Written by Alex Stojanovic
Slaughter The Martyr
Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate
Become The Firestorm
My Hands Are Empty
Kill Thy Enemies
No Gods, No Masters
Arrows In Words From The Sky
Release Date: August 26, 2022
Label: Nuclear Blast Records / Website / Facebook
Robb Flynn - Lead vocals & guitars / Vogg Kieltyka - Guitars
Jared MacEachern - Bass & backing vocals / Matt Alston - Drums (not on album) / Navene Koperweis - Drums (session)
It all started with the announcement of the Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary Tour, with Logan Mader and Chris Kontos rejoining the band specifically for these shows, along with new members Vogg Kieltyka of Decapitated on guitar and former Devilment drummer Matt Alston. The tour went from the fall of 2019 into the winter of 2020. It was slated to continue well into 2020, but was cut short due to a pesky little pandemic. However, that didn't stop Robb Flynn and Jared MacEachern from working on new music. It all started with the singles "Do Or Die" in 2019, and a few singles across 2020, including "Circle The Drain", the two-song Civil Unrest EP, which featured Carlos Cruz of Warbringer on drums, and "My Hands Are Empty", and then the Arrows In Words From The Sky EP in 2021. On top of that, Robb and Jared were doing their weekly Electric Happy Hour livestreams on Facebook.
We are here now in 2022, and they are now ready to unleash their tenth studio album Of Kingdom & Crown, all while celebrating their 30th anniversary. However, it's not just another studio album; it's a concept album. The new 13-track offering tells a fictitious tale of two characters named Ares and Eros, who both experience major tragic losses of loved ones, and how their lives intertwine. The other great thing about the album is that after the polarizing reactions to Catharsis, even though Robb Flynn will hold no apologies for creating it (as he shouldn't), the album marks a return to the more aggressive and epic qualities from Burn My Eyes, Through The Ashes Of Empires, The Blackening and Unto The Locust that fans have come to love. For the recording, Navene Koperweis played drums on the album in place of Matt Alston, who couldn't travel to the U.S due to travel restrictions at the time.
Starting off with "Slaughter The Martyr", the band return to the territory of epic 10-minute openers, which hasn't been done since The Blackening with "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent", and it tells the origin story of the first character, Ares, who lost the love of his life named Amethyst, and is on a killing spree against the people who killed her. Musically, the first 3 minutes are very atmospheric before the slaughter comes pummeling in with a furious riff that steamrolls through the song like a beast on a rampage. The pace then picks up with "Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate" and "Become The Firestorm", with the former being one of the fastest Machine Head songs that even younger bands would have trouble keeping up with, and the latter being the first Machine Head song to feature blast beats.
The overall plot is broken up with some interludes that serve as storytelling segments. The transition between "Overdose" and "My Hands Are Empty" is undoubtedly haunting. With "Overdose", we arrive at the part of the story where Eros loses his mother to a drug overdose. The track is an audio recording of a hospital scenario where the holter monitor flatlines and the nurse tells Eros that the overdose was too strong and that his mother died, to which Eros responds by letting out a cry. The eerie chanting in the intro of "My Hands Are Empty" is perfectly placed to coincide with the mood experienced at this very moment with sadness, loss and loneliness, and you can picture Eros in a blackened environment all broken. It's also the only track that original guitarist Logan Mader has a writing credit on. The track is then followed up by "Unhallowed". With powerful vocal harmonies between Robb and Jared, and pummeling riffs between Robb and Vogg, it's no wonder why this track is one of the biggest standouts.
As we enter the second half, "Assimilate" is another interlude where Eros is bringing together an army ready to head out on a killing spree, which is very aptly followed by "Kill Thy Enemies". After that, as we head into "No Gods, No Masters", we get a more arena metal vibe, which is then followed by the back-to-back punishment of the thrashing beast known as "Bloodshot", and the stomping grooves of "Rotten". It is when we arrive at the final interlude with "Terminus" where Eros comes to the realization of what he has done, accepts his fate and puts himself out of his misery by taking his own life with a gunshot to the head. He then passes into the afterlife during the epic closer "Arrows In Words From The Sky", one of the best melodic Machine Head numbers in a long time.
In conclusion, despite the album being a tad on the long side, the story is captivating, and it definitely gets you visualizing the story in your head. After a bit of a dip with Catharsis, Machine Head have roared their way back with an album that can proudly sit alongside Burn My Eyes, Through The Ashes Of Empires, The Blackening, Unto The Locust and Bloodstone & Diamonds as one of the best albums of their career. Did any of you Head Cases walk out on Machine Head due to Catharsis? Well, prepare to return!
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