Machine Head (band)
|Origin||Oakland, California, U.S.|
Machine Head is an American heavy metal band from Oakland, California. The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce. The band's aggressive musicianship made it one of the pioneering bands in the new wave of American heavy metal. Machine Head's current lineup comprises Flynn, bassist Jared MacEachern, guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka and drummer Matt Alston. Duce, guitarists Logan Mader, Ahrue Luster and Phil Demmel, and drummers Tony Costanza, Chris Kontos and Dave McClain are former members of the band; Mader and Kontos toured with the band in 2019 and 2020 as part of the 25th anniversary tour for its first album, Burn My Eyes (1994).
Machine Head's first four albums earned the band a growing fan base in Europe, however the band would not have success in their native United States until later releases. The band drew controversy with its fourth album, Supercharger (2001), released three weeks after the September 11 attacks, which resulted in the album's only single, "Crashing Around You", and its music video (which featured burning buildings) being pulled from all media outlets. The band nearly disbanded in 2002 after negotiating off its label Roadrunner Records as a result of the controversy, however the band would eventually re-sign with the label.
Having experimented with elements of groove metal and nu metal in its early releases, Machine Head changed to a more traditional thrash metal sound and longer songs with its sixth album, The Blackening (2007), which drew critical acclaim and was chosen as Album of the Decade by Metal Hammer in 2010; the album's first single, "Aesthetics of Hate", also earned the band a Grammy Award nomination. The band achieved similar success with its following two albums, Unto the Locust (2011) and Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014), before returning to its nu metal roots with the release of its ninth album, Catharsis (2018).
Machine Head has released nine studio albums, two live albums, one video album, 13 singles and 15 music videos. Four of the band's studio albums have been certified silver in the United Kingdom, and the band's highest peak on the Billboard 200 came with Bloodstone & Diamonds at number 21. As of 2013, the band has sold over three million records worldwide.
Formation and Burn My Eyes (1991–1996)
Machine Head were formed on October 12, 1991, in Oakland, California by vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce. Flynn had recently parted ways with Vio-lence after a physical fight between the band members and a local gang. He still had a desire to write music and along with Duce recruited guitarist Logan Mader and drummer Tony Costanza to form Machine Head. The band's name was thought of by Flynn because it "sounded cool", despite the popular belief that it came from the Deep Purple album of the same name. The band started jamming in a local warehouse shared with four punk rock bands. Machine Head recorded a demo in a friend's bedroom, funded with US$800. A record executive representing Roadrunner Records listened to the demo and signed the band.
Machine Head entered Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California to record its debut album Burn My Eyes. Not long into production, Constanza left the band and was replaced by Chris Kontos. Most of the songs on the album were songs written by Flynn and Duce during the time Flynn was not in a band, about "being pissed off" from his previous struggles in Vio-lence, as well as both of their battles with illegal drugs. Produced by Colin Richardson, the album was released on August 9, 1994. The album shipped nearly 400,000 copies worldwide, becoming Roadrunner Records' best selling debut album. Allmusic reviewer John Franck stated "Burn My Eyes is a bone-shattering exercise in brutality".
Not long after Burn My Eyes's release Machine Head started touring heavily in support of the album, opening for Slayer in Europe in the latter half of 1994, a tour which ended with their own headline show at the London Astoria. Following the success of the support tour, the band returned to Europe for a headline tour in early 1995, performing in the same venues they opened for Slayer. The band would return to Europe for the summer festival season but Kontos refused to tour and the band drafted Walter Ryan for the festival dates. On the band's return to the US, Kontos was fired because he was not keeping to touring commitments. Kontos went on to play drums with Testament, and was replaced by Dave McClain.
The More Things Change... and The Burning Red (1997–2000)
After touring for Burn My Eyes, Machine Head entered the studio to record its second studio album, The More Things Change..., with Richardson producing and mixing for a second time. The album was released on March 26, 1997, and debuted at number 138 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Machine Head toured in Europe with Napalm Death, Coal Chamber and Skinlab, then went on the first Ozzfest for the first tours in support of the album. Mader showed up to a practice session late, high on methamphetamine, cursing at and insulting the band members; and quit the band later that day. Ahrue Luster replaced him and finished touring, while Mader toured with Soulfly in support of their self-titled debut album.
After three years of touring and working with producer Ross Robinson, Machine Head released its third studio album, The Burning Red, on July 27, 1999. The band added new elements to its music, including rapping vocals, a move which some believe to have been influenced by Ahrue Luster himself. This album, along with the band's change in image and musical direction was highly criticized, with critics and fans alike accusing the band of "selling out". Nevertheless, McClain stated they weren't trying to sound like popular bands but "wanted to sound different". Rick Anderson of Allmusic stated Machine Head was "sounding a bit looser and less constricted musically than they have in the past". The Burning Red became Machine Head's top selling album for a number of years, and debuted at number 88 on the Billboard 200.
Supercharger and Through the Ashes of Empires (2001–2005)
Machine Head finished touring for The Burning Red, and entered a studio with producer Johnny K to record Supercharger. Debuting at number 115 on the Billboard 200, the album was released on October 2, 2001. The album met the same criticism as The Burning Red, especially for the ever-present rapping vocals. Blabbermouth.net reviewer Borivoj Krgin stated Supercharger "is likely to disappoint everyone who is expecting the Bay Area quartet to return to the ultra-testosterone-charged sounds of their first two albums".
Machine Head released a single for "Crashing Around You" as well as a music video. The video was released several weeks after the September 11 attacks, and was banned from MTV for the depictions of falling buildings. Roadrunner Records, expecting to make a fair profit from album promotions, dropped the band's funding, causing Machine Head to leave the label. At the same time the band was leaving Roadrunner, Luster departed from the band for musical differences.
By 2002, Machine Head had sold over 1.3 million albums worldwide, and overall Supercharger (mixed by Colin Richardson) would go on to sell 250,000 copies worldwide, which was their lowest selling album to date. Once the tour for the album had been completed, Machine Head and Roadrunner Records mutually decided to sever ties with regards to distribution in North America and around the world, however to fill the ties, the band released Hellalive (also mixed by Richardson) which was a recording of a Brixton Academy, London set.
In 2002, Luster left the band and was temporarily replaced by Phil Demmel, who played in thrash band Vio-lence alongside Flynn. Demmel played some festival shows with Machine Head (including a headlining slot at the With Full Force festival in Germany). Then with Demmel not being able to commit to the band, he and Machine Head parted ways. The remainder of the band starting writing songs for the next album (eventually Through the Ashes...), and hoping to get signed to a record label. They recorded a short demo, including a radio-style song called "Pins and Needles", and an Electronic Press Kit for the companies, also hoping they can get signed on the strength of their previous efforts. Nearly every record label in the music industry rejected the four track demo.
After Machine Head's European tour, Luster returned to his family business and the band started writing together as a three-piece, while leaving a position open for Demmel. In March 2003, Demmel joined Machine Head as a full-time guitarist and started writing with the band. By June 2003, Machine Head entered a studio with Flynn producing. On October 31, 2003, Machine Head released Through the Ashes of Empires in Europe.
The band was turned down by multiple record labels in the United States, until Roadrunner USA, interested in the new album, offered Machine Head another record contract. Machine Head accepted the offer on the grounds that the band owns 100% of the music. On April 20, 2004, Through the Ashes of Empires was released in the United States with a bonus track for the Americans' long wait for the album's release. The album debuted at number 88 on the Billboard 200. The band released a single for "Imperium", the video for which received heavy rotation on MTV. Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic stated Through the Ashes of Empires "marked a return to form in no uncertain terms".
Machine Head headlined the True Metal stage at the 2005 Wacken Open Air festival to 40,000 fans—the band's largest headlining crowd at the time. The band released a DVD containing a full sold-out concert held at the Brixton Academy in December 2004, a documentary, and music videos. The DVD debuted at number 13 on the U.S. music video charts. They also played in Dubai for the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2005. This was their first show in the Middle East. The band also played at the farewell concert of Böhse Onkelz on the Euro Speedway Lausitz.
