For thirty years, Robb Flynn and Machine Head have been a consistent force amongst the ever-changing heavy metal landscape. Throughout shifting trends and the steady flow of new blood, Machine Head have persevered. Not only have they persevered, they have triumphed.
For their earlier albums, Machine Head’s sound blended thrash and groove elements, making them an important part of the nascent New Wave of American Heavy Metal. With furious riffs, and aggressive vocals, this sound would influence countless bands throughout the mid to late nineties and beyond.
Things changed with 1999’s ‘The Burning Red’, however, with Machine Head taking influence from the nu-metal scene. With rapping, and less complex compositions, critics accused the band of changing direction to fit in with what was popular at the time. But, you know what? Fuck those critics. As a teenager listening almost exclusively to nu metal at the time, Machine Head dipping their toe in these waters meant they came to this teenagers attention. That was my entry point to Machine Head, and ‘The Burning Red’ still holds special importance to me because of this.
After a couple of albums, the band returned to their groove metal origins, and this nu metal kid followed. And I am still following over 20 years later.
But then, in 2007, Machine Head did something truly special when they released ‘The Blackening’. Leaning further into the thrash sound, and writing longer and more complex songs than anything they’d produced before, ‘The Blackening’ was a critical and commercial success.
It was heralded as a modern metal classic, an all-time great, and for my money is probably one of the greatest metal albums of the last twenty years, certainly of that decade.
Somehow, over fifteen years into their career, Machine Head hit a new artistic high the likes of which few bands in this genre could ever hope to. And that momentum continues. Nine albums in, Machine Head continue to be culturally relevant and refuse to become a nostalgia act.
There are few bands of this age that “play the hits” could mean tracks from the entire breadth of their catalogue. But that certainly describes Machine Head.