Thursday, October 27, 2011

Machine Head - Unto The Locust

Machine Head came to the revolution party early. Back in 2007, before the first banker bailouts, at a time when the anti-Bush wave had retreated and music was perhaps the most 'apolitical' it had ever been, Robb Flynn used The Blackening to urge: "This is a call to arms/Will you stand beside me?/This is our time to fight/No more compromising/And this blackened heart will sing/For sad solidarity". The album was also almost universally hailed as the band's best since their classic debut Burn My Eyes. Bearing that in mind, I was curious about how the California crew could possibly progress with this new release. In the event, it's through a tortured metaphor, superb songwriting and just about all the passion in the world.

Flynn has been uncharacteristically coy about who or what the locusts repeatedly referenced here are, or who they're supposed to represent. Many metalheads have been left scratching their heads, bemused as to why they should care about some short-horned grasshoppers. But of course it's symbolic. Name another swarm of beings which come along and devour all the wealth you thought was yours. Yes, (un)naturally, the banksters ("Down they come, the swarm of locust/Skies above converge to choke us/Feast of souls consume the harvest/Young and old, suffer unto the locust"). As if to confirm that, Flynn tweeted his support for Occupy Wall Street a fortnight ago, hoping his music would "inspire you in your stand against mayor Bloomberg today".

Machine Fucking Head! Machine Fucking Head! Machine Fucking Head!
What to say about the music? As ever for Machine Head - save on their millennial nu metal - it is loud, powerful, heavy, and ultra-technical - a grizzly bear crossbred with a gymnast. Second track Be Still And Know is a case in point. In typical style, Flynn tries to reassure us (and probably himself) that it'll all be okay in the end as "Stars realign in the sky/Glaciers will melt and the oceans rise/Waves will come crashing ashore", but we'll "withstand the roar". This takes place following an intro of duelling double solos.

Locust then unleashes the full force of the metaphor, and uses vivid language to describe how "this plague is sent to erase us", over massive groove rhythms. This Is The End uses classically-inspired passages to accentuate the heaviness of the thrashing going on, alongside bellowed statements that: "This is the end of our respect denied/Stand with us or stand aside". On Darkness Within, the band stays just the right side of metalcore, before Flynn pledges his beating, bloody heart to music, his "saviour", and through that to us - the fans.

Finally, album closer Who We Are could hardly be a better anthem for the Occupiers that Flynn dedicated it to, complete with its militaristic beginning, children's choir interludes, and declarations that: "We are the young and young at heart/The strong and the brave that are destined to start/We are the change the world needs to see/Look in our eyes and see our belief". How appropriate that Unto The Locust was released in the same week that Zuccotti Park was renamed Liberty, and how appropriate that Flynn's indefatigable spirit has been shown by those defying police bullets and brutality in his home city this week.
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