Machine Head is back. More than four years after the release of the band’s then latest album, Catharsis, the band released its 10th album, Of Kingdom and Crown Friday through Nuclear Blast Records. The 13-song album is a solid return to form for front man and founder Robb Flynn, who is now the band’s only original member. Over the course of the record’s 39-minute run time, its arrangements lift from all of the best of the band’s catalog, musically speaking, while also offering lyrical content that is engaging in its own right. Flynn and his new band mates – Waclaw Kieltkya (guitar, vocals), Jared MacEachern (bass, vocals), and Matt Alston (drums) – released roughly half of the album’s body in the months leading up to the record’s release, with a total of six of its song debuting between November 2020 and June of this year. One of the most powerful of those singles is ‘My Hands Are Empty.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Rotten,’ which comes late in the album, is another notable addition to the record and will be discussed a little later. ‘Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate,’ which comes early in the record’s run, is yet another notable addition to the album and will also be examined later. All three songs noted are key in their own way to the whole of this album’s presentation. When they are considered along with the album’s other entries, the whole makes this record one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums and potentially one of the year’s top new albums.
Of Kingdom and Crown, the latest album from Machine Head, is easily among the best of this year’s new hard rock and metal albums. There is no question about that. That is made clear from the record’s beginning to its end in its musical and lyrical content alike. One of the songs that does so well to make that clear is ‘My Hands Are Empty.’ While not recently considered the album’s lead single, it was, in hindsight, the first of the new songs that would end up on the album in its release way back in November 2020. It should be noted here that while Matt Alston is currently handling drumming duties for the band, the drums in this song’s arrangement were handled by Navene Koperweis (Animals As Leaders, Whitechapel, Entheos). The arrangement overall features a sound and stylistic approach that, as Flynn noted at the time of the single’s release, is comparable to works from the band’s 2003 album, Through The Ashes of Empires. That is evidenced through Flynn’s distinct growling vocals and the richness created through the pairing of the guitar and bass alongside those pummeling drums. The addition of the choral effect to the mix adds even more to that sense.
Lyrically speaking, Flynn explained that the song tackles the issue of opioid abuse.
“I have some family members who have beaten their opioid addiction, and have some still in the throes of addition,” Flynn said. “it is painful to watch, and I deal with it with great difficulty. It is a song of sadness, but there is hope as well. I have beaten my own drug addictions and we can fight through this together and share our pain with the world.” The mention in the song’s chorus that “My hands are empty/Lies so pretty/Kill me gently” points directly to the emotional struggle. It is an allusion to someone feeling left with nothing as a result of so many struggles. In this case the struggles are with addiction, being at the bottom of that proverbial barrel. The mention of powders and pills in the song’s second verse, along with watching someone slowly die is that direct reference to watching people Flynn knows struggling with addiction. Seeing them “Disintegrate/You/Right before my eyes” and the emptiness haunting him makes that painful picture all the fuller. That overall lyrical picture, along with the power and emotion in the song’s musical arrangement makes fully clear why this song stands out among the album’s singles.
‘My Hands Are Empty’ is just one of the songs that stands out in Machine Head’s new album. ‘Rotten’ is another notable addition to the record. Its musical arrangement immediately takes audiences back to the band’s debut 1994 album, Burn My Eyes. The crunch of the guitars, and the pairing of the bass and drums really leads even more to that comparison. Flynn himself is even quoted through Apple Music as saying the arrangement came about during the band’s recent tour in celebration of Burn My Eyes’ 25th anniversary while also making his own comparison to works from Exodus’ 1989 album, Fabulous Disaster.
Considering the fire in the song’s arrangement, it makes the song’s lyrical content all the more interesting. That is because Flynn left interpretation of the song’s lyrical content to audiences. The mention of sitting, holding the “gun in hand/Barrel to the temple” leads to the sense that this song is lyrically taking on the blend of anger and desperation that comes with such suicidal thoughts. The anger comes as Flynn screams, “Everything is rotten to the core” in the song’s chorus. His further mention of feeling such anxiety, “heart racing/My throat’s constricting” even more seems to hint at those mixed feelings. If in fact, this is the picture that Flynn is trying to paint here, that of someone sitting there, feeling so much anger and sadness, anxiety and confusion all at once, then he has done quite well. That is because mental health is such a prevalent matter, and that constantly deserves attention. To that end, the overall picture painted through the song’s musical and lyrical content makes the whole here stand out just as much as ‘Empty Hands’ and the rest of the album’s offerings.
As much as ‘Rotten’ does to make Of Kingdom and Crown a powerful new offering from Machine Head, it is hardly the last of the record’s most notable works. ‘Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate’ is yet another example of how much this record has to offer. The musical arrangement featured in this song is, again, influenced by Exodus according to Flynn. He compared the intensity of the song’s arrangement to that of works from Exodus’ debut 1985 album, Bonded by Blood. Interestingly enough, that album’s title track (and much of the album) actually sounds more akin to early Metallica than Machine Head. To that end one could argue that this song is just as much akin to early Metallica as early Exodus. That is meant in the most complimentary fashion, too.
Lyrically, this song goes in a completely different direction from those of the other songs examined here. Flynn said in an interview about the song, that it was influenced by the Japanese anime series, Attack on Titan. He said the song is part of what is apparently a bigger semi-conceptual approach to this album that is based on that series and that the lead song focuses on two characters who both start out good but turn bad because of the bad things that happened personally to them. It is an interesting concept of there really being that there is no real “good” or “bad” guy in stories or in life. That concept, together with the song’s powerful musical arrangement, makes it stand on its own unique merits. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall an unforgettable new offering from Machine Head that is among the best of the band’s albums to date.
Of Kingdom and Crown, the latest album from Machine Head, is an impressive return for the band, considering the stark departure that the band took on its predecessor, 2018’s Catharsis. The album is a full-on return to form for Flynn and his current band mates. That is evidenced through its musical and lyrical content alike. The songs examined here each make that clear. When they are considered along with the album’s other songs, the entirety of that body makes Of Kingdom and Crown one of Machine Head’s best albums to date and one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Of Kingdom and Crown is available now through Nuclear Blast Records. The band is scheduled to join Amon Amarth on the road this fall in Europe, with each band promoting its own new album.
The tour’s schedule is noted below.
Thursday 8 – NOTTINGHAM