Machine Head – Unto the Locust

Can I just say it is about damn time? Machine Head have been around for years, but they took the metal world by storm in 2007 with the masterpiece “The Blackening.” And then they toured the shit out of it; I know I’ve seen them at least twice since then; once with Megadeth, and once with Metallica. There may be a third time I’m forgetting. Anyway, apparently taking a page out of the Metallica playbook, they took four long years to release their new album “Unto the Locust,” and now people are getting excited over the impending release. With good reason.

“Unto the Locust” is far and away my hands down winner for Album of 2011. There have been some really great albums released this year, but in my mind nothing comes close to touching Machine Head. There are still a few months left in the year, but I’m not aware of anything imminent that might compete, so I’m casting my vote now. Some albums take time to grow on you, but this one I knew right away upon hearing it that it was something very special.

In the past Machine Head have been melodic and they have been very heavy as well. “The Blackening” did heavy very, very well (see “Aesthetics of Hate”.) Now “Unto the Locust” is taking both heavy and melodic and combining them into something unstoppable in its greatness. Half a dozen listens in I’m still getting goose bumps when I hear these songs.

There are sadly only seven songs on the album, but there is no filler here. Each of these seven tracks is a classic waiting to happen. “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” is very much in the heavy “Blackening” style and it crushes. But then we move into “Be Still and Know” and I can tell that this is not “Blackening” part two; this has a lot of super melodic elements. There are calmer moments as well, such as the first half of “Darkness Within.”

My current favorites on the album include the aforementioned “Be Still and Know”, “Darkness Within” and the album closer “Who We Are.” Not only is “Who We Are” a perfect album closer, it should also be the heavy metal anthem of the year. For years I’ve felt that one of the best songs to describe the common bond of the metal community was “We Who Are Not As Others” by Sepultura. So simple, yet so true as well; the metal community has always stood apart. Now I think we have a new song. “Who We Are”, whatever it may have been written about, to me is like the “Star Spangled Banner” of metal. They should play it at the beginning of all metal shows. Seriously though, this is a great song. It’s an intimate bearing of the soul and a challenge for you to do anything about it. What could be more metal than that? You are just going to have to fucking deal with me world - “This is who we are. This is what I am.”

I’d like to think it won’t be another four or more years until the next Machine Head album, but I expect they are going to be touring on this one for quite some time.

This morning I just realized there are three bonus tracks available with the iTunes special edition. More Machine Head! The special edition includes an acoustic version of “Darkness Within” and two cover song: Rush’s “Witch Hunt” and an amazing version of the Judas Priest classic “The Sentinel.” For my money I’d go with the iTunes version if for no other reason than to get “The Sentinel.”