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MACHINE HEAD - Through the Ashes of Empires


Looking to one-up 2002’s dreadful Supercharger, the purveyors of modern-day thrash metal MACHINE HEAD come roaring back and pissed off as ever with Through the Ashes of Empires. Comparing the two albums, you’d think the band locked themselves in a soundproof room and listened to their seminal Burn My Eyes debut for weeks on end, because Empires is one tough motherfuck of an album that revisits the glory days of metal. In fact, Burn My Eyes and Empires even begin similarly, with a marching drum-and-axe crunch that draws the listener in from the moment you hit play; albeit Empires’ opener “Imperium” takes a bit longer to build, whereas “Davidian” immediately kicked your ass. “Imperium” is a perfect taste of what’s to come, as the song is not only some of the best fare you’ll get here, but also the huge amount of improved musicianship found as a whole throughout the album. The boring, recycled riffs found sparsely in The Burning Red and frequently on Supercharger are all but forgotten, as it seems Robb Flynn and company have finally remembered that they’re among the best in the business. The MACHINE HEAD-patented guitar chirps and inventive riffage are once again firing on all cylinders, and if “Imperium” didn’t make you a believer, following songs “Bite the Bullet” and especially “Left Unfinished” will convert you. This is pure metal, embodied in a form that only the most elite can craft, but even the elite can have their awkward moments. Empires has a few traits in its duration that may turn off some fans, such as the unnecessarily seven-plus minute “In the Presence of My Enemies” and more familiar lyrical content overall than the last HATEBREED album. But, when the maddeningly quick drums of “Vim” and the infectious “All Falls Down” hit your ears, you will find yourself nodding your head and throwing the horns, and most likely forgetting about the small flaws here. MACHINE HEAD has not sounded this fired up since The More Things Change. Thanks to such strong, creative riffs, furiously energetic vibe, Dave McLaine’s metal drum clinic and masterful musicianship from all members of the band, Through the Ashes of Empires is a glorious new-school trip back to the days of old. (Roadrunner Records)