Live Review: Machine Head w/ Darkest Hour and Heart of a Coward

2014-12-13 20.51.20

Machine Head are having one hell of a year.  Their Killers and Kings tour, where they hit up places in the UK they hadn’t been in a long time and played venues they were too big for 15 years ago, led to some of the best live shows the UK has ever seen.  While their latest album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, saw a return to form, after the slightly patchy, Unto the Locust.  Now they are out on tour in support of said album and sadly back in the kind of venues you expect to see one of the UK’s favourite metal bands in.  Although, I have to admit, I really hate the O2 Academy in Glasgow.

One reason I hate it, is because they seem incapable of getting everyone in on time and yet put bands on at 7 o’clock.  This means I missed most of Heart of a Coward.  What I catch is good and these guys have some serious riffs.  They’re slowly stopping being one of the UK’s best kept secrets and tours like this should confirm themselves as one of the UK’s best metal bands full stop.  I’m still pissed off I missed most of the set though.

Up next is Darkest Hour, whose lead singer hobbles onto stage with his leg rather heavily strapped up.  It obviously restricts his movement, but it is an issue you can kind of forgive and it says a lot about the band that they trundle on despite it.  What they do on stage is alright, but never really wows.  Their new stuff is noticeably more melodic than their old and there seems to be a change towards a more modern metalcore sound, compared to the melodic death metal they made their name with.  In saying that they get a lot of people banging their heads and even have the first pit of the night open up.  So all in all, Darkest Hour can go home happy with their night.

All of this pales in comparison to Machine Head however.  As I said, they have had one hell of a year and with the love they get in the UK, they always feel more like a British band than an American.  When you can open with “Imperium” and go straight into “Beautiful Mourning”, it becomes a lot harder to argue with the love this band get.  They play most of the hits, with only a few missing, such as “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, but considering they already played for over two hours, it’s kind of understandable.  Machine Head now have a body of work that only the very best can compete with and as they roar through classics like “Davidian”, “Aesthetics of Hate” and “Old”, it is really hard to argue with their output.  They even throw in “Now I Lay Thee Down”, which they have dusted off for the first time since 2011 on this tour.

What’s most impressive however, is just how easily the new stuff fits in.  “Now We Die” already sounds like a classic, while the likes of “Sail Into the Black”, “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones” and “Killers and Kings”, stand tall next to their better known brethren.  Machine Head have now been on the go for over twenty years and yet they are still releasing music that feels worthy of the best.

The band themselves are on top form.  Jared MacEachern has slotted straight into the line up and even if he does continue to look like a young James Hetfield, he has done a fantastic job of filling the sizable shoes that Adam Duce left behind.  Robb Flynn also continues to be one of the most charismatic guys in metal.  Always outspoken and willing to say what others might shy away from, as he talks about his upbringing in metal, during the intro to “Darkness Within”, you get the impression that this crowd will follow him into battle.  If there is every a metal revolution, there is no doubt that Flynn could lead the way.

Machine Head are on fire right now and it is a genuine joy to see it.  People worried about them, after they failed to make the step up that people predicted they would on Unto The Locust and even though they may now never make it to the stage where they are able to headline festivals like Download and sell out arenas on a regular basis, they still feel like the people’s heavy metal band and long may they reign.

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