The Blackening (2006–2009)
Machine Head's sixth studio album, titled The Blackening, was released in North America on March 27, 2007. It entered the Billboard 200 at number 53, the highest charting position for the band at that time, with first-week sales of 15,000. It also made the top 20 in several European countries. Robb Flynn stated during an interview that the band are fans of Rush and received a great deal of influence from their album A Farewell to Kings while creating The Blackening.
The album received positive reviews from music critics, with some labeling it the best metal album of 2007. Blabbermouth.net reviewer Don Kaye awarded the album a 9.5 out of 10, saying The Blackening is "one of the purest, finest, most powerful expressions of modern heavy metal released" and compared it to the 1986 Metallica album Master of Puppets, while Allmusic editor Thom Jurek described the album as "an over the top rage and pummelfest with all the qualities that earned the group its enormous fan base by touring and recording", praising the songs "Beautiful Mourning", "Halo", and "Now I Lay Thee Down". Rolling Stone reviewer Andy Greene, however, responded negatively as he was displeased with the songs running over ten minutes.
Machine Head toured North America with Lamb of God, Trivium and Gojira in early 2007 to promote The Blackening, and opened for Megadeth and Heaven & Hell in April 2007. A European tour saw the band make an appearance at the Download Festival in Donington Park. Shortly after, the band announced a co-headlining tour with Trivium of Japan, Europe, and Australia titled The Black Crusade from October to December. Other bands on the bill included Arch Enemy, DragonForce (Europe only) and Shadows Fall (Europe only). On June 12, 2007, at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, the band won the award for "Best Album", and Flynn won the "Golden God" award. Machine Head won Best Album at the Kerrang! Awards 2007 and went on to be chosen as Album of the Decade by Metal Hammer in 2010. The band replaced Bullet for My Valentine supporting Metallica's Wembley Stadium show on July 8, 2007, as Bullet For My Valentine's vocalist Matt Tuck required a tonsillectomy. Machine Head also toured North America with Hellyeah, Nonpoint and Bury Your Dead in early 2008. Machine Head recently completed a world tour where they played Bengaluru, India, Israel, and Dubai, UAE in March 2008.
In October 2008, the band toured in Australia with Slipknot. The band then toured Europe with Slipknot and Children of Bodom in November and December. The band recorded a version of Iron Maiden's classic, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" for a Kerrang! tribute compilation album, entitled Maiden Heaven: A Tribute to Iron Maiden; this song was played live multiple times since its release and has become a permanent in their current touring setlists. Amongst other bands who appeared on the album were label mates, Dream Theater and Trivium.
It was announced on August 10, 2008, that Machine Head and Austin, Texas based band The Sword would be opening for Metallica at ten shows in January 2009. In a recent interview conducted with Phil Demmel, he revealed that with Machine Head's upcoming touring commitments, the band would not have chance to write a follow up album until at least 2010, for an expected 2011 release date. Machine Head toured with The Sword in Metallica's World Magnetic Tour for the Death Magnetic album from 2008 to 2009. Machine Head also opened for Megadeth, Slayer and Suicide Silence on the Canadian Carnage tour in late June. Machine Head reportedly cancelled their appearance at the Sonisphere Festival in the UK because they had disagreements with the staff over their slot. They thought they should play after Limp Bizkit. However, a week before the Sonisphere festival took place on August 1 and 2, Machine Head agreed to take back their slot below Limp Bizkit. Their appearance was kept secret until the day they played. In August 2009, they won the Inspiration Award at the 2009 Kerrang! Awards. It was announced on the August 31, that Machine Head would tour through Europe and UK in 2010 with Hatebreed, Bleeding Through, and All Shall Perish in what will be known as "The Black Procession", as well as adding dates for an Australian and New Zealand tour cycle in March. This will be the last time the band tour in support of The Blackening before writing the next album, as Dave McClain described in an interview, before their Belfast show in Northern Ireland.
Unto the Locust (2010–2012)
In November 2010, Machine Head began writing and demoing new material for their seventh studio album, Unto the Locust. With Robb Flynn acting as producer, Machine Head officially began recording the album on April 16, 2011 at Green Day's Jingletown Studios in Oakland, California.
