Machine Head - The Burning Red review


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Band: Machine Head
Album: The Burning Red
Release date: August 1999

01. Enter The Phoenix
02. Desire To Fire
03. Nothing Left
04. The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears
05. Silver
06. From This Day
07. Exhale The Vile
08. Message In A Bottle [The Police cover]
09. Devil With The King's Card
10. I Defy
11. Five
12. The Burning Red
13. House Of Suffering [Bad Brains cover] [Japanese bonus]
14. Alcoholocaust [Japanese bonus]

Upon looking at the diminishing returns that was The More Things Change, Machine Head decide upon a new course, one that ironically fits the title of their prior record perfectly; the more the band changed sonically, the more the law of diminishing returns was compounded.

This is a divisive album in the Machine Head canon, the middle ground that will see you shot at by both sides, dancing between the hail of bullets; I find myself blindly walking through the bullets Neo-style trying to work out what the hell The Burning Red really is. Is this a natural progression, or genre hopping with a tentative foot in the style of old to ensure they don't abandon their fandom? Listen and decide for yourself, it's an experience at the very least.

While I wouldn't call this a rap metal album, I can certainly see how it got that reputation; "Desire To Fire" opens the door to the listener and presents itself decked out in all the trappings of a nu metal song except for a heavier drum sound. Whatever possessed the band to open the album like this must have been strong and potent, to deliver a line like "I guess you forgot about the power we rock, Coz all hail the Machine Head battery" with a straight face is Oscar levels of quality acting. Keep in mind you are only one album removed from Burn My Eyes that opened with "Davidian", it's a big leap in a small time.

Somewhat redeeming is "From This Day", which features some rapping that appears to work better; it certainly seems stronger, if only because it is surrounded by a song that's strengths can compensate for its subpar rapping anyway. It's understandable Flynn wants to mix up his vocal style at this point, but more often than not he goes too far and into parody; between the rapping of these two tracks and "Message In A Bottle", he shows his strength is keeping to the same style he has made his own by this point.

The Burning Red overall has more in common with groove metal bands like Helmet or Prong than a Coal Chamber though; dialling down the aggression of the prior two records and bringing the rhythm to the fore, its newfound focus can be a welcome change at times. "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears" is powered by a disco beat and guitar riff that will stick in your head long after it has finished.

It is from there you come across the real issue with The Burning Red, the songs that sound like they could have been on the band's prior two albums, tracks like "Silver", "King With The Devil's Card" and "Nothing Left", but are needlessly contorted into shape so as to fit in on The Burning Red. These songs sound like they could have been strong tracks had they not been warped out of their natural shape. Take the break in "Nothing Left" before it builds up and explodes, it seems like a hollow pastiche of what it could have been had it been released a few years earlier. While the band can be somewhat forgiven for failing at trying a new style, cannibalising their sound of old is worse, ruining songs they could have otherwise made work a lot better than they do here.

Ross Robinson's work behind the desk is not bad, I would say ill fitting is a more accurate description. The album sounds great but it isn't a sound that fits Machine Head, it elevates atmosphere at the expense of power; while that isn't a deal breaker, it is the thin end of the wedge given much of the atmosphere doesn't lead to anything of note. "Exhale The Vile" floats in mist of mystery only to fall into a song that plods along. Likely to be the best known example of this however would be "Message In A Bottle"; trading in the pop of the original and power of the band, sure it sounds more mysterious but at one hell of a cost.

So does this album have any redeeming features? Yes, it has songs I can say I'd put in a future greatest hits by the band with little to no hesitation. "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears" and "From This Day" benefit from the experimentation that led to their birth, and "I Defy" and "Five" were two songs that weren't bent out of shape (more smoothed out) in the making of this album and stand out for the right reasons. Four good songs isn't enough to merit The Burning Red very high but at the very least it prevents it from being a write-off.

It is a shame the band would venture further down this path before finding their way again on Through The Ashes Of Empires; The Burning Red had good intentions but not enough quality to match what the band were presumably going for. Given the strength of opinions on either side it will evoke a stronger response than a shrug of the shoulders from you.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 6
Production: 6

Written by omne metallum | 28.06.2020



Comments: 1   Visited by: 16 users
29.06.2020 - 17:27
This album stinks IMO. You are gracious in your review.

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