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Machine Head’s The Blackening Turns Ten Years Old Today

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Machine Head - The BlackeningMachine Head’s 2007 release The Blackening turns ten today. The album continued the trajectory that began with 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires, launching Machine Head back into the adoring hearts and minds of metalheads after the band had fallen out of favor with the nu-metal leaning The Burning Red and Supercharger in the years prior.

The Blackening was — and is — an absolute masterpiece that will stand the test of time as one of metal’s great albums. Band mastermind Robb Flynn decided to celebrate the anniversary by sharing some memories and factoids about the album through his General Journals email list. Read that post in full below.

The Album Of The Decade turns a decade today, and while it’s not quite ready to move out of the house like TMTC, at 10 years old, it’s ready to start doing chores!
Released on an unsuspecting world back in 2007, it contains such live staples as “Aesthetics Of Hate”, “Beautiful Mourning”, Now I Lay Thee Down”, and the almighty “Halo”

The Blackening Fun Facts:

– Writing for the album began in August 2005.

– The Blackening was recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA, by Robb and engineer Mark Keaton.

– The absolutely crushing mix was done by long-time MH producer Colin Richardson at Strongroom Studios and Metropolis Studios in London England.

–  The intro to “Clenching” was musically assembled at VIP studios with BME engineer Vincent Wojno and became it’s own song due to the fact that it had 90 tracks!  Quad-guitars of 3 part harmonies, 20 tracks of snare, and many other things made it one of the most challenging pieces on the album.

– The middle eastern-sounding vocal line that opens the album was recored during mixing with Colin in London while Robb was on a quick press tour of England.

– While The Blackening is now-known for epic 10-minute-long metal anthems, bizarrely the first 4 songs written for the record were the 4 shortest songs on the album. In order:  “Slanderous”, “Beautiful Mourning”, Aesthetic Of Hate”, and “Now I Lay Thee Down”.  For the first half of the writing process there was no indication that there would be any songs over 5 minutes.

– Fans from the bands “message board” (The Frontliner’s) were invited to sing the “fight’s” on Clenching The Fists Of Dissent.  Machine Head through a party at Sharkbite and recorded many drunken folks losing their voice screaming “FIGHT”.  The German metalcore band Caliban also sang some “fights” when they rolled through town.

– The first 2 shows for The Blackening were warm-up/headline dates in Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado on the way to a tour with Lamb Of God, Trivium tour where MH were 2nd of 4, and a then-unknown band called Gojira opening .

– “Halo”, often viewed as the album masterpiece, took nearly 6 months to finish and went through so many lyrical, musical, and arrangement changes that by the time the band was done, they were essentially burnt-out on it.  Upon finishing recording, Phil Demmel infamously exclaimed “we will never play this song live!!!”

– “Halo” debuted live in both Utah and Denver, but amazingly, was retired for the next 5 months and 2 tours.  A decision almost unimaginable now!

– Reviews at the time were insanely positive with most music press unanimously giving it the highest marks possible. Only Revolver magazine (4 out of 5 stars) and the comical Rolling Stone magazine (who gave it 2 out of 5 stars) were the standouts.

– The first video and single for The Blackening was supposed to be “Now I Lay Thee Down” but at the last minute, the boys decided to switch it to “Aesthetic Of Hate”.  It was quickly assembled and filmed while on tour over 2 days in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia.  Tour mate John Campbell from Lamb Of God brought the boys to various dilapidated buildings in the Richmond, VA area and arranged a warehouse to shoot in.  The outside crowd shots were filmed in the parking lot next door to The NorVa and featured Wille Adler’s then-13 year old son Tres.

– On this day 10 years ago, the boys were playing at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.

– Nearly 3 1/2 years of touring included:  Opening slot for Heaven & Hell (Black Sabbath w/ Dio) and Megadeth, a co-headline tour with Arch Enemy, Throwdown and Sanctity.  The Black Crusade: a massive Europe /UK arena tour with Trivium, Dragonforce, Arch Enemy and Shadows Fall.  Main support to Hell Yeah in the US, Mayhem Festival, various european headline slots atop Wacken, Hellfest, and Rock In Rio.  . Another round the world jaunt with Hatebreed and Bleeding Through that led through Japan, Australia, and Europe and is where Phil met future wife Marta.

