There are some bands that come into your life and change your whole world. They get ingrained in your DNA and shape every inch of your personality, giving you the space to grow and evolve with a feverish desire for life. Their music becomes more than a hobby or simple entertainment, it becomes religious with each new album like a Gospel. A lot of these bands are rooted in your youth and even as you get older, you still have the space to inherit sonic and emotional revolution. One band who is deeply ingrained in my DNA is Machine Head and it is a journey that began in late December 1997 when I was just 14 years old.
For the past 16 years of my life Machine Head have been a constant. Regardless of what I’m listening to or what new movement of sound I’m freaking out on Machine Head remain with me, with my love for the band continuing to grow as each year passes. They sound just as vital in 2013 as they did to me in 1997 and I am serious when I say that I owe my life to them.
When I say I owe them my life, I’m not pledging some “Superfan” allegiance I am seriously giving them the award for being one of the bands who allowed me to survive to the age of 30. Anytime I’ve stood at the metaphorical cliff’s edge and nestled into the swirls of the “what’s the point?” darkness, Machine Head been there to talk me down and bring me back to a place of happiness and redemption. Any kind of “survivor” energy that I portray to the outside world has been sourced from musing on the history and music of Machine Head. Any good piece of advice I’ve given to the countless people through the years or anytime I’ve been told “you’ve got such strength,” all that kudos belongs to Machine Head.
The reason why this all belongs to Machine Head is because the band has shaped a lot of my life’s philosophies and gave me the space to grow my emotional intelligence. Every inch of my evolution has had a Machine Head album attached to it and in 2013 I need Machine Head now more than ever.
In December 1997 I turned 14 and had moved from Mackay to Bundaberg just 12 months earlier. In 1997 my mental health was challenged by the cruelty of starting a brand new high school and inheriting new levels of bullying and cruelty. Each day I had daily reminders of a world that did not want me and a world that did not care, it is a pain that will never leave me and a pain that has been scared into my existence. Being an overweight human being my whole life has been a struggle both physically and emotionally and while I constantly talk about “the ache” that haunts me the damage caused by a lifetime of bullying has also birthed a “pain” deep inside of me.
The key ingredient to helping me survive was Music and the role of Heavy Metal. When I was a child and prior to the Seattle infection that happened when I was eleven years old, I put my faith in the fiction of comic book heroes like Superman and Batman, fictional Action Movie characters and all avenues of fiction that allowed me to escape. I was saved by these figures of fiction, they gave me the strength to overcome and somehow, beyond igniting my imagination, they gave me hope.
With adult hindsight I became aware of the deep emotional pain that lingered in those comic book superheroes and how they themselves were a symbol of the “freak” doing their best to overcome being different by using their strength or super power to help bring light to the world. For all the terrible things that happened to me at the hands of my bullies I knew that I was better than them and that I was put on this earth to do good and bring light.
When music came into my life I was given a new legion of superheroes who were real life human beings. This transition from the fictional to the real life gave me even more strength and a new corner of the universe to nestle into and find purpose. Metallica, Pantera and Sepultura may have plugged me into Heavy Metal when I was 12 going on 13 but it was the sound of Machine Head that changed my life and sealed my commitment to Heavy Metal as a genre and a saviour.
Not to divert too much, I just wanted to put a little spotlight on the kind of existence I had up until that point and how my life played out. As I mentioned I was an overweight human being and had suffered at the hands of Bullying for as long as I could remember. Ever since I was conscious enough to remember I knew and felt different. From my early years as an innocent young child to now I’ve had people point, laugh and go out of their way to tease and bully. It comes from people you know and absolute strangers. Going out in public from then to now has always involved the cruelty of people staring, laughing, pointing, yelling things at you and judging every single thing you do. The simplest of tasks attracts this ritual of abuse and a large portion of the time it is from strangers who just pass me in the street.
With age I’ve simply gotten better at accepting it and a lot of the time it just rolls of me but it doesn’t take away the fact that it still hurts and cuts pretty deep. My days at school were polluted with these experiences and on occasions it would be elevated to public displays of active abuse from those around me. During my primary school days a daily ritual would include people running behind me and stealing my hat and running off knowing that I did not have the capacity to chase them. In the designated lunchtime periods I would have food constantly thrown at me and advised to “eat it you fuck” and I’d also have people run along and steal my lunch as I was eating it claiming “you don’t need to eat that you fat fuck.”
One incident that is burned into my memory is something that happened one morning when I had arrived at school. I was in grade five at the time and when I went to the boys toilets all of the grade six boys were in there and they just cornered me. They then proceeded to rip off my school shirt claiming they wanted to see “what a fat fuck” I really was and then when they removed my shirt they spat on me and flushed my shirt in the toilet. I was beyond terrified by this. Instead of going to the principle and reporting it I stayed in the toilets all day until my shirt dried and simply waited until 3pm and left the toilets. I told absolutely no one out of fear because I was scared of these people. During my high school years the abuse kept coming with the same types of rituals performed and the same old taunts. The hard part about this was the dedication to diets and weight loss through all of these years and how people even when you were dieting would still bully me. They just didn’t know the hell I was going through in order to better my life and lose that weight. I’ve had positive weight loss stories but that cruelty sometimes is what pushes me backwards.
Through it all though, for whatever emotional damage it has done to me as a human being it has also birthed a drive and a desire for life. I was never interested in being a victim and those who loved me always were great protectors and encouraged me to achieve everything I wanted in life, they believed in my passion for music. Instead of giving into the bullies and becoming the “fat fuck” or indeed “the victim” I chose to outlearn the bullies and become emotionally and intellectually better. So I read books, watched a lot of great films and documentaries, got into music, learned how to create music, learned about poetry and just threw myself into self-education. Living well is the best revenge and chasing what you love is vital. Through that love and support of my parents I knew I started to believe and understand that I was better than them all.
It was the discovery of music as more than entertainment at age eleven when I got into Pearl Jam that really changed the game. An eleven year old shouldn’t have suicidal thoughts but I did and if it wasn’t for the rush of Pearl Jam and the Seattle grunge scene who knows what would have happened. With music I had found my saviour and from eleven to fourteen a lot of bands saved my life but the lows of this new town (Bundaberg) and new high school required something heavier to help me find redemption, Machine Head provided that.
I brought Machine Head’s 1994 debut album “Burn My Eyes” in December 1997 with Birthday Money I had received from my Nana and Pop. I had read about the band in various metal and rock magazines and the way they were described intrigued me. I had no internet or youtube to road test what they sounded like, so it was a pure risk. From memory it was a Thursday when I brought “Burn My Eyes” at Chandlers in Bundaberg.
The next few hours at home I was glued to my Discman and Headphones listening to the amazing sounds that “Burn My Eyes” were offering. Something resonated with me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The album had all of the technical brilliance that most Metal bands showcase but it also had a new level of emotion that I hadn’t heard. The whole album rushed passed and I just kept pushing play on my Discman until the batteries went flat. Each new listen presented something different. I must have listened to that album 10 times in a row whilst studying the inlay card of the CD. There were two songs that instantly stood out that and they are the albums opener “Davidian” and track four “None But My Own” and I think these are songs you need to hear – have a listen:
None By My Own
There is a line in Davidian that resonated with me quite deeply which is “I feed off pain force fed to love it and now I swallow whole, I never live in the past” – as a lyric at that point in my life and now as an adult it still rings true.
It wasn’t just the lyrics of “Burn My Eyes” that saved me it was the riffs, the drums, the vocals, the bass and the aggression of it all. It was savage and ugly sounding music and felt like the sonic representation of how I felt and how I believed people saw me. It wasn’t popular and the people who bullied me saw no value in it and I can’t begin to tell you how that slow / sludge riff breakdown outro at the end of “Davidian” summed me up. I still think that passage of sound sums up what people think and believe about me. It was so powerful and that song and this album were full of personal anthems. So I dived into the new school year of 1998 (grade ten) with a new band of heroes and degree of personal strength. The other four bands on high rotation during this period were Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura and Fear Factory, but I’ll explore my attachment to these bands in future blogs in this series.
The next album I brought from Machine Head was in 1998 and was their second album “The More Things Change” which had been released earlier in 1997. I’d desired this album for quite a while but nowhere in Bundaberg had it. Every now and then I’d see it but whenever I had the money it was not in stock. In June of 1998 this all changed when I accompanied Mum and my little brother John to Brisbane to visit my Nana and Pop for the June school holidays.
These visits always had a “shopping” day attached to them where we’d go into the Queen Street Mall and I’d be given some money to buy something I wanted, the joy and treat of holiday living. The only album I wanted was “The More Things Change” by Machine Head. I went to numerous record stores in the Queen Street Mall and I finally found a copy of it (the special edition digipack version with bonus tracks) at The Record Exchange. I stood in the store and looked at that album for what felt like an eternity. I think it was the happiness and knowledge that I would finally own it that brought me such joy. I almost felt like crying and even though it was $30.00 and I would spend most of my holiday pocket Money I didn’t care, it was an album I needed to own, so I brought it.
It was that moment, while I was listening to “The More Things Change” back at Nana and Pop’s place on my Discman that Machine Head slipped into my DNA. I think from a sentimental point of view I’ll always place “The More Things Change” at the top of my list for favourite albums from Machine Head simply because it was so life changing. This was the album where I feel that the band established their sound. It was such a deep and intense record that was full of beautiful movements of heavy metal. The glorious life-changing moment of it all happened for me during the fourth track “Down To None” which you all need to listen to right now:
Down To None
That lyric of “Bow Down To No One, Bow Down To None” – that was a lyric that I worshiped in my teenage years and it was the truth that I needed to hear at that moment in my life. It re-inforced how important it was to stay true to yourself and to go against the grain, to say “fuck you” and boycott popular culture. I already hated the popular human beings that polluted high school and this song became my new national anthem for being outside of that. It’s still my national anthem for being on the outside of what everyone considers popular. The perfect companion to this song was track eight which was called “Violate” – have a listen:
These slow burning tracks were my favourite songs from the album and at that point in time my favourite Machine Head songs ever. The way they played out, the drama and the heaviness of it all combined with the emotion and the message. They swirled with darkness but also helped you reach the light and taught you that only the strong survive and that it wasn’t a physical strength that you needed to survive, it was an emotional strength.
I can’t talk about “The More Things Change” without including the two singles released from the album which are classic Machine Head songs. Those two songs are “Ten Ton Hammer” and “Take My Scars” and if you haven’t heard these metal masterpieces I think it’s time to turn your volume up and get lost in the bliss that these songs provide:
Ten Ton Hammer
Take My Scars
When I got back to Bundy after visiting Brisbane I removed the bands from my school books and plastered them with pictures of Machine Head that I had cut out from the various metal magazines I owned. All other music was irrelevant and I wanted everyone to know that Machine Head were the band that I stood behind and believed in. It was all I listened to and all I spoke about when I discussed music with people.
Machine Head reigned supreme in my life and it felt like through their music I no longer felt scared or afraid of the bullies. I felt ten foot tall and bulletproof and that nothing could touch me. I felt very well adjusted and any cruelty I encountered was overcome by listening to Machine Head. I went full steam against the grain and it was towards the end of 1998 that I started my first band with my friends Todd (who still plays with me now in Galapogos) and Evan (later to be joined in 1999 with Ben Steward on Bass). I couldn’t play an instrument but I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be a lot of things back then but most of all I wanted to be Robb Flynn. He became my number one hero and along with Max Cavalera and Phil Anselmo I had my vocal and lyrical icons for what become “Chinelaeo” my first ever band.
