I’ve been a fan of Machine Head’s music since 1999’s The Burning Red — an album that divided long-time fans of the Oakland bruisers’ earlier albums (1994’s Burn My Eyes and 1997’s The More Things Change…). I’ve loved most of their output ever since. During my undergraduate years, I was also lucky enough to interview drummer Dave McClain at a Roadrunner Road Rage gig in Newcastle, when I was running my music fanzine (the sadly-defunct-but-fondly-remembered MWRI. While I’ve found their previous couple of albums very good, I don’t think they did much to move the band forward. With Catharsis, however, Machine Head have done a lot to reinvent their sound while at the same time staying true to their thrash/metal roots.
Certain songs sound and feel traditionally Machine Head — for example, album opener “Volatile”, and also “Hope Begets Hope”, “Psychotic” and “Beyond the Pale”. Meanwhile, I also very much enjoyed the punky feel of “Bastards”, and the more soulful and melodic “Behind the Mask”. Each song has many of the trademarks we have come to know and love from the band: especially Flynn’s distinctive, gravelling vocals, as well as the heavy groove they have been perfecting over their 24-year career. At the same time, we can hear more melodic influences in many of these songs, making for a varied, interesting and sometimes surprising listen. The title track (video below) does a great job of blending many of these elements — old and new — that one can heard on the album.
Die hard fans who are only interested in the band releasing updates to Burn My Eyes or 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires (a stellar album, it’s true) will possibly be disappointed with Catharsis. If, however, you are a fan who likes your favourite band(s) to keep experimenting and growing, then I think you’ll find a lot to like here.
Catharsis is out now, released by Nuclear Blast Records.