‘Catharsis’ is a ridiculous release, okay?. Machine Head have gone to kitchen sink levels of absurdity with the volume of different ideas on their ninth studio album. How they’ve conjured works of nu-metal, folk-punk and Game of Thrones-esque symphonic backdrops for the same record is beyond comprehension.
The real question is, is this expansive range of songwriting actually worth listening to? There’s no doubt that whether they’re performing revisionist-hair metal on ‘California Bleeding’ or rapping about selling meth on ‘Triple Beam’, Machine Head are focusing all their passion and energy into these tracks, and a level of intensity is constantly sustained. And ‘Catharsis’ provides a depth of emotional release for its creators. Both through steel-plated ragers, such as the thrashing condemnation of ‘racists’, ‘phoneys’ and ‘the NRA’ on opener ‘Volatile’ and the cinematic title track, which continues the gripping melodrama of 2014’s ‘Bloodstone and Diamonds’.
Of course, emotional release is a delicate matter, and ‘Catharsis’ does require patience from it’s listeners before it’s tracks come out of their shells. Uplifting banjo-clanger ‘Bastards’ will have listeners question the band’s sanity upon first play. It’s terrible, but with more listens, something endearing emerges about Robb Flynn’s sheer heart-on-sleeve message of optimism for a desperate USA. Think of it as modern metal’s answer to ‘The Room.’
Arguably, it’s these weird moments like the psychedelic keyboards on ‘Kaleidoscope’ and latin guitar leads on ‘Behind a Mask’ that make a greater impact here than more classic-MH tailored songs. The groove metal triptych of ‘Psychotic’, ‘Grind You Down’ and ‘Razorblade Smile’ fail to impress in the wake of medieval-tinged epic ‘Heavy Lies the Crown’, particularly considering one could hear Machine Head craft better balls-to-the-wall metal on ‘The Blackening’.
‘Catharsis’ is far from perfect, but shows the start of a creative rebirth for Machine Head. While they still want to appease old school fans looking for another ‘Davidian’, when they let their minds travel across new worlds of multicultural instrumentation, that’s when it gets interesting. And if ridiculousness is the new MH lifeblood, they may as well embrace it.
‘Catharsis’ by Machine Head is released on 26th January on Nuclear Blast Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)