The tenth studio album from Oakland metal legends Machine Head is a masterpiece: Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.
Robb Flynn brought Machine Head together in Oakland in 1991. In the early days, groove and nu-metal were the styles usually associated with the band, but after a decade or so the music leaned more clearly toward thrash. With nine previous long-players, and a mighty fistful of EPs, splits, and live albums, Machine Head has made an indelible mark on heavy music. For Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn, Flynn is joined by Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (guitar), Jared MacEachern (bass), and Matt Alston (drums).
It all begins on a quiet, sincere note with “Slaughter The Martyr.” At first. The opening bars are melancholy, and the music builds slowly. A second voice joins and you can feel the cliff coming. Three minutes in you walk right over it and the rushing air around you is the ripping guitar and grinding vocals. The heavy groove element blends perfectly with the speeding riff, and the melodic moments that come and go are like a bird soaring between beating its wings. This song is a ten-minute slab of unmeasurable metal, a certifiable masterpiece, and it is only the first track. It is very unusual for a band to put a song like this up front, and so it is clear that Machine Head is taking no prisoners on Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.
Many of the songs on the album have been released as singles leading up to the official album release, so we have already heard “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” and “Become The Firestorm,” for example. I hadn’t heard “Kill Thy Enemies” until now, and that one was an eye-opener, as was “Bloodshot.” Each of these songs has its own kind of screech that rakes you in entirely different ways. I felt that way all along, that each song has its own dominating presence and, while the set fits together seamlessly, each primary song stands on its own, too.
The album ends on “Arrows In Words From The Sky.” I had heard this one before, and I was delighted to listen again. Calling back the structure of the epic opening, the final track lulls at first and then decimates, but in a completely different way. The sinister nature of the middle of the song and the entrancing guitar solo it leads to is breathtaking. I expected a lot from the new Machine Head album going in, and I came away with more than I could have imagined. Highly recommended.
Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn is out now through Nuclear Blast Records in many varieties and forms.
Band photo by Travis Shinn and Paul Harries.
Machine Head website, https://www.machinehead1.com/
Nuclear Blast Records, https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/about/3168273.machine-head.html
© Wayne Edwards