Machine Head – The Blackening (Throwback Thursday)

It doesn’t get much better than this. For me, ‘The Blackening’ is the best metal album of the last decade, by some distance. In a sense the record was my first introduction to more traditional and complex metal music, which could be one of the reasons I rate it so highly. That aside, ‘The Blackening’ is undeniably a sprawling and savage beast that characterises metal for me. I listened to it for the first time in months last week and it blew me away, because 6 years later I still haven’t found an album from the genre that beats it.

‘The Blackening’ is metal done magnificently, being crushingly heavy and technical. Guitar work on the album is exceptional, switching from face melting solos to mind numbing riffs to simple melody effortlessly. There’s a range and variety in ‘The Blackening’ that has a certain audacity about it, and the record has a confident feel about that most releases lack. This is mainly due to the quality of songs found here, each of which is a triumph in its own right. It’s also partly due to vocalist Robb Flynn who delivers a performance most metal vocalists could only dream of.

Considering a lot of the tracks surpass 9 minutes there’s very little filler on ‘The Blackening’ which thunders along and barely relents. The eight tracks it contains are a masterclass in heavy music, being expansive and enthralling as a result of the expertise woven into every second of it. Robb Flynn excels particularly, especially on opener ‘Clenching The Fists of Dissent’, which displays his range from the melodic intro to the crushing final two minutes. ‘Shorter’ tracks like ‘Beautiful Mourning’, with its opening guttural roar of ‘Fuck you all’ stand apart in my memory, especially ‘Now I Lay Thee Down’ There aren’t many moments I enjoy in music more than that final chorus, where Flynn goes acapella between ferocious instrumentals.

The Americans sixth studio album is a masterpiece and an essential for fans of heavy music. There’s a reason it’s often cited as the best metal album of the 00’s because, put simply, it is.

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