Machine Head – ‘Catharsis’ (Nuclear Blast) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Jonni D   
Thursday, 18 January 2018 04:40

Machine Head CatharsisThe declarative statement that opens Machine Head’s new record may be more telling than it initially appears:


“Fuck the world.”


Never backward in coming forward is our Robb Flynn.  Of course, this relates to the socio-political matters that make up a decent fraction of the lyricism on ‘Catharsis’, but it just as easily could be seen as him reacting to the expectations from fans in regards to how new music from Machine Head should sound.  Put quite plainly, Robb Flynn clearly does not care for these expectations.


Ever since their triumphant comeback in the mid-noughties, the band has enjoyed widespread acclaim amongst the metal community.  With at least one classic record among their last four, it seemed the band were on a fairly consistent creative high.  However, cracks slowly began to emerge in the confidence of their fanbase.  Following a blatant (and admitted) attempt at cracking rock radio with the misjudged single, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’, Robb warned that the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Bloodstone and Diamonds’ would stray from their current established sound, and be more reminiscent of the divisive grooving melodicism of their late 90’s material.  With alarm bells ringing, fans have cautiously awaited the arrival of ‘Catharsis.’


Let’s get to the point; the decision to return to some of the musical trappings of ‘The Burning Red/’Supercharger’ is perplexing, given how alienating those albums were to fans the first time round.  The concerns of many that the album would not represent the more feral side of the band proves to be quickly addressed with the opening down-tuned riffing of ‘Volatile’,  also introducing the hugely effective backing vocals of bassist, Jared MacEachern, a recurring success of the record.  However, as immediate a track as it is, it’s hard to shake a nagging observation; the riffs, and the overall instrumentation in fact, sound remarkably like early Slipknot. 


It’s an accusation that can also be applied to ‘California’s Bleeding’ and ‘Beyond The Pale’, each utilizing that emphasized stomp n’ groove that so fundamentally defined the early nü metal sound.  While these are decent enough songs in their own right, the derivativeness is undeniably distracting.  This becomes amplified with ‘Triple Beam’, a track which is indebted to King 810 in its pseudo-rapped verses, dragging riffs and lyrical content regarding street violence that it goes some way beyond mere homage.


And then of course there’s ‘Bastards.’  While the song may have been born out of the best of intentions, the disjointed attempt at a Dropkick Murphy-esque anthem sits uncomfortably on an album already weighed down by questionable decision making.  The inclusion of various ethnic slurs only adds to the level of cringe, regardless of the attempted political commentary. 



There are moments on ‘Catharsis’ that hint at what a more focused version of this record could have been.  The title track in particular allows for the melodically-infused groove of ‘The Burning Red’ whilst still retaining the symphonic sound that was developed on ‘Bloodstone and Diamonds.’  The cinematic ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ is a wonderful halfway house of that album and ‘The Blackening’; progressive in structure and far more suited stylistically to the band’s strengths.  The predominantly acoustic ‘Behind A Mask’ indicates that Machine Head are quite capable of experimentation, with this poignantly morose track excelling in every aspect that ‘Bastards’ fails. 


Despite its moments, at fifteen songs, ‘Catharsis’ more than outstays its welcome.  For every ‘Razorblade Smile’ (a rollicking tribute to Lemmy), there is the unforgettable ‘Psychotic’ or ‘Screaming At The Sun.’ After a series of tracks with little in the way of distinction, the album wheezes to a halt with the exasperatingly drudge of ‘Eulogy,’ a bizarre choice of a closer.


It would be truly surprising if ‘Catharsis’ does not turn out to be incredibly polarizing among Machine Head fans.  For a band with so much of their own character, there is little to none to show for it here.  Ironically, in attempting to evade expectations and mould their own destiny, Machine Head have ended up walking roads they have already travelled, as well as others.  There is literally no telling where the band will go from here, and unfortunately, in light of this album, that’s not a reassuring thought.


‘Catharsis’ is released on Friday 26 January. You can get your copy HERE.


Machine Head tour poster


All content © Über Rock.  Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.