Album Review: Machine Head – ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN

Fresh from their secret set as this years Bloodstock Festival Machine Head have another surprise up their sleeves a brand new conceptual album loosely based on the Japanese anime series Attack on Titan. Set in a futuristic wasteland where the sky is always crimson red, ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN (note the CAPS and stroked O’s at the behest of the band) tells the tale of two characters, both faced with incalculable trauma.

Ever since 1994 Machine Head have been a mainstay in my life, I still have vivid memories of the first time I saw them live at Monsters in Rock in 1995. Over the years their albums have been fiercely divisive with their fans but one thing can be agreed on, they are undeniably one of the most influential bands on the planet.

My equal apprehension and expectation are immediately put to the test as the opening track “SLAUGHTER THE MARTYR” not only is ten minutes long, it’s stripped back, emotional and really starts of the story in the most unexpected way. The build-up grips into a sudden frenzy and urgency that is very difficult to drag yourself away from, especially when it gets to the chorus!

This is then followed by the album’s first single “CHØKE ØN THE ASHES ØF YØUR HATE”. It’s a short, lethal attack full of signature Machine Head sounds, very fast and urgent. Hearing it in the context of the album, and with it following such a strong opener, was a great move. Before I even have a chance to fully appreciate what I have just heard, in swoops my highlight track of the album “BECØME THE FIRESTØRM”. I’m already preparing my body for the complete battering I’m prepared to put it through if this gets played live in my presence.

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Second opinion (Mosh): It’s a Machine Head album so I had to weight in… Being one of my favourite bands, probably top three if you want to put numbers on it, I’m always going to want to grab a new release and check it out the moment we have access. I’m not going to throw praise where it’s not due, though. There are albums in their back catalogue I’ve found weak, or which take longer to get under my skin than others (like The Blackening, believe it or not).

No such fears with ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN. In the local vernacular… “OOFT”. Or, I guess, “ØØFT”. Ten albums in and I think MH have hit that perfect blend of the heaviness of Burn My Eyes and the technical aspects of The Blackening. Even when the music is absolutely overwhelmingly brutal, it stands up to a close headphone-wearing listen as you can pick out the individual strands. Sure, it’s going to make you bang your head, but it’s also worth taking a step back and just listening to how good the musicianship and production are.

Is it their best album yet? Well, opinions will vary as much as their output. For many other bands, this would be a crowning glory. For me, it’s up there with their best though I personally find Locust and Burn My Eyes hard to beat. Machine Head’s only enemy is how damn good their other material is and how well it’s continued to stand up. Certainly the songs are great live, as we found out with two of the tracks being played at Bloodstock last week. I’m more than looking forward to hearing a couple more, hopefully, in Glasgow shortly.

The short “ØVERDØSE” would usually have me grumbling but remembering it’s a concept album, therefore telling a story, eases me into “MY HANDS ARE EMPTY”. Very much like the opening track this still manages to surprise and fulfil at the same time, the melodies weave in between savagery effortlessly and the deeper I delve into this album the more I’m enjoying it. “UNHALLØWED” follows the same formula and I’m very much into this collective of the Bay Area leaders.

Providing another break and adding another dimension “ASSIMILATE” sounds like it’s had the vocal talents of everybody’s favourite Cenobite, Mr Doug Bradley. I may be very wrong, either way it’s a great work and takes us into into “KILL THY ENEMIES”

A great trilogy follows: “NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS”, “BLØØDSHØT”, and “RØTTEN”, with the last two feeling they wouldn’t be out of place of a certain 1994 album – you may have heard of it…

Penultimate interlude “TERMINUS” leads the listener into the final “ARRØWS IN WØRDS FRØM THE SKY”, easily one of the band’s most grandiose and ambitious to date.

Machine Head are soon to embark on the co-headlining Vikings And Lionhearts tour with Amon Amarth, along with a slew of Scottish solo dates at more intimate venues.

Ten albums in, the kings still have their crøwns.

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ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN is out on August 26th

Check out all the bands we review in 2022 on our Spotify and YouTube playlists!

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August 27, 2022 11:35 PM

[…] with one of the biggest album releases of the year yesterday, Heriot covered one of Machine Head’s classic tracks last year. And then they […]

September 1, 2022 8:03 PM

[…] track here and there from eight different albums (including three from their incredible new release ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN which went down very well). Supercharger and Catharsis on this occasion didn’t make the cut, […]