In the summer of 2011, Machine Head toured as a part of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. During the tour, the band debuted a new song off of Unto the Locust, entitled "Locust". The song was later released on Amazon and iTunes on June 14, 2011. Unto the Locust was released on September 27, 2011, to critical acclaim. The album charted in several countries, including number 22 in the US (the first time the band had ever cracked the top 25 in US) and at number 5 in Germany.
After the release of Unto the Locust, Machine Head began its Eight Plague Tour and during the first European leg, the band was supported by Bring Me the Horizon, DevilDriver, and Darkest Hour. On the North American leg, Machine Head was supported by Suicide Silence, Darkest Hour, and Rise to Remain (although Rise to Remain was later forced to drop out).
In 2012, Machine Head headlined the Soundwave Festival in Australia. The band also played at the 2012 Download Festival, Metalcamp, and Graspop festivals, as well as headlining both Bloodstock Open Air and the Wacken Festival. Machine Head were also scheduled to be part of the first-ever Mayhem Festival cruise, until it was cancelled.
On September 10, Machine Head announced a North American tour with Dethklok, All That Remains and The Black Dahlia Murder, beginning with a "Warm Up" show on October 24, the tour started on October 30 and ended on December 8. On September 14, Machine Head won the "Best International Band" award at the 2012 Metal Hammer awards in Berlin, Germany. On October 1, Machine Head announced the release of "Machine Fucking Head Live", the band's first live album since 2003's Hellalive. The album featured 15 live recordings from the band's various 2011-2012 tours and was released on November 13 on a two disc set or download with 4 bonus tracks, with pre-orders of the album having a six track rarities & B-sides EP.
On November 13, Machine Head announced cancellation of their North American tour dates from the 13 to the 23 due to Robb Flynn requiring emergency surgery to treat an inguinal hernia.
In a November 2012 interview, Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel revealed that the band planned to begin writing new material for their eighth studio album in 2013 and hoped that they would begin recording it before the end of the year.
Bloodstone & Diamonds (2013–2015)
On February 22, 2013, the band announced that bassist/founding member Adam Duce left the band, albeit on friendly terms. Four days later, Flynn revealed in his online blog that he fired Duce because of ongoing differences. His departure makes Flynn the only remaining original member. As of March 2013, Unto the Locust has sold 100,000 copies in the United States, making it their third quickest-selling album behind The Blackening and Supercharger which have sold 260,000 in two weeks and 250,000 copies in four months in the United States respectively.  The band began the process of searching for a temporary bassist for the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in the U.S. For a limited time, the band accepted and reviewed YouTube submissions. On June 24, 2013, the band announced that former Sanctity rhythm guitarist and vocalist Jared MacEachern had joined the band as their new bassist. Robb Flynn said of MacEachern: "Monte Conner recommended Jared since he was already on the tour, and that ended up being a great call. Jared flew out a few days before the tour and rehearsed with us and did great." Phil Demmel continued: — "There were dozens of amazing players, and it was interesting to watch each one take on our tunes. One of our biggest criteria for this gig was to be able to sing the high harmonies. That was our litmus test. And Jared passed with flying colors.".
On October 2, 2013, the band announced that they signed with Nuclear Blast. In February 2014, the band entered the studio to record their new album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, for a late summer release.
In early 2014, Duce filed a lawsuit against his former band and manager in federal court "for trademark infringement, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of partnership agreement, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic relations, negligence, defamation and unfair competition, and wanted the band enjoined from using the Machine Head marks." The lawsuit was settled out of court on July 2 with undisclosed terms. In August 2014, Flynn announced the track listing for Bloodstone & Diamonds, consisting of 12 tracks along with its artwork.
Bloodstone & Diamonds was released on November 7, 2014, to positive reviews from fans and critics alike, with many saying how the addition of MacEachern brought a sense of rejuvenation to the band. The band embarked on a lengthy world tour in support of the album, including a leg of European shows, two American legs and various others in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Catharsis, lineup changes and stand-alone singles (2016–2020)
On June 1, 2016, a stand-alone single titled "Is There Anybody Out There?" premiered on Sirius XM Octane, and on June 3, the single was available for digital download. On March 17, 2017, the band were featured on American horror movie The Devil's Candy's soundtrack along with Ghost and Slayer. In June 2017, it was reported that Machine Head was in the studio working on new material. In September 2017, the band announced the new album Catharsis for a January 2018 release with an accompanying world tour.