I also wanted desperately to have a Machine Head t-shirt and because band shirts didn’t come in my size I made my own using a blank black t-shirt and printed out the following image from the computer and using an iron on transfer Mum helped me make my own Machine Head t-shirt:
On the back of the t-shirt I printed out the words “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same” and again using the iron-on transfer I attached them to the blank black t-shirt. I felt fucking invincible with this t-shirt and I wore it every chance I got. If the music of Machine Head was my National Anthem then this t-shirt was the flag that I stood under
Moving into 1999 the main things that I was living for was playing music with my band “Chinelaeo” and awaiting the release of the new Machine Head album. I had just got the internet in my house in 1999 and while other people would have spent their time doing homework and studying I was on the internet looking up Machine Head and staying glued to their very fan inclusive official website www.machinehead1.com – fuck I was excited about their new album.
The band had gone through a very dramatic line-up change with the departure of original guitarist Logan Mader and the induction of Ahrue Luster in the band. The band were working with renowned producer Ross Robinson who had worked on Sepultura’s “Roots” and Korn’s first two records “Self –Titled” and “Life Is Peachy” who I was a fan of at the time.
My band “Chinelaeo” practiced at our Drummer Evan’s house every Sunday and we were preparing for the annual Bundaberg Battle of the Bands. We had written two original songs called “Criminal” and “Sick Sense Of Love” and prepared two cover songs (“Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath and “Headup” by Deftones) for our Battle Of The Bands set.
At that point in time Triple J’s designated metal show “Three Hours Of Power” was on every Friday night from 9pm to 12am and was a radio show I listened to religiously. You got to hear brand new releases and in-depth interviews with a range of different metal bands. The Battle of the Bands was on a Saturday, in early July. That Friday night before the Battle of the Bands “Three Hours of Power” were debuting the brand new single from Machine Head called “From This Day” – so I stayed up with Ben Steward (our bass player who was staying the night) and we taped the brand new single by Machine Head onto a cassette tape. The song gave me fucking goosebumps and I was hooked. The band had taken all that was amazing about their heavy sound and infused it with some of the nu-metal dynamics. Here is the song, please listen:
From This Day
I loved this song pretty hardcore and it was the perfect piece of confidence to help me get on that stage the next night to play with “Chinelaeo” – again it comes down to the lyrics in that chorus “Time to see, believe this in me, this pain that I feel deep inside” that really turned me on, fuck it resonated pretty deeply.
When I performed with “Chinelaeo” that night I felt a rush come over me. It was the first time I’d performed live with a band. Considering most people were quick to label me as being unconfident I think I surprised and blew a lot of minds that night.
Perhaps it was hearing “From This Day” or perhaps it was the adrenaline of it all but I went out there and put my passion for music out into the universe via the songs we performed. We may not have won the competition or even been placed but everyone came up to me after the set and praised it. Even the popular fuckholes who I despised were blown away by the fact that I could get up there and perform on such an intense and passionate level.
I banged my head, screamed my lungs out and did everything I’d seen Robb Flynn, Max Cavalera and Phil Anselmo do. I felt every second of it and to see the way my high school tormentors changed their attitude towards me was both positive and negative. I got all those backhanded compliments of “Fuck man, I never knew you could do that” and “That was beyond awesome, I was not expecting that, you’re a fucking star” – I had found my purpose and my reason for existing, I was meant to be a singer and a frontman of a rock n roll band. Glad to say that unlike those popular losers, who didn’t reach or achieve their dreams (because they peaked in high school), I am actually still doing what I love (singing and playing in a band) and getting kudos for it, so I guess I was right all along – they were the fuckwits with the problem and I would rise above.
Living off the high of that Battle of the Bands set was short lived because Todd wasn’t into playing Metal and didn’t feel we were doing the right things creatively and he wanted to get rid of Evan and Benny from the band and get better players. I felt an allegiance to both Evan and Benny and although Ben Steward left on his own accord I wasn’t comfortable with sourcing other assholes from our year group who now “all of a sudden” wanted to play in a band.