– Interestingly, there was only 1 headline tour of the US:  The Black Tyranny co-headline with Arch Enemy, MH would play no more than 1 hour a night.

– The opening band of Machine Head’s U.S. headline tour for the album was Sanctity, fronted by Jared MacEachern. Due to an ankle injury that had side-lined there bassist-at-the-time, they hired local Hostility bassist Brandon Sigmund for the tour and Jared sang all of the harmony vocals.  In a strange twist, 6 years later Jared would join Machine Head.

– James Hetfield heard “Aesthetics Of Hate” on Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal, and, being so inspired by the album, Metallica invited MH to support them in eastern Europe and Wembley Arena in London.  The friendship that ensued led to Machine Head becoming main support to Metallica through the U.S. and Europe for the next 6 months for the Death Magnetic tour cycle.

– The cover art was an old woodcarving Robb found available in the public domain.  The album design team of Paul Brown and Deanna Alcorn changed and altered various aspects of it to make it Machine Heads own creation.  The words “The Mirror Which Flatters Not” were reversed at the last minute so not to confuse people about the album title.

– The first 30,000 copies of the US edition contained a flaw in the album art and was later corrected.  The “squiggle” on one side of the title was blown out by a piece of lint on the printing press

– The album debuted at #16 in the UK, #14 in Australia, and #54 in the USA selling 16,000 copies it’s first week.  It would go on to sell 350,000 worldwide.

– While certainly the best selling album of latter-day Machine Head, The Blackening sits as Machine Head’s 4th best selling album, with 1999’s “The Burning Red”, “The More Things Change”, and “Burn My Eyes” still outselling it worldwide.  Stranger still, in many Scandinavian countries “Supercharger” has still outsold The Blackening.

– After finishing the Mayhem festival in the US with Slipknot, the boys embarked on a massive 9 week tour around the globe in support of Slipknot, with dates in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

– The tour cycle was not without it’s low points.  Phil Demmel lost his father, and Dave McClain lost his mother within a 3 month period… both while on tour.

– Following the passing of Phil’s dad, Machine Head’s Black Crusade tour-mates volunteered to play the shows while Phil went home from Switzerland.  Matt and Corey from Trivium played, Fredrique from Dragonforce, and Christopher Amott from Arch Enemy all contributed guitar.

– Following the passing of Dave’s mom, Machine Head’s tour mates volunteered to play the show while Dave went home from Green Bay, WI.  Robb Rivera of Nonpoint, Mark Castillo of Bury Your Dead and Vinnie Paul all played songs.  Vinnie played the slowest version of “Halo” ever performed to date!

– The band received their first Grammy nomination for the track “Aesthetics Of Hate”, ultimately losing out to a b-side on the special edition re-release of Slayer’s – Christ Illusion.  A bizarre snub from the Grammy academy, as it was the same album Slayer had one a Grammy for the previous year.

– The Blackening was certified Silver in the UK in 2010, their 4th album to achieve that status.

– Upon hearing the lyrics to many of the album strong anti-war, anti-religion themes, The Disney Corp. appallingly banned Machine Head from performing at the House Of Blues (located on Disney property) 2 days before the tours opening night in Anaheim.   After being threatened to “not to go public”, the band went public, and Disney banned them from the 2nd HOB date on the tour in Orlando (also on Disney property).  10 years later the ban still remains…

– 3 video were filmed for the album, “Aesthetics”, “Now I Lay Thee Down”, and “Halo”. The water scene at the end of “Halo” was filmed in Debbie Abono’s backyard pool in Concord, CA. and Dave’s then-wife Shelly was the lead heroine in the Romeo and Juliet-inspired video for “Now I Lay Thee Down”.

– A 4th video was filmed for a Kerrang! magazine sponsored tribute to Iron Maiden, with the boys filming an absolutely insane crowd at the Rock In Rio in Portugal for their cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.

– When the tour cycle was over, Machine Head had toured for 3 years and 3 months, performing over 372 shows.

– In 2010 Metal Hammer declared The Blackening “Album Of The Decade”.

How does The Blackening hold up for you?  Does it deserve the accolades it achieved?  Many fans at the time complained of the overly-long songs and increased melody, how does it stand the test of time for you?  Did you see Machine Head on this tour cycle?

Share your stories with us!!!

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