Album Review: Machine Head – Bloodstone and Diamonds

Everyone loves a good face-melter. Machine Head’s latest offering, ’Bloodstone and Diamonds’, pits itself against their timeless album ‘The Blackening’ and completely equalises in every way. From gut-wrenching vocals to riffs you wouldn’t even dream of attempting to air guitar, this record proves the thrash legends are back.

The California set have done it all – from supporting Slayer with their first album to touring with the likes of Lamb Of God and headlining Soundwave Festival in Australia. Now setting off on a UK tour with Darkest Hour beginning in December, it’s as if Machine Head have always been there, constant thrash legends, but they are by no means wallflowers. Since the mixed reception of 2011’s ’Unto The Locust’, this new record is exactly what we expected from the princes of metal – same old perfect formula of storming vocals, mind-boggling guitar work and punishing drums, accompanied by the tiniest of soundtrack-worthy backing to take their unquestionable legacy up a notch.

Opening the record with the string instrumental of ‘Now We Die’ destroys every expectation of this new record, but it’s not long before Robb Flynn’s vocals burst in triumphant. While lyrically astounding, for example ”ashes to ashes, the ocean crashes”, the beautifully nostalgic high note solo demonstrates Machine Head are very much back on form. ‘Killers and Kings’ introduces gang vocals raising venomous dialogue with Flynn’s raw existential vocals, while a Korn-esque whisper section adds a truck load of atmosphere to build into a crescendo of punishing drums and relentless riffs.

The ‘Halo’-style opening line of ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ contrasts with the seductively subdued vocals we never quite expected from Machine Head. Adding a surreal, atmospheric depth amongst the brutality, this anthem of persistence of the past is a new turn for Machine Head and a very welcome one at that. The lyrics “ghosts will haunt my bones, they won’t leave me alone” appear more defeatist than their usual chants of defiance, but somehow suit them.

In true Machine Head fashion, what begins as the repetitive 4 minutes of ‘Sail Into The Black’ soon kick into a storming anthem of colossal proportions. Continuing this theme through ‘In Comes The Flood’, opening with an epic soundtrack heralding the next 7 minutes of face-melting middle fingers up to the American Dream fallacy, this showcases the best screaming solo on the record. While ‘Eyes Of The Dead’ is full of tricky and infectious guitar work we’ve come to expect from King Flynn and co, the riff in ‘Beneath The Silt’ is like someone taking a sledgehammer to your crown jewels – brutal, unforgiving and you’ll never be the same again. Similarly, ‘Take Me Through The Fire’ closes the record on a defiant stand of solidarity and a punishing riff that proves the band are back at their peak, and there’s no sign of coming back down.

‘Game Over’’s vengeance anthem displays Flynn’s vocals at their most genuine – raw, unadulterated and unashamed. This catchy, unexpectedly punk-infused track is a fantastic new direction for them, and however strange it may sound, they take it all in their gigantic, majestic stride. ’Bloodstone and Diamonds’ also takes Machine Head into another new realm – approaching concept tracks. ‘Imaginal Cells’ is that unexpected one you’ll probably never listen to again, but it’s worth having there the first time around simply for dramatic effect. Combining a manipulated scientific speech on weapons of mass disaster with accompanying complex riffs, the rising trend as we’ve already seen this year from Architect’s ‘Red Hypergiant’ is spreading fast. However, the album would be incomplete were it not for the solemn reflection of ‘Damage Inside’, giving heart-rates a rest and jaws a chance to pick themselves up from the floor.

From start to finish, ’Bloodstone and Diamonds’ is classic Machine Head adapted to meet our expectations of music in 2014. With the exception of ‘Imaginal Cells’, this could well have topped ‘The Blackening’, but there’ll be no questioning ‘Beneath The Silt’ and ‘Now We Die’ have brought Machine Head right back to their thrash best.


’Bloodstone and Diamonds’ by Machine Head is out now on Nuclear Blast.

Machine Head links: Official Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)


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