Fast forwarding past the release of “The Burning Red” (that happened in August 1999) these tensions caused a rift with me and Ben Steward and our friendship ended until early in 2000 (Grade 12) and after some soul searching with Evan I realised that I didn’t want him to be kicked out of the band. Like every band situation I’ve been in since, nature took its course and Todd left. Our friendship remained healthy but a competition started to brew between the new band he was putting together and the band that Evan and I re-built (re-named Nitro Fix and then we reverted back to Chinelaeo in 2000). Faced with the possibility that we’d have no guitarist and not really being into the idea of trying to find someone I borrowed my Brothers guitar and amp and taught myself how to play.
From 1999 through to 2000 it was the influence of Machine Head’s “The Burning Red” and later Deftones (in 2000) that would help me shape my guitar style. I had no interest in learning covers so I taught myself to play by making up my own riffs and piecing them together as songs. The guitar was in drop d tuning and I only had to use my single finger to make up heavy riffs. I wrote a bunch of songs and this is how me and Evan re-built Chinelaeo from 1999 into 2000. By early 2000 we had added a friend Ben Loveday on second guitar and after a passionate plea I had convinced Ben Steward to return and play bass.
The reason this relates to Machine Head is because I moulded myself off Robb Flynn and putting Chinelaeo back together felt like it paralleled with what happened to Machine Head leading into the release of “The Burning Red” – for those who don’t know the story, original guitarist Logan Mader left and said he was better, blah blah blah. I felt that same struggle putting “Chinelaeo” back together because Todd knew I was not a competent guitarist and probably had zero faith that our return as a band would yield any good results. In my 16 year old (going on 17 year old) mind I saw Todd as this Logan Mader type figure in my story at that point in time. Needless to say “Chinelaeo” did re-group and we played the simple metal songs that I had written (think Crowbar). It was slow and full of sludge and once again we played a standout set at the 2000 battle of the bands and were the only band to play all original material, something I took great pride in.
We lost and didn’t place but again we got the Kudos from the audience for our originality and passion. Later in 2000 “Chinelaeo” recorded our debut EP “Her Beauty Does Ignite” as a three piece (Ben Loveday paid but he had a party that night so I did all the guitar bits). We were all only 17 years old and not out of school yet but this was my first experience with recording and releasing and promoting music (we got our picture in the paper). The reason why this all relates to Machine Head is because I took all my inspiration in leading “Chinelaeo” from Machine Head and the album we all worshiped as a band was “The Burning Red” – a career highlight for Machine Head, as far as I’m concerned.
In terms of the Machine Head discography fans will always remain divided over “The Burning Red” and its follow up “Supercharger” – basically you either love or hate this era of the band. I personally love it quite a bit and I’ve always been a proud supporter of the amazing masterpiece that “The Burning Red” is.
On “The Burning Red” Machine Head took their sound to new places and to this date it is the most raw, honest and emotionally confronting record of their career. They have indeed gone on to make better albums (Through the Ashes of Empires and The Blackening) but with “The Burning Red” the band did something unique. They stripped everything right back and played around with some more modern dynamics.
One of the real highlights of this album is the vocal performance from Robb Flynn. This was the album where he established himself as one of the most important and creative vocalists in metal. His range across the course of this record is brilliant and we really see the band not only provide a riff-o-rama but also demonstrate some amazing pop skills.
With “The Burning Red” Machine Head ripped themselves apart and put the band and sound back together in order to help them evolve into the new decade. There are so many highlights on this album but my three favourite songs from the album are “Nothing Left,” “Exhale The Vile” and “The Burning Red” – have a listen:
Exhale The Vile
The Burning Red
Putting a focus on the title track “The Burning Red” I found that for the first time we started to see a lot more honesty from Robb Flynn as a songwriter. The beauty of this song surrounds you and engulfs your whole world. I spent a lot of 1999 and 2000 listening to this song. It perfectly highlighted the pain of rejection and how dangerous it can be if you surrender to the darkness and pain of existence. This song both hints at the desperation of ending it but also the power of finding something to live for, something to love and something to help you rise. It is a love letter to the world to showcase just how close you can sometimes come to a self-inflicted final breath. Those scars don’t go away but as the song outlines, they do heal and give you the chance to escape to a brand new blank canvas. The final lines of “Just Hold On To Me” I read a number of different ways. The basic plea to a loved one or even a lover not to let go but at the same time I think it also is a scream to the world around you to “hold on to you” and to give you that chance to exist freely from the pain.
