An eight minute extravagance of which half is Flynn crooning with a Mormon-like male choir chant or hum in the background. Weird, confronting, bizarre, it’s one of a handful of tracks that just doesn’t gel at first, until multiple play backs, a set of loud speakers and patience – and then it finally resonates. In the end, the structures of these songs are so compelling and when McClain crashes the party and MacEachern’s bass hits, it’s one of the heaviest tracks on the album. Flynn’s vocals are the angriest and most spiteful he has ever spat across the whole Machine Head journey, ‘Eyes of the Dead’ a great example. Adding more subtlety has for the most part worked, but it is Flynn’s aggression that always explodes and it’s the essential cog of the Machine Head sound.

‘Beneath the Slit’ drifts into uncommon ground with a southern rock vibe that Down would be proud of. The groove is filthy and sounds like nothing ever attempted before by this band. What could have been a horrible experiment turns out to be another tick in the box. ‘In Comes the Flood’ incorporates more orchestral intros as Flynn takes on a political high road, begging America to wake up. The track is confronting for content but melodically one of their tamer metal songs, more in line with Supercharger material. Flynn’s croaky intimate spiel in ‘Damage Inside’ unfortunately misses the mark musically, however the content hits the target squarely between the eyes.

Sometimes expectations are let down when hit with something slightly off centre. Bloodstone & Diamonds is an album we all knew was coming, it just takes a while to appreciate its beauty.

1. Now We Die
2. Killers & Kings
3. Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones
4. Night of Long Knives
5. Sail Into the Black
6. Eyes of the Dead
7. Beneath the Silt
8. In Comes the Flood
9. Damage Inside
10. Game Over
11. Imaginal Cells
12. Take Me Through the Fire