Monday, January 30, 2023

Machine Head - Of Kingdom and Crown (2022)

Machine Head was really only something to write home about during that 2007-2011 phase where they cranked out two albums in a row that showed infinitely more songwriting strength and potential than their whole prior career of Ozzfest nu metal stardom, and while every fiber of my being screams to ignore them forevermore, the mere fact that they HAVE that level of capability hidden somewhere within keeps me curious to hear what they can come up with next. That's not to say that The Blackening or Unto the Locust were even borderline masterpieces, but they did the trick and seemed like the sort of efforts that could establish the framework for some future magnum opus. That did not happen, sadly, and the band's most recent album, 2018's Catharsis was one of the worst they have ever shat forth.

And thus, when Of Kingdom and Crown released last year, I admit that I missed it. Or can you miss something if you are not actively looking for it? I was even more discouraged when I saw that this one was like 60-70 minutes, opening with a 10+ minute track in "Slaughter the Martyr", which opens with an embarrassing whole THREE MINUTES of emo crooning over acoustic guitars before finally crunching you over the head with a couple decent groove/thrash metal riffs and the mandatory beatdown rhythm. The vocals and lyrics here are just as dumb as ever, but at the very least the music attempts to gain your attention, just not in a very interesting way. I was thus quite surprised when the second track, "Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate" sounding like a tribute to Robb's old band Vio-Lence, pure angry trashing which lopes into a pretty bouncy, weak nu-metal chorus, but the very fact that they are still offering such a thrashing was at least something resembling an olive branch.

Really, Of Kingdom and Crown is all over the place, flip-flopping between its super-chug rhythms, Korn-like dissonant nu-metal wailing on the higher strings, rolling breakdowns that used to be cool when metalcore bands did them in 1997, leads and harmonies that often feel like they're being pulled straight from some classic melodeath albums, and useless intermission/segue tracks. If you were to compress all the quality moments of this record down to about 3-4 songs, we'd be okay, but the fact is that not all the ideas really stick, and I'm just rarely a fan of the guy's more emotional vocals. That said, there is plenty to explore here, and Machine Head mixes it up quite a lot, the production is about what you would expect from such 'modern' metal, and it's at least far superior to the album before it. I still can't shake the vibe that these guys are trapped in a nexus between styles and just never seem to stick to one that benefits them fully, but I'm not a big nu/groove metal fanatic in the first place so I'm hardly qualified to praise them as one of the bigger acts of that niche. This didn't suck. It also wasn't good.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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