It can be viewed from so many different psychological points of view but I know for me it was more about me holding on and through the music of Machine Head I have been given the strength to hold on and to live. That is what that song and line represent and it would have to be one of my favourite songs of all time.
After I graduated high school at the end of 2000 my love affair of Machine Head continued and in 2001 I would finally get the chance to see the band live at festival hall in Brisbane in early September. The band was about to release their brand new album “Supercharger” and they were the main support for Slayer. The only new song made available from “Supercharger” at this point was a song called “Bulldozer” which I loved. I must have listened to that song over 100 times, I knew it inside out and I loved the new direction it was hinting at.
I had seen Pantera earlier that year at Festival Hall in Brisbane and I was still a bit fearful of mosh pits. When Machine Head came out to perform that night, my fear disappeared and I pushed right through to the front of the stage and was in front of Robb Flynn, my hero for the whole set. There was so many highlights from that set but one of the main ones was when Robb Flynn leaned down to the pit and high fived me because I was screaming out the words to their new song “Bulldozer” – fuck it was awesome.
I wouldn’t have to wait too long for the band to release a new record and during a holiday at the Sunshine Coast I as on with my family in late September / Early October 2001 I got the chance to buy the brand new Machine Head album “Supercharger” – the day I brought it I remember well because I had gone down to Brisbane for a few days to visit my Brother who was playing in a band at the time called Supercede (which included Luke Koster). There had been a bit of a party the night before and my brother was still asleep so I walked from his house to the train station and caught the train into the city and brought “Supercharger” from HMV.
I didn’t get a chance to fully devour the album until I got back to the Sunshine Coast but it was a brilliant album. A little bit more unstable compared to “The Burning Red” and it had one foot in the past sound and one foot in the sound the band had made on their previous album. If I was to nominate a weak album from Machine Head it would be “Supercharger” but I find it unfair saying they had a weak album because to me they don’t.
Although there are many highlights on this album my favourite song will always be “Deafening Silence” which sees the band blend ballad and heaviness incredibly well. This song probably doesn’t sell what the rest of the album sounds like, as “Supercharger” is quite a heavy affair, but I think this song stands out and still remains one of my favourite Machine Head tracks, have a listen:
This track was vital for where I was in my life at this point in time. In 2001 I had started to go on dates with a few girls and done my best to try and “get a girlfriend” (whatever that means) and after trying so hard it felt like I ended up with the same result, rejection. This was the first time in my life that I had a girl tell me “you can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself” – so by the time I heard this song in late 2001 I was ready to be saved from the intensity of human relationships.
The idea of silence being deafening resonated and put a spotlight on all I was feeling. I had also just gotten my driver’s licence when this album came out so I’d spend a lot of nights driving with this song on repeat.
Before I move on to the next phase of the bands career I will end with a song from “Supercharger” that I also love which is the third track “White Knuckle Blackout” which was a song that provided me much strength at the end of 2001, have a listen:
White Knuckle Blackout
In 2002 the bands guitarist Ahrue Luster left the band and once again Machine Head were at a crossroads and the future of the band was an unpredictable one. It felt like the band may just end and it was like everyone in the world was against them. I sometimes thought I was the only fan of the band because so many people just gave up on them.
As I outlined in my Killswitch Engage blog, 2002 was the year I was quite taken by their brand of metal along with Meshuggah and the second album from Down. I still kept up to date with what was happening with Machine Head but after their label Roadrunner Records dropped them I started to worry that they may break up.
