Sometimes it can be difficult to review an album that actually deserves the hype it has received by the less critical masses, and this is such a review for MACHINE HEAD’s newest release, The Blackening. I personally have been unable to stand any of this band’s releases since The More Things Change… until now. This album is one of those rare occurrences when all of the hype referring to a “return to form” is actually true. Although this release is certainly not the “be all, end all” of metal as some may be hyping it, The Blackening is definitely the best release in MACHINE HEAD’s catalogue since The More Things Change…, and it is also the most mature release of their career by far. Although they only serve up eight tracks on this album, each one is jam packed with quality songwriting, performance, and vocals. The shortest song on the album is “Beautiful Mourning” at under five minutes, while the longest track is the opener “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” clocking in at ten and a half minutes. The average song length on this album is over seven minutes, and none of the songs contain any fluff as might be expected. Perhaps the greatest aspect of this album is the extreme emphasis on great guitar work. The songwriting for the guitars won’t set any new precedents in the genre, but this is the best guitar work from this band in a long, long time. It’s also very refreshing to hear little to no pandering to the mainstream hardcore crowd. “Aesthetics of Hate” is the only track that contains what some may consider a “breakdown,” but credit should be given to this band for delivering an album full of straight up aggro-thrash in the same vein as their debut and sophomore releases. Every track is high quality, but stand out tracks are “Clenching the Fists of Dissent,” “Aesthetics of Hate,” “Halo,” and “Wolves.” Not bad for an album with eight tracks.
For those of you who have abandoned hope that this band will ever release an album as worthy as their first couple releases, I recommend checking out The Blackening as it’s likely the closest thing this band will come to reliving their early days. Recommended for fans of their old stuff, and highly recommended for those who want a taste of the MACHINE HEAD glory days without going back in their early career. (Roadrunner Records)