2 February 2018
Machine Head - Catharsis
Even before Catharsis was release, Machine Head have come into a lot of flak with this album. The hatred to the singles that were released, especially "Bastards" was interesting to watch, to say the least, but it seems a bit like a lynch mob at times as well. Because of this, I've received a request from one of the former contributors of the blog team to come back to review this one, but I politely declined them as this one is mine. For the sake of honesty, I must admit that I've always had a love/hate relationship with Machine Head, when they get it right (such as Through The Ashes of Empires and Burn My Eyes) they are unstoppable. However, when they are self-indulgent (The Blackening), listless (Supercharger) or damn right trend following (This Burning Red), they are not a band that interests me. So, the audience will already be prejudice against this album, the band has been on the defensive and everyone seems to be at other throats, but now they are being a bit brutish in response (again, not surprising after the level of vitriol that has been sent there way). A perfect backdrop for releasing an album then, so let's get on with the review......
01 - Volatile
"Volatile" is a sweary number, full of anger and aggression as they lash out at the world that has left them for dead. It's a strong Groove/Thrash opening, nice and compact and with a decent punch. It's not setting my world alight, but it does have a good hook which I'm sure will make this a winner in their live shows.
02 - Catharsis
The title track is next, this is a slow pace number which seems to drag a little bit too long for me. It has a synth build up at the beginning, which made me worry that they were going to drop something different. But it's back to their own brand of thrash, but it still feels stilted and dull. It talks about tearing stuff down, but then again, it doesn't change too much about MH (or Catharsis by extension) either. I've heard a lot worse from them, but I've also heard a hell of a lot better from them as well.
03 - Beyond the Pale
"Beyond the Pale" is a fantastic modern metal song, it has a brilliant riff that could level a forest, a fantastic performance and a brilliant drumming performance from Dave McClain. It's one of the few songs on the album which instantly grabbed me, this is a proper stomper, a curtain raiser and it's a definitive Machine Head anthem. It's to the point, it doesn't outstay its welcome and it has a positive message. One of my favourite songs on the album, praise where praise is due.
04 - California Bleeding
"California Bleeding" is another song which I enjoyed, despite it being another song about California (a subject that has been mined sooooo many times). It's all about the contrast between the sunny lifestyle and the feeling that everything as if it's full of Hollyweird magic. It's as OTT as MH gets on this album. It would be a big single for this album, but it'll be a bitch to edit as it's full of swearing (much like the rest of the album). If you're into your larger than life version of Machine Head, this is the song for you.
05 - Triple Beam
"Triple Beam" sounds like a poor version of a Cold song, it's aiming to be a mysterious song with a message, a sinister tale of caution and it's just an awful song. I can find no redeeming feature on this song, it could have easily fitted on Supercharger. Next!
06 - Kaleidoscope
Handclapping, it starts with handclapping... well, at least we know how they want to start that one when you see them in one of their live shows. After that strange introduction, we have a politically charged song which has a good message at it's hard, but it feels as if they have used these riffs before with better results. It already feels old by the time you get to the end, and this feeling is not improved with repeated listens either. Another song which doesn't quite make it for me, but the lyrical content is intriguing, so it's not a total loss here.
07 - Bastards
Ah, the odd one out of Catharsis, the slayer of the might MH as they dared to step out of their own shadow. Ok, I will admit I was taken aback when I first heard it, I really didn't know that Robb Flynn and co wanted to be the Dropkick Murphys. But it's not a bad song to a certain extent because I reckon if this was on a solo album by Robb Flynn, a lot of people would love it. But as it's been released on a Machine Head album, a lot of people hate it for not being Metal and that is not fair if you ask me. "Bastards" is one of the better songs on here, just for two things - one, it's a brave move to follow your heart and to try something new and two, it's fucked off a lot of people. It's all about standing up for your rights (some of the lyrics are questionable though) and not letting people take advantage. I see the idea, I applaud the bravery and whilst I wouldn't listen to it too much, I must give it kudos for trying something new, even if I’m not 100% on board with the end result.
