Rhythm & Views

Machine Head

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines masterpiece as "a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement."

A new definition can now be officially added: "Machine Head, The Blackening."

Bay Area metal titan Machine Head has returned with a shotgun blast in its sixth studio effort. With frontman Robb Flynn tackling production duties for the second straight album, The Blackening is chock-full of the most raw, sickening and dark music ever recorded. The ominous guitar chemistry between Flynn and Phil Demmel is head and shoulders above the competition, and you can seemingly feel Dave McClain destroy his drum kit throughout the album.

Calling the song structures on this album complex is an understatement, with tempo and dynamic switches all across the board. Riffs, solos, hooks and bass explode out of each of the eight tracks like there's no tomorrow, and lyrical themes range from politics to the war in Iraq to organized religion.

"Clenching the Fists of Dissent" begins this epic album with a 10-minute blistering riff barrage reminiscent of '80s thrash metal, while "Beautiful Mourning" is an utter slamfest highlighted by a rebellious shout of "Fuck you all!"

The band's most angry and hateful song yet, "Aesthetics of Hate" responds to a journalist who wrote an article that mocked the tragic death of "Dimebag" Darrell. Flynn sinisterly grunts, "May the hands of God strike them down," leaving a chilling feeling as the track fades out.

No hyperbole: The Blackening is the most fully realized metal album since Master of Puppets.