When Machine Head released the only other live album of their career, 2003’s ‘Hellalive’, it captured them at a point in their evolution that most fans consider to be their weakest period. Plagued by line up instability, tepid responses to their latest material, both critically and commercially, and with the winds of musical change swirling around them, it appeared to be one last contractual obligation fulfilment that would allow them to walk off into the distance as another fallen hero.
We all know what happened next of course. Dropped by Roadrunner, get Phil Demmel, record ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’, have record companies come crawling back with their tails between their legs, ‘The Blackening’, Download, ‘Unto The Locust’, Wembley, Bloodstock headliners. Piece of piss. So it’s a very different Machine Head that you are confronted with on ‘Machine F***king Head Live’, tighter, heavier, more confident and armed with a whole batch of new songs that have very quickly bustled their way into the box marked “Classic”, meaning this release this puts, not just ‘Hellalive’, but pretty much every live Metal album of the last decade to shame. Opening with the slow burning but venomous ‘This Is Hell’, concluding two discs later with the evergreen ‘Davidian’ and barely pausing for breath or a taking a dip in quality in between, Machine Head may have made the natural heir to Pantera’s ‘Live 101 Proof’.
The best thing about this album is the fact that it feels like a Machine Head gig as much as it sounds like one, the chants in between songs are crystal clear and capture the connection between band and fan, Robb Flynn’s previous vocal outpourings have been reigned in a touch and he now commands the crowd with a steely determination rather than cheek-puffing bluster and you’ll want to start a huge pit even if you’re sitting comfortably alone on your sofa when songs like ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ and ‘Imperium’ kick into gear. If there is a criticism then it would be that, in trying to cover every album, time is wasted on ‘Bulldozer’ and ‘The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears’ when it would be preferable to hear a couple more tracks from ‘Burn My Eyes’ or ‘The More Things Change…’, but it’s a tiny grumble in amongst such quality.
They may not ever make it to the heights of being considered the new Metallica, as many tipped them a few years back, but this is proof positive that Machine Head are a world class Metal band.