Album Review: Catharsis - Machine Head
Artist: Machine Head
Label: Nuclear Blast
Review by Steve Jenkins
Catharsis isn't exactly the Machine Head album that fans might have been expecting, and based on the singles that were released prior to the album dropping, a lot of people were divided. Machine Head were jumping into different territory and well established bands often cop a fair amount of negativity for attempting such a thing. "Bastards" was a politically motivated song that some might even say was a bit folk or country sounding, and "Kaleidoscope" took us back to the Burning Red era of Machine Head with its rap style intro and simplicity. There's certainly nothing wrong with experimenting, especially in an attempt to break away from your usual sound and widening your audience. But it's safe to say that most fans of Machine Head were extremely happy and content with their outstanding releases from 2003-2014, as those were the albums that showed their true strength as an iconic metal band.
Those last four albums that they released were loved by both fans and critics, but it could also be said that they were a bit too consistent after a while, so maybe they wanted to shake things up a bit. 2014's Bloodstone & Diamonds saw the band attempting to branch out a little, with hints of change, but it was mostly just another solid Machine Head album. Catharsis sees them going for a bit of a throwback with a couple of nu-metal style tracks such as "Triple Beam" and "Razorblade Smile". Yes they are probably the weakest on the album, but this is a 74 minute album so there's plenty of other good stuff on here. Robb Flynn's vocal delivery seems pretty standard and uninspired, with lyrics that are a bit cheesy and repetitive at times (like yelling "Get your middle fingers in the air" more times than Corey Taylor at a Slipknot concert), and we all know he can do much better than this. Granted, you could say compared to previous Machine Head album the lyrics are much blunter and in-your-face than what we're normally used to, and that perhaps makes them stand out like dogs balls.
Mostly negative review right? Well, those are really the only negatives to Catharsis. If you really edit the album and get rid of the weaker songs, then you have yourself a really solid Machine Head album. "Volatile" starts off the album and it's an absolutely killer track that gets you pumped and excited, with the band's signature heaviness we've come to love over the years. "Hope Begets Hope" and 'Screaming At The Sun' showcases Machine Head at their most melodic - something that we never really knew much about Machine Head is just how creatively catchy their melodies can be. Even the average track "Kaleidoscope" has a chorus that's memorable and admittedly catchy. When it comes to the perfect blend of melody and heaviness, the song that manages to nail that is "Heavy Lies the Crown". It has a fantastic build-up towards from the start and all the way to the super heavy-groove of the final moments, the song is relentless and epic, clocking in at just under 9 minutes long. The instrumentation on this album is nothing really super different than what we're used to, but that's cool, as Machine Head are one of those bands that can get away with it. Phil Demmel and Flynn's dueling guitar work is nothing short of excellence of execution, even on the average tracks, and the same thing goes for Dave McClain with his powerful drumming. The bass, played by Jared MacEachern has a lot of groove on Catharsis which I really like and we even get a little solo on "California Bleeding" which is a definite highlight.
Machine Head have definitely made an album that will divide fans, both old and new. The thing I'm more intrigued about though is what they will bring in the future - what's next for Machine Head? Was this album just a departure from the norm as they tried their hand at something new, or is Catharsis an indication for the direction they'll be heading in musically for the rest of their career? Have we heard the last of their kick-ass 8 minute long metal anthems we grew to love on classics like The Blackening and Unto The Locust? Time will definitely tell. One thing's for sure - there is no way this is the worst Machine Head album ever made. While it does contain some low points from the bands catalogue, it has also given us some exciting moments, with great risks taken on this album. Overall, Catharsis is a good example of the wide range of sounds that Machine Head have made throughout their lengthy career. Don't like it? Just throw on Burn My Eyes and cross your fingers they'll return to their trademark sound in the future.
7.5 out of 10
Check out the lyric video for "Volatile" below: