Unto The Locust by Machine Head (Road Runner Records)
It has been almost four years since the Oakland band released The Blackening, amazing fans the world over with their epic metal masterpieces. Machine Head has evolved over the years from a downtuned Nu Metal band in the 90’s to speed/thrash metal in the early 00’s to The Blackening which showed the band at the top of their game. Unto the Locust ups the ante with tighter arrangements, more thematic guitar solos, improved vocal delivery and an overall more refined sound.
Unto the Locust leads off with a Latin chorus chanting, as an intro to I Am Hell (Sonata in C#). Then the double bass drums of Dave McClain hits you like a truck, Robert Flynn growls evilly and his and Phil Demmel’s guitars chug ominously. Then a super-fast beat kicks in and the whole band shifts into overdrive. After a few minutes it becomes apparent that Machine Head are on a mission to present the best metal album of yet another decade. It also becomes clear the talent of founding bassist Adam Duce as he ably changes tempos and rhythms and melodies in each song. Duce and the rest of the band will be surely tested when they bring these songs to the stage but I have great faith they’ll pull it off.
Be Still and Know follows, Demmel and Flynn working their guitar necks in tandem melody one minute, then working heavy riffs the next, then trading lightning quick solos one after the other as Duce’s bass rumbles like a diesel engine and McClain’s sticks fly over his kit with sinew and skill. Locust opens with a very Cure-like intro leading to buzzsaw guitar riffing and punishing drums. Without losing any muscle, the chorus adds melody, but just enough.
As a palette cleanser, This is the End opens with a gentle acoustic guitar piece in advance of metal so fast it will have the kids in the mosh pits drenched with sweat. Up next is a departure for Flynn as he sings quietly with barely contained rage then cuts loose, singing clearly and powerfully about fatherhood, about staying strong, about religion and faith on Darkness Within.
Pearls Before Swine gives the impression that this song and the whole album was crafted with care, long hours practicing together and sleeping with their instruments so tight is the interplay between the four members.
Who We Are shows Flynn leading the tribes of hungry, ugly, high, broken and young, promising “Unbridled in determination” “Into Glory we will ride”. Halfway through the song Flynn presents us with yet another thematic and finger flying guitar solo followed by an even faster blast from Demmel.
On Unto the Locust, Machine Head present metal in all its glory: loud, fast, and angry, while tempering the chaos with agile playing, plenty of melody and moments of beauty.
Three extra songs are featured on the Special Edition of Unto the Locust in the form of engaging covers of Judas Priest’s Sentinel and Rush’s Witch Hunt as well as a acoustic version of Darkness Within.
(Review by Bret Miller)