I put all my faith in the leadership and strength of Robb Flynn. I knew he had survived worse and the darkness of this career slump was the launching pad he needed to rise above it all and re-ignite the Machine Head sound.
Before I get into the amazing album that came next – Through The Ashes Of Empires – I think you need to sit through part one and two of this documentary the band released with a live DVD after the success of “Through The Ashes of Empires” to see just how low the band were prior to the release of it:
I get quite emotional when I watch this little documentary because it gets to the heart of the joy that Machine Head provide me as a band and the little bit at the end where the following shows up on the screen always makes me shed a tear:
Dedicated to those who have stood beside us, live these words
“It is not the size of the man in the fight, but the size of the fight in the man”
I remember the day that I brought “Through the Ashes of Empires” – it was a Sunday and I brought it from HMV at Carindale shopping centre. I had only heard one song from the album up until that point and it was the awesome “Left Unfinished” – When I drove home from the record store I put the album on the car stereo and the next 6 minutes and 42 seconds changed my life and rewarded the faith that I had put into Machine Head.
The song I’m talking about is the opening track from “Through The Ashes of Empires” which is called “Imperium” which you need to listen to right now:
The beauty of an album like “Through The Ashes Of Empires” lays in the backstory and the fact that the band wrote, recorded and released this album at a point where they were at their lowest (as highlighted in the above documentaries I posted). This was the album I needed in my life at that point because in mid-2003 I had moved to Brisbane and by the time this album came out I was still trying to get my head around some of the big changes that had occurred in my world and with my friends. I once again felt isolated and cut off from the world and a bit low personally and I needed something to lift me out of the darkness that I knew so well.
Over the course of ten tracks Machine Head once again spoke to me in that beautiful way that they do and I was delivered into a new world of security and freedom. This album was more than an evolution of their sound; it was a whole new band. They themselves had navigated the career lows leading up to its release and with the brilliant Phil Demmel now on board they finally had the perfect line-up to help them dive into the future and once again take their place as one of the most important heavy metal bands in the world. It was my favourite album of 2003 and soundtracked a big part of my 2004.
There are a few key tracks that I need to share that will help sell the importance of this album and they are as follows:
Days Turn Blue to Gray
Descend The Shades Of Night
The power of these songs is undeniable and shows the band saluting the past but looking forward to the future. The final track listed here (and the final track on the album) “Descend The Shades Of Night” is a song I listened to quite a bit back then and a lot of my late night drives involved cranking this song incredibly loud and watching the worries of the world rush past.
In 2004 I got the chance to see the band play its own headline show at The Arena in Brisbane. This show will go down as one of my top eleven all-time favourite live shows. I got to experience this with two of my best mates Dave Zorzan and Luke Dutney. It was a Friday night from memory and it was a sold out show. Luke decided to stay in the pit for the whole show while Dave and I went upstairs to watch the band from the side of stage, our view was perfect. We could see the whole stage and best of all; the entire band could see us.
Dave had been a fan with me ever since “The Burning Red” so getting to see the band finally together was fucking awesome because Dave was also freaking out on the brilliance of “Through The Ashes Of Empires” at that point in time. The band played a dream set-list and we both screamed and sang every word with the band.
At one point during “Davidian” something happened, I can’t quite explain it – it was during the bit of the song just before the first verse kicks in where it is all drums. I was so pumped by that point and “Davidian” (as mentioned above) was my personal national anthem. When drummer Dave McClain started playing that powerful movement of beats I just started screaming as loud as I could. It was a scream full of joy and pain and I think in hindsight I was overtaken by my emotions of hearing the song and what it meant to me for so many years. I remember quite fondly guitarist Phil Demmel turning around, smiling at me and giving me the thumbs up. He also kept his gaze in our direction and headbanged along with us, fuck it was glorious and I get shivers down my spine just thinking about it.
During the next song Phil had walked over to Robb Flynn and pointed us out and Robb gave us a cheers with the cup he was holding. That was a fucking dream, to have the passion acknowledged and for that brief moment to have Robb Flynn acknowledge me. I lived off the high of that for months later and the show was life changing, it only strengthened my love of Machine Head.
