14 July 2013

Machine Head - Hellalive

This album was suggested for review by the Blog's creator, Eddie Carter, as part of his "Albums you may like" series. It's an album I passed by back in the day, due to being so utterly disappointed with "Supercharger" (or $up£rcharg£r as I liked to call it, due to the fact it seemed like the band were more interested in selling out than thrashing out on that album. That worthless slab of plastic was a nu-metal cash-grabber and although Robb Flynn slagged me off in Metal Hammer when I called him out on it, I still stand by my comments). Anyhow...

Live albums, along with cover albums, are usually looked at as nothing more than something to fill a contractual obligation although you occasionally get one that becomes a classic in it's own right. American hard rock shills Kiss are an example as one of their early live albums not only became a fan favourite in their discography but it's also regarded as the album that put Kiss on the map. This brings us up to Oakland bruisers Machine Head and their first live album.

Recorded at Brixton Academy, London in 2001, it's obviously going to feature a fair few songs from that turd sandwich as well as 'The Burning Red', due to that album having preceeded it. This whole era for me, was bad for Machine Head. Music that was largely fretboard wankery fed through a guitar FX unit for the verses before going into slamming choruses (Mind, 'The Burning Red' was quite good as it was MH putting their own slant on a genre and not just sucking it off wholesale). However, it only has four songs from $up£rcharg£r - and three of them are good ones! There is the title track, 'Bulldozer' (Which I have to admit, was a pretty good song), 'Crashing Around You' (Again, a really good song) and 'American High' (A shit song right from the Tarzan-esque yell at the start, all the way through the lyrics about how tough it is to be a kid and how High School is shit. Thing is - it translates well live. I dunno why, but the music sounds less weedy and a bit more punchier in a live setting. It's also made me think that maybe if the lyrics weren't Robb Flynn re-enacting his teenage years, we may have had a decent album in '$up£rcharg£r'. Banter inbetween songs is mostly of the "You guys ROCK!!!" and "I wanna see you tear this place APART" variety. Despite the fact that there were some issues at the time, it's clear to hear that Robb Flynn and the guys are having fun whilst they do their thing onstage.

The main problem of this album for me is that it's just not the same listening to the live show than actually being at the live show. The songs are played a wee bit faster than on record which sometimes works, depending on the song, the crowd roar along to their favourite tunes (The 'Burn My Eyes' material getting the loudest cheers which just proves that Machine Head shot their bolt early, creatively speaking). It sounds like it may have been a good show, certainly a good way to kill an evening. However, it's not all in London, as two of the songs - 'None But My Own' and 'The Burning Red' - were recorded at another festival (2002 Full Force) so feature Phil Demmel on guitar instead of Ahrue Luster (I think he ended up joining Ill Nino - I couldn't think of a band more suited for him), which rejuvinated the band somewhat as they'd go onto record the album for which the phrase 'return to form' was invented for ('Through The Ashes Of Empires' in case you're wondering).

As someone who used to be a big fan of Machine Head (even though I hated them when I first heard them due to thinking they were heavy for heavy sake and ripping off Sepultura and Biohazard), I'm not sure I'd recommend this. It's a snapshot from an era of the band that's best forgotten and they have also done much better albums since (Even though the material hasn't actually dated as horribly as you'd think). Plus, they released another live album in 2012 (Machine Fucking Head Live) which has the latter stuff. I haven't heard that one yet so can't comment if it's good. but if you want a live Machine Head album with the latter stuff, you'd have to get that one.

6/10 - Now I see where you're going but not quite there.

Chris J.

You can buy this album on iTunes.
Spotify link
Amazon link

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