Call me Russ L

Welcome To The Machine (Head), or: A Blogging Project About A Probably Undeserving Band

Posted in Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 2 November, 2011

So, back when I was at school there existed a band called Machine Head (note to self: stop calling them “Machinehead”). I liked them back in the day, then got a bit fed up with them, and for many-a-year since they’ve barely entered my mind. I was dimly aware that they were still going, but genuinely surprised to find out that they’ve become a lot more popular and are actually playing arenas nowadays.

“Oh hai come and see Machine Head for my birthday” sez Trig.
“Death To False Metal” thundered I.
“Agawaan you will you will you will” spaketh he.
“Goo on then, I s’pose” grumbled meself.

Rewind, reload, pull it back: when I first became aware of them, as a callow youth, they played the sort of thing that has since been reclassified as groove metal (I don’t recall anyone using that term at the time, but it appears to be the phrase for now) – all very macho and using loosely thrash-metal-based riffs, but adopting a more grooving (if you will) rhythmic pattern than your typical thrashy up-tempo attack-attack-attack. Pantera were the most acclaimed and famous band playing in this style, but Machine Head differed from them through their more urban-styled approach – whereas Pantera were your down-home rednecks from the ranch, Machine Head were your city-blight muggers from the projects. “Projects”, of course, being American for “council estates”, albeit with an even stronger implication of “there’s something evil about public housing” than the one that they’ve been trying to foist on us for the last thirty years.

This was the style that MH proceeded with for their first couple of albums, “Burn My Eyes” and “The More Things Change…”. I recall borrowing a magazine (“Kerrang” or “Metal Hammer”. We were young and quite stupid) cover CD from someone, which featured a spoken-word intro from Machine Head Guvnor Rob Flynn. “Why are you listening to this when you could be out car-jacking?” enquired that tough manly man in his angry car-jacking voice. Here, I imagine I was expected to feel, was a chap who wouldn’t take any nonsense from any sumbitch.

Shortly after all of this, nu-metal became popular and celebrating your own lack of toughness became the fashionable thing in rock-y metal-y circles. MH changed style to something altogether more nu-metal-ish for their third album “The Burning Red”, employing Ross Robinson as a producer, using ‘that’ guitar tone, and making the most of the simple riffing style that was the trademark of the idiom. Flynn was no longer an advocate of car-jacking in his interviews, and rather chose to speak of his bouts of bulimia and some unspecified terrible thing that happened to him during his childhood. Maybe the new and more open climate gave him the confidence to speak about these things. Maybe he’s a horn-tooter who saw the chance to flog a few more CDs. I suppose we’ll never know.

I lost touch with them and their works after that, so I can’t claim to know the slightest thing about their runnings since then. All of the above is based in memory, too, so there’s every chance in the world that all of that might be completely inaccurate.

In the mixed spirit of willing and masochism, I have decided to listen to all of their albums prior to the gig and write something about them. We’ll see how this turns out.

(In the end, the albums were dealt with here, here, here and here, and the actual gig here).

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