Cock, loser, poser, and fucktard: These are a few of the names I’ve been called for admitting my love to Machine Head. Especially when I admit to being a defender of their musical decisions. In my younger days, I thought Burn My Eyes was one of the heaviest albums I’d ever heard. I was a supporter of the band when they fell apart between Supercharger and Through the Ashes of Empires. I rode the storm with them as they reinvented themselves with The Blackening. And, I was here well before the fucking bandwagon posse. One of the best concerts I’ve ever attended was Machine Head—standing in the snow to meet Robb Flynn was fucking awesome. Machine Head was with me during some dark times and I was there for them. So, to say I’m a fan—or to say that they changed my life—is an understatement. But, now, 2018’s Catharsis is upon us. And, honestly, I’m so fucking confused, depressed, and speechless that all I can do is sit here quietly, wondering how much longer I can go on supporting my beloved Machine Head.
All us have those bands that walked into our lives at the right time—the ones that spoke to us and helped us through the darkest of shit. Machine Head is that for me. And it fucking kills me to say this but… Catharsis may be the worst album the band has ever written. It’s fifteen tracks and seventy-five minutes, it’s rap metal like The Burning Red has never seen, it’s nu-metal like Supercharger doesn’t wanna know, and it’s the kind of forced songwriting no Machine Head fan wants to hear.
“Volatile” gets things moving with the kind of deep, headbangable riffs that’ll please all show patrons and their bro-tanked compatriots. It’s got rabid, spitfire vocals and a “Bulldozer”-like punch. Not to mention its chorus, which feels like a railroad track with only one rail. And, unfortunately, that’s Catharsis in a nutshell: An album of riff patterns written for a Y2K prom night—with vocals as relevant and choral punchlines as poorly timed as a teenager’s climax. Unfortunately, this isn’t the end. There’re more pieces like the opener. Pieces that fall flat on their asses, with about as much passion behind them as an undergraduate taking a final exam. Numbers like “Beyond the Pale,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Psychotic,” “Grind You Down,” “Razorblade Smile,” and “Screaming at the Sun.”
“Beyond the Pale” has a “Halo” vibe, yet never achieves it. “Kaleidoscope” opens with some dreadful hand-clapping that tries to combine the opening drive of The Burning Red‘s “Five” with the uniqueness of Unto the Locust‘s “Who We Are.” It succeeds in the former and fails in the latter—if that tells you anything. “Grind You Down” and “Razorblade Smile” both have potential with shredding guitars and thrashy approaches teasing of times long gone. The death-metal pre-chorus support in the former fits like a five-fingered glove on a six-fingered man and the latter’s thrashy movements and rap-happy sections fall away to the Lordi-esque grunts found on “Kaleidoscope.” What hurts this bunch of songs the most is the lack of riff originality and choruses as bland as water. Not to mention the fact that all the years of spectacular, harmonized guitar solos seem gone forever.
But there’s nothing quite like “Bastards,” “California Bleeding,” and “Triple Beam.” “California Bleeding” has some of the album’s best licks and guitar solos, but the song’s lyrics decimate them. I don’t know, I guess you need to be a Californian get it. Of the three, though, “Triple Beam” is the worst. Thank whatever lord you believe in that the other fourteen songs don’t sound like this or this review would easily be a 0.0/5.0. As far as I care to tell, it’s a keeping-it-real piece that ends in a climactic gangbang brawl over drugs or some shit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always tried to remain open-minded and cognizant of other’s views, but I don’t know what this is.
“Bastards,” as all you know, appears to be the undisputed ballad of the record. Like Unto the Locust‘s “Darkness Within,” this song should suck you right in; head, heart, and soul. But, I can’t get past the video game intro and punky attitude. I also can’t get the image of Flynn’s “Bastards” poetry slam out of my head.1 Listening to it, I get what Flynn’s going for. Hell, I’ll even admit his bravery for doing it. But, if you believe he is the voice of a generation—or not—that doesn’t mean this song works.
The best of the emotion-packed pieces are The Burning Red-like “Behind the Mask” and “Eulogy.” The former does a fine job of cutting up the album and the latter ends it as well as “The Burning Red.” The title track is also enjoyable—minus Flynn’s repeated “Can you feel my catharsis?”—and “Hope Begets Hope” is one of the best tracks on the album. The latter delivers that signature sound the band has utilized for the last decade. And, though, the nearly nine-minute “Heavy Lies the Crown” has some interesting moments of creepy orchestration and whispers, it’s emotion and power are quickly dismantled by the immature, pit-pumping interludes.
Rummaging through Catharsis, it’s difficult to find the band that wrote Burn My Eyes and The Blackening, it’s difficult to find the passion that drips from Through the Ashes of Empires and Unto the Locust. At best, Catharsis is Supercharger. At worst, it’s worse. More than anyone, I hope the band can bounce back from this. As a diehard fan, this album and this review tear me apart.