Machine Head at the Avalon, February 17, 2012
Fans got the most metal for their money at the Avalon this February Friday. The show started at the very un-metal time of 6pm with opening bands Darkest Hour and Suicide Silence and Machine Head on at 8:20. I made it in time for the headliners and the small club was packed back to the doorway to the foyer. The stage had a drum riser and many light stands signifying the size of venues and stages the band has been on in the past several years since The Blackening. They’ve been all over the world many times with bands that influenced them as well as their peers and brought that energy and epic feel to this little place in Hollywood that turns into a dance club at 11pm.
The excitement built as the lights went down and the Latin chants of I Am Hell (Sonata in C#) floated through the air. In a wash of blood- red lights Robb Flynn and band entered the stage and began chugging away, drummer Dave McClain pounding an ominous beat. Flynn looked like he was possessed, hair and beard making him even more barbaric looking. When the song kicked into high gear, McClain switching to hardcore tempo, the floor opened up and and kids began to mosh. Bassist Adam Duce was already sweating profusedly, such was his intensity. As bodies flew over the barrier, myself and the other photographers were told to exit and it was out to my car to drop off my camera.
Stuck out by the relative safety of the back left bar, I could see the floor was packed, the venue oversold by several hundred metalheads. This show could easily have taken place at the Palladium but at least the sound and sight lines were excellent at the Avalon and the intimacy was welcome for such a huge band. The pit got going strong as Flynn yelled “Fuck You All!” to begin Beautiful Mourning, the brutality of the song tempered by the melodically sang refrain “How do I close thine eyes of murder staring into me?“. Machine Head are one of the most dynamic metal bands out there and their high chart debut proves that they have wide ranging appeal. The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears followed, from 1999’s Burn in Red. Robb’s breathlessly chanted lyrics were accompanied by gritty guitars and a sometimes groovy drum beat. Flynn’s Robert-Smith-like guitar opened Locust, the rest of the band joining in like a well-oiled machine, moderating buzzing guitars and militant beat with the intensity of a downhill charge in a muscle car. Phil Demmel and Flynn’s dual guitars were amazing, as were their various solos, ramping up the energy and dazzling our ears.
Letting the rest of the band towel off Flynn returned to the stage to testify about Dimebag Darrell and how the religious right used his death for their own ends before he was even buried. Flynn recounted good times spent in Dimebag’s company inciting chants of “Dimebag” and generous applause for a beloved musician taken in a tragic shooting while playing on stage. Aesthetics of Hate is all about this time and Flynn’s rage about the hypocrites in the “right”. McClain’s hardcore drum beat introduced one of Machine Head’s most driving songs, Flynn rasping such lines as ” You branded us pathetic for our respect/ But he made us driven, deep reverence far beyond the rest,” and “May the hands of God strike you down.” Demmel and Flynn’s fleet-fingered leads honored Dimebag’s passing beautifully. The band then tore into Old, from their first album Burn My Eyes, all buzzing guitars and thrumming bass. After Darkness Within, the next couple songs were from their Nu-Metal days, the reek of Korn still there, but Machine Head owned these songs and the fans responded with enthusiasm.
Black and white pictures of people with song lyrics written on their arms were projected on the screen to the opening children’s chorus on Who We Are, the band joining in double time, Flynn’s lyrics supporting the underdogs of the world, the fans singing along with enthusiasm. As the good vibes of those many incredible guitar solos rose over the audience, the main set ended with more pictures, this time of fans holding up signs and showing tattoos testifying their love for Machine Head and how the band got them through times good and bad.
But we weren’t done with the band yet, and Machine Head encored with the uplifting Halo, another song about questioning religion and fighting intolerance set to a progressive, dynamic arrangement of styles and speeds and flashy melodic guitar leads and a brutal breakdown to close the song. After Davidian completely wiped the floor with us the band applauded us as we gathered our wits, the members tossing out guitar picks and McClain throwing out drum sticks and flying drum heads far out into the crowd. Machine Head showed their talent and love of metal by performing almost two hours at an intimate venue. Here’s to hoping they headline more shows like this in the future and their next album doesn’t take over three years to come out. Machine Head should be headlining larger places real soon.
(Review and Photos by Bret Miller)