One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Machine Head‘s “Unto The Locust”, finally landed in the form of a special edition fan pack and digital release (with the physical release of the album still to come at the end of the October). In the four and a half years since “The Blackening” the Oakland four piece have moved from playing theatres to co headlining arena’s and being Metallica’s main support in stadiums. Now the time has come to try and step out of that shadow and make these massive shows there own, but how on earth do you follow an album that was crowned ‘Album Of The Decade’ by Metal Hammer.
Thankfully, the band seem to have thrived under the pressure of delivering such an important album for their career. The first track ‘I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)’ starts off with some layered acapella vocals then a minute of heaviness before the song really kicks in. Dave McLain’s drums fire this track along while the magnificent Phil Demmel – Robb Flynn duel guitar solos make their first appearance. ‘Be Still And Know’ starts off with an intro and opening riff similar to the previous albums ‘Slander’. The shortest track on here at just under six minutes and surely to be a high point of the live show.
Next up is ‘Locust’, a song that already feels familiar after being the preview track that was released some time ago. A slow builder that starts off has a main riff that you would expect to hear on a Down album. A good choice as a lead release, as it shows some of the progression of the band. ‘This Is The End’ is another song that’s starts off quieter before exploding to life, driven along by Dave McClain’s rapid drums. Musically, this does hint back to the classic ‘Burn My Eyes’. The faster verses make the song like an extended version of ‘A Nation On Fire’ and the slower parts reminiscent of ‘A Thousand Lies’.
‘Darkness Within’ with its acoustic intro and quietly sung intro is very different to what you normally expect, and when the full band comes in, it retains its melodic sound. There are only hints of the usual chaos, with a strangely calm feel for a Machine Head tune. The start of ‘Pearls Before The Swine’ is back to the classic mixture of the fast sections with some slower heavier parts, with a riff that could have come from At The Gates classic ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’. The inclusion of a children’s choir at the beginning of ‘Who We Are’ seems to be a bit of a strange choice, singing to a background of military drums and strings before the band come in. This is another calmer, more melodic number before “Unto The Locust” fades out and ends.
Rather than try and produce another “The Blackening” the band have once again pushed things a little bit and progressed their sound while retaining the heaviness and it still has plenty of thrash moments to lose it to in the pit (nice). This may be the album that makes them one of the biggest metal bands around and deservedly so. I have been a fan since first hearing ‘Davidian’ back in 1994, and enjoyed watching them grow in to the band they have become. From the first few listens I cant really say that’s it the best album they have done, because “Burn My Eyes” and “The Blackening” have both been vital listening for me for years, but it is pretty damn close and maybe in years to come that will change. A definite contender for album of the year, The only down point I can see is only seven songs, would have been nice to have more, but that’s just me being greedy again. Essential listening!