The band wouldn’t release another album until 2007 with the mighty “The Blackening” – the unfortunate part about this album was that it was released the same day as the new Dinosaur Jr reunion album “Beyond” and the second Missy Higgins album “On A Clear Night” – so my head wasn’t in the land of Machine Head at the time.
The brilliant thing about “The Blackening” is that now it is my second favourite album by Machine Head. This album took me years to get into and it wasn’t until 2011 that it fully sunk in. Perhaps due to my life taking some different turns musically, I don’t know all I can say is that I spent a lot of time with the album and after finding my way back to it year after year it finally clicked in early 2011.
Now it is my go to Machine Head album and it really is the bands masterpiece, full of epic songs and a sound the band had been building to their whole career. There is so much to love about “The Blackening” and the success the band received as a result was well deserved. There are so many great songs on this album but I am going to share my four favourite songs from the album which are as follows:
Now I Lay Thee Down
A Farewell To Arms
After the massive success of “The Blackening” which included quite an intense touring period the band did not release a new album until 2011 which was called “Unto The Locust” which is a brilliant and more condensed version of “The Blackening” – I love the album but it feels like the end to a flawless trilogy of albums that started with “Through The Ashes Of Empires” and has set the band up beautifully for a new decade.
Where they go next is unknown and with the departure of original bass player Adam Duce in early 2013 the future of the band is again in a position of re-birth. I can’t wait to see where they take the next album.
The highlight of “Unto The Locust” for me was always the amazing “Be Still and Know” – have a listen:
Be Still and Know
Writing this article on Machine Head has been quite therapeutic because it has allowed me to sit down and trace a lot of my personal musical history. As I mentioned earlier in this article Machine Head are band that are ingrained in my DNA and the influence of the bands frontman Robb Flynn is something that I can’t deny. All throughout my life no matter what band I’m in I find certain facets of his personality and leadership come out. I have identified with his philosophies for a lot of years (16 years to be exact) and even though the music I make is not rooted in Heavy Metal an individual like Robb Flynn and a band like Machine Head have been instrumental to helping shape my idea of how amazing music is to be presented to the world.
I continue to be in debt to Robb Flynn for the influence he has provided to me over the years and it will never matter where I am in life I’ll always be a massive fan of the music that Machine Head choose to make.
Machine Head may just be a “metal” band to the snobs but fuck them I say, there is a purity and intense amount of art that goes into the music they make. Further to this point, I don’t think I’ve encountered a band, either metal or non-metal, who matches the amount of honesty and emotion that they summons. They are indeed blessed with a special gift and I believe that any well-adjusted appreciator of music needs to invest in the wonderful sound that Machine Head makes.
Through this article I’ve highlighted a lot of personal truths about myself and how different degrees of darkness and pain have affected me. I write in order to discover who I am and the point of this series on my love of Heavy Metal is to uncover why at the age of 29 going on 30 I still find extreme comfort in the genre. My scars run deep and I’ve learnt to cope and rise above it all through the years. Music is what saved me and Machine Head were a vital band when it came to my survival. As a human being I want to provide nothing but love and light to the world but I understand all too well how light and dark need each other to survive. I am never going to be foolish enough to only focus on the light and the artists who only speak of the light side of life because in all honesty to find true redemption you must go deep into the darkness that fills you and the world, that is the only way to rise and be a beacon of hope and light.
The power of Machine Head’s music is one of the most positive things existing in this world at the moment and I know that I’m not the only one who has been saved by what they have created. So to Chris Kontos, Logan Mader, Ahrue Luster, Adam Duce, Phil Demmel, Dave McClain and Robb Flynn – thank you for all you did for me growing up and for giving me the power to survive. I owe you my life and an extra cheers to Robb Flynn for helping me become the man that I am today. I can’t wait for the future and all the wonderful music that Machine Head will go on to make.
May they live for a million years
By: Dan Newton