21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century... So Far

#16: MACHINE HEAD – THE BLACKENING

2090

21best1machine head - the blackening

We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and  April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #16 album, coming in with a total of 115 points…

Machine Head, The Blackening (Roadrunner, 2007)
Robb Flyn – Vocals/Guitars
Phil Demmel – Guitars
Adam Duce – Bass
Dave McClain – Drums
Produced by Colin Richardson

With 2007’s The Blackening, Machine Head stormed back with a resounding shotgun blast from years of wallowing in irrelevancy, catapulting themselves back into metal’s mainstream with unanimous praise from longtime fans and critics alike. It’s not that Machine Head’s post Burn My Eyes efforts were downright terrible… actually, yeah, it pretty much is. While Machine Head could’ve spent the ’90s waving the “true metal” flag alongside Pantera, instead they chose to join the rap-metal circus and drown in a sea of mediocrity. With the addition of Phil Demmel on guitar for 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires things started to turn around, culminating in The Blackening, an album that may end up standing as Machine Head’s career-best work.

The Blackening finds Rob Flynn, Demmel, bassist Adam Duce and drummer Dave McClain at their absolute best. The album finds Machine Head striking a pointed mix of technicality, brutality and even progressive song structures; the album’s shortest track clocks in at 4:46 while four songs stretch beyond the 9-minute mark. Flynn delivers his finest vocal performance to date, slipping between his patented sing-scream and clean voice without any of the drama or artificiality to strike so many of his peers who released albums in 2007.

Several of the songs on The Blackening are instant classics; the undeniable riffs of “Beautiful Mourning,” the non-stop pummeling thrash of “Aesthetics of Hate,” and the epic, soaring, album masterpiece “Halo.” Flynn and co. deliver plenty of their trademarked crushing brutality, shred, neo-classical guitar harmonizing, generous sprinklings of melody, and plenty of jaw-dropping instrumental passages that show off every member’s chops. Yet somehow the band manages never to lose track of the art of the song; every cut has a beginning, middle and end, cut up by many, many parts in between, but the songs all come full circle to complete themselves thematically. Even listening back to this album for the first time in at least a year for the purpose of writing this review, new layers of sonic complexity reveal themselves in ever-unfolding layers thanks to Colin Richardson’s crisp mix on Flynn’s own production work.

That’s the beauty of this album; it’s got everything in just the right doses. It’s hard to imagine Machine Head will be able to top The Blackening, but by writing such a fantastic album these Bay Area natives have solidified their place among the pantheon of Bay Area metal greats.

-VN

Download The Blackening  from Amazon or iTunes!

THE LIST SO FAR:

#17 – Hatebreed, Perseverance

#18 – Lamb of God, New American Gospel

#19 – Mastodon, Remission

#20 – Shadows Fall, The War Within

#21 – Slipknot, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses

THE PANEL OF VOTERS

Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction
/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan,
Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-
God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
CT, Rwake
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair,
Shadows Fall
Leo  Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly,
Metal Injection/Hails & Horns/Freelance Journalist
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds,
Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani,
Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/Universal Music Group
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph,
Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson,
Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist

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