The Burning Red is the third album by American heavy metal band Machine Head. It is the band's second best selling album in the US, selling as many copies in three years as Burn My Eyes sold in almost eight years (1994–2002). The album has sold over 134,000 copies in the US and it was certified Silver in 2011 by the BPI for sales of 60,000 in the UK.
Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader quit the band in 1998 following the recording of their album The More Things Change...; he was replaced by Ahrue Luster. With the recording of The Burning Red, the band added new elements to its music, including a small amount of rapping vocals, a move which some believe to have been influenced by Luster himself. The album shows the band experimenting musically, using a disco drum line in "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears", putting some rapping vocals in "Desire To Fire", and a layer of intimate crooning vocals on "Silver". Citing the need for a few B-side tracks, producer Ross Robinson encouraged the band to record a smooth-sounding cover of the Police song "Message in a Bottle" after hearing Robb Flynn experiment with it during rehearsal. The song ended up on the album, not used as a B-side. The combination of some hip hop elements and the cliché of covering a 1980s song led observers to call the album rap metal or nu metal, which was a trending style earlier in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the album is primarily groove metal, with touches of experimentation seen everywhere: elements of doom metal in "The Devil With The King's Card", "I Defy" with its arena rock stance, and "The Burning Red" which is the most experimental song recorded by the band. Rock critic Joel McIver said that anyone dismissing the album as nu metal has not listened to it, or is not a fan of the "atmospheric, impassioned groove-metal that Machine Head were focusing on at this stage." Rick Anderson of AllMusic called the album "aggro-rock" and "aggro-metal" for its aggressive sound. Responding to critics, McClain stated the band was not trying to emulate popular trends; they simply "wanted to sound different". Flynn said that the band had been pigeonholed by those who complained that the two prior albums were too similar to each other, so the band had determined to reach for different influences on this project.
Amy Sciaretto of CMJ said that, despite the presence of Robinson who had produced Limp Bizkit and Korn, The Burning Red shows the progression of Machine Head's own "visceral, gut-grinding" groove metal sound rather than an imitation of Korn.
The song "Five" is about a sexual abuse incident Flynn suffered as a five-year-old child. Flynn said that recording the song was difficult enough for him; he would never perform it on stage.
The album was added to US radio playlists on July 12, 1999, and it was released for retail sale on July 27.The Burning Red was well received by critics, and it sold well, but the band's change in image and musical direction was highly criticized, with critics and fans alike accusing the band of "selling out". However, Rick Anderson of AllMusic was among those who praised the album, stating Machine Head was "sounding a bit looser and less constricted musically than they have in the past". David Jarman wrote for CMJ that the album was "pretty much aggro business-as-usual" for fans who were already familiar with the "aggression and alienation" of late-1990s metal musical trends, but that listeners could expect to revel in the album's "thunderous visceral crunch."The Burning Red became Machine Head's top selling album for a number of years, and debuted at number 88 on the Billboard 200.