08 - Hope Begets Hope
And then they come back with "Hope Begets Hope", and it's back to a tired and dull Groove sound that is a lack of originality and imagination. It's another song that should have been left on the cutting room floor, it's just a predictable number. Another number which I will not miss, next!
09 - Screaming at the Sun
"Screaming at the Sun" is a slow, methodical piece of modern metal that neither excites or bores me. It's decent, full of harmonics and it almost gets it's right. But only almost, as it outstays its own welcome, it has about 10 false endings and it doesn't require it. It could have been great, but it's just average. That said, it's still better than a few of the other tracks on here.
10 - Behind a Mask
"Behind a Mask" is another brave song, imagine the beginning of "Descend the Shades of Night" had been extended and it doesn't become that stomping tune. Now, this is another song which might have some people up in arms and calling for the heads of MH, but I really love it. When they do something right, it's done right, and this is a great counterweight to "Beyond the Pale", showing that they are not just Metal for Metal's sake. I'm not sure I would love a whole album like this, but it's an interest divergence from the normal routing of MH.
11 - Heavy Lies the Crown
"Heavy Lies the Crown" is a long track, unnecessarily long as well as the two and a half minutes are just a prolonged introduction. It could have been done in thirty seconds, one-minute tops and it would have been more effective. Anyway, it's another OTT metal anthem, a bit bloated, but it's one that holds your attention well enough, it just could have used some trimming if I'm honest. It also should have been the ending track of the album, it has that feeling to it, but that's just me.
12 - Psychotic
"Psychotic" is a decent, if not amazing song. It has a huge riff, some of the best drumming and bass work on the album and it sounds great. Once more, they sound have taken a minute off the song, made it a leaner beast. But that's just my opinion, and we have a decent number instead of a great one.
13 - Grind You Down
"Grind You Down" will probably sound a lot better in the live environment than it does here, it takes so long to get going that I was starting to drift once again. It's just predictable once again, so I'll just move onto the next one......
14 - Razorblade Smile
The penultimate song of this album is "Razorblade Smile" and it's a Thrash heavy song which is full of the devil's energy. It's a little bit too late to save this album, but it's one of the better songs on the album. It has an energy that has been missing on far too many of these songs, I love the way it sounds like it's heading to the border to see what is just over the horizon.
15 - Eulogy
"Eulogy" ends Catharsis and I can sort of see why they picked this over "Heavy Lies The Crown", but for my money, I wouldn't have added this one at all. It's a mash-up of everything from the album with lots of returns to "Bastards", but it's unnecessary and a little bit self-indulgent to be honest, and that is being kind. It ends the album on a sour note, not something you would really have wanted to hear at the end of an album.
Ok, let's sum up here. Robb Flynn either needs to do a solo record or get someone in who can help him edit his work. There is a point where you can give too much in one go and Catharsis is a prime example of that type of albums. There are too many songs here, plain and simple. It feels too weighty, too long and bloated, this knocks about five points off the album straight away. Now that I've got that out of the way, here are the positives - there are some good songs amongst the mass of this album, it might not be an amazing record, but that does not mean it's an awful record. What has astounded me mostly has nothing to do with the music of this album, it has been the reaction that Catharsis has received, EVEN BEFORE IT WAS EVEN RELEASED which has been approaching hysteria at times. So, they have attempted something slightly different to what they have been doing since Through The Ashes of Empires, this is what that their critics and fans have been calling for and now they've sort of been damned for that. This is something that I find a little unfair, how are bands meant to grow when people are just begging for the same songs again and again? They've tried something, it's not quite worked in places for me and some of their audience, but what is the harm in that? They will learn something from this record, they will take the positives and refine their sound once more. I have hope in the future as they have been treading water for a while and at least they have tried to shake things up, this could be a blessing in disguise here and I truly mean that. So, in conclusion, Catharsis is a slightly below average album, but one that might lead to exceptional results later. Also, how much swearing......
4 out of ten - Well, it's alright but still
Top track - Behind a Mask
You can purchase Catharsis from Amazon here.
You can visit the Machine Head website here.
You can follow the activities of Machine Head on Facebook here.
You can stream Catharsis on Spotify here.
You can stream Catharsis on Deezer here.
You can stream Catharsis on Tidal here.
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