As reviewers, there’s this sense to take things to the next level, whether it be praise, early coverage or to be a whole lot more critical of an album or bands slightest flaws. Looking for the negatives, disregarding what would make an album all that great from the get go, setting a pre-determined opinion before even hearing a second of the respective media. These negative mindsets is an often unknown and never talked about (til now) feature in modern music critics, becoming a crux for how reviewers “should write”. It’s time for this stigma to disappear, allowing music to shine through without looking for the slightest blemishes to diminish what will always be an enjoyable record. For most with access to new music (those like thesonicsensory.com) the usual trend is to blow smoke up the posterior of the artist/label, speak a whole lot of nothing to the avid reader looking for any information into the upcoming record or slam a record on its slightest flaws because “it’s acceptable to do so”.
Well, fuck that.
Machine Head aren’t exactly a small name in the music industry. Sure, those in metal know the name, know who Mr. Rob Flynn is and can identify a piece of Machine Head music when randomly played. Ask around, unless you’re asking a douche and elitist whose only kick for the day is putting you down, there’s a fair chance that any fan that calls themselves “metal” will know who and what Machine Head are, naming a few of their favorite tracks as they go. Most will even agree that Machine Head have not made a “bad” album. From the start they set the bar high, building a high standard for their now growing list of records. It’s understandable that every so often that there is a chance for some disappointment (although it’s not a true disappointment in the sense of the word), for such a level of greatness to be set as the standard there’s a chance that sometimes you might fall short. Take “Unto The Locust” for example; It was always going to be difficult to top ” The Blackening” but what is an excellent record was overshadowed by its predecessor, which stands as the bands’ magnum opus. The hooks were steady and Machine Head’s ritualistic thrash grooves bombastic, but something stood in the way of achieving a rising quality in the band’s music i.e. “The Blackening”. You see what I’m saying here? Just because the music’s not the best the band’s put out, doesn’t mean it needs to be criticized for it.
‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ is the California based thrash addicts eighth studio record and after a turbulent lawsuit with former bassist Adam Duce and the hiring of former Sanctity guitarist, Jared MacEachern who fits seamlessly into the band’s roster, show casing some of the features that made his former band’s only album (‘Road To Bloodshed’) such a great debut. His tonal rhythms tie together percussive and melody through chord hugging and the occasional fill. It’s surprising given how well it all works, given just how practiced the album sounds and how well everybody works together.
As for the album itself, ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ sets off exactly where ‘Unto The Locust’ sets off, adding dashes of the soundscape that made ‘The Blackening’ so very successful. The record is as guitar driven as you would imagine but also plays host to some minimalist tones, bringing a contrast to Machine Head’s signature blend of modern metal and technical based thrash. I know, this doesn’t actually tell you too much about the upcoming record, but it really should. It means that Machine Head has made an album that is typically and undeniably… Machine Head. Un-apologetically, ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ makes for another interesting album, bringing together their other records while continuing to bring added maturity to their music. The high standards continue.
For fans that prefer Machine Head’s more groove-based style found in their debut (and a little after), there’s a fair chance you’ll be left wanting. Those days, it seems are gone as Machine Head’s sound changes, grows, develops and betters itself with every release (even if some albums may not appear to maintain this bell curve). With only a couple of tracks released before the album, fans can predict what this album may turn out like, but unfortunately, each track is only a part of the puzzle and you’re missing the bigger picture. ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ is typical Machine Head, take it or leave it. Soaring hooks, bombastic melodies and an aggression that can’t be duplicated. The album is full of highlights, seeing potential for replay value for years to come.
Overall it’s not much of a surprise when Machine Head enter the studio, and that’s just the way the metal community like it. Whether it’s the album opener (and currently released track “Now We Die”) which builds intensity from the riff fest and crunching drums to the massive “Sail Into The Black” which becomes a masterclass in songwriting, there’s a lot for fans to love, and a lot for new fans to worship (assuming you’ve been living in a cave since the early nineties). ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ is a deep, verbose headbanging affair. With a run time of seventy minutes, the album breezes by, and is so easy to listen to. Machine Head may not have topped their opus in “The Blackening”, but they’ve come pretty damn close. Don’t go finalizing your best of 2014 lists until you’ve got ‘Bloodstones & Diamonds inside the top five.
1. Now We Die
2. Killers & Kings
3. Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones
4. Night Of Long Knives
5. Sail Into The Black
6. Eyes Of The Dead
7. Beneath The Silt
8. In Comes The Flood
9. Damage Inside
10. Game Over
11. Imaginal Cells (instrumental)
12. Take Me Through The Fire