It is no secret that I have a love affair going on with Machine Head. They are an intense band that has made some seriously good music over the years, and once they released The Blackening, they absolutely blew me away. While I agree that Unto the Locust was an amazing effort, it really let me down from The Blackening. Once again, that is not to say that I am not a fan of Unto the Locust. It is a great album, but it is nowhere near as epic as The Blackening.
With all of that nonsense being said, I was very happy to see them release a double-live album from the tour. When I got to see them open up for Heaven and Hell supporting The Blackening, they only played four songs since the songs were all on the longer side. They did play Davidian, but everything else was off of The Blackening. I caught them last year at the Mayhem Festival (while catching up with Adam Duce for an interview) right before Locust was made public, but before Unto the Locust was actually released. Once again, they only played a few songs. They played Locust and Imperium, but everything else was off of The Blackening.
With the release of Machine F**king Head Live, we get to hear some fresh songs live as well as songs that we have not heard them play live in years. I was more eager to see how the songs from Unto the Locust came out live. Make no mistake that Machine Head’s true power resides in their live shows. They are an amazing band live. They are one of the tightest live bands I have ever seen and their live sound replicates their studio sound completely. As far as the vocals go, Robert Flynn is an absolute beast than sounds as good on the final encore as he does on the opening track.
From the outset of the album, you know what you are in for. The crowd chants Machine Fucking Head over and over while the band gets ready to open the set with the opening track from Unto the Locust, the blistering I am Hell [Sonata in C#]. This is an absolute powerhouse of a song from the opening riff to the final note. Throughout the entire set, the crowd is spot on and completely into the set. The crowd mix is loud, but not too loud so that they drown the band out. You still hear Machine Head rouring through the setlist with some great tones, although the vocals are mixed a little too low.
As with any live album, some songs are performed better than others. One such track that never disappoints is Imperium. I still get the chills every time I hear the clean opening of the song because I know what is to come. If you do not bang you head to Imperium, you may want to get your pulse checked. Beautiful Mourning is another track that has become a staple of their live shows, and this is another great version of it. Once the band bursts into Locust, the crowd explodes sensing the chaos that is about to begin. This is one of their newer tracks, but will be a main component of their live shows for years to come. The riff behind the verses is crushing.
Overall, Machine Head hit all parts of their catalog with much more focus on The Blackening and Unto the Locust. I really cannot complain about that since that is my favorite era of Machine Head’s body of work, but I would be fine with a few more of the older tracks as well. While most metal fans consider releases like The Burning Red and Supercharger to be serious missteps by the Bay Area band, I still consider them solid album nonetheless. Each album had quite a few standout tracks. I never understood all of the hatred for those releases.
If I did have any complaints about the album, it would be that the production of the album is pretty weak with far too much focus having been put on the crowd itself and less on the vocals. I would have liked to hear crisper vocals, but with the epic nature of this show, I am ready to take anything that I can get.