On September 28, 2018, Robb Flynn posted a live video on Facebook to explain that Demmel and McClain had left Machine Head earlier in the week, but that they would both complete the band's fall tour. The announcement was mistakenly reported on by news sources as a disbandment, due to Flynn's referral to the current run of shows as a "farewell tour". Flynn later clarified that it was "the farewell tour of this lineup, this era of Machine Head. This is not the farewell tour of Machine Head." Demmel later said in an interview that he left the band because he "didn't like [his] job anymore" and did not like the musical direction that Flynn had been taking the band in over the last three years.
On March 23, 2019, Flynn posted a live video on Instagram to announce that Machine Head had held auditions to search for replacements for Demmel and McClain. He said that the process had "been awesome, really good; in fact, really confusing. [I] don't know where we are going. We've got some thinking to do", and in regards to the musicians taking part in the auditions, he said, "you might not know some of these guys" while "some of [them] you may." Two days later, it was announced that early members Logan Mader and Chris Kontos, who both appeared on Burn My Eyes, would reunite with the band for a tour celebrating the album's 25th anniversary. The band later re-recorded the full album live in the studio and announced plans to release the tracks one by one ahead of the tour. On the possibility of recording new original material with Mader and Kontos, Flynn said, "Nothing's certain right now. I'm not sure what that is at the moment. We're really just focused on re-learning how to play the Burn My Eyes songs. But we'll be out on the road for a while together. I think that I could see Machine Head forward with just a constant flow of new music."
On September 28, 2019, a year on from announcing the departure of Demmel and McClain, the band announced Decapitated guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka and Devilment drummer Matt Alston as their replacements. A month later, Machine Head digitally released the stand-alone single "Do or Die". On February 14, 2020, Machine Head released another stand-alone single, "Circle the Drain". Four months later, the band put out a dual single known as "Civil Unrest" featuring Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage on the track "Stop the Bleeding", a song written about the George Floyd protests, while another song on the B-side known as "Bulletproof", was also written about the protests. A music video was eventually released for "Stop the Bleeding" after its release. Five months later another stand-alone single "My Hands Are Empty" was released.
Upcoming tenth studio album (2021–present)
In January 2021, Machine Head entered the studio to begin working on their tenth studio album. On June 11, 2021, the band released a new three-track single entitled Arrows in Words from the Sky.
Musical style and influences
Machine Head has been mainly described as groove metal, thrash metal, heavy metal, and nu metal. The band is influenced by Californian thrash metal bands such as Metallica, Exodus, Slayer and Testament, traditional heavy metal bands as Iron Maiden, crossover thrash bands Suicidal Tendencies and Cro-Mags, groove metal bands Pantera, Exhorder and Fear Factory, and grunge bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Machine Head is considered to be one of the pioneering bands in the new wave of American heavy metal, as well as part of the second wave of thrash metal bands from the 1990s.
Their early albums Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change... show a groove metal and thrash metal approach, similar to bands like Pantera and Exhorder. The albums also featured technical drumming by Chris Kontos and Dave McClain. The band changed their musical direction for the albums The Burning Red (1999) and Supercharger (2001), which have been described as displaying a nu metal sound. These albums featured rapping by Robb Flynn and simpler guitar riffs, but retaining part of their aggressive sound. This change in direction resulted in criticism from many fans because of the popularity of nu metal at the time. Machine Head returned to the groove metal and thrash metal sound of the first two albums with Through the Ashes of Empires (2004).
Machine Head increased the complexity and technicality in their sound for the next album, The Blackening, which partially changes the sound of their first 5 albums in favor of a more classic heavy metal and thrash metal oriented sound, with fully complex song structures and guitar riffs. Unto the Locust features heavier, faster and more complex riffs by both Flynn and Phil Demmel, influenced by classical music, and supported by fast and complex drum patterns by McClain. This is also the first Machine Head's record to include blast beats.
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But there’s just no getting around it: some of these albums are terrible, and the band definitely looked, sounded, and felt like a crappy nu-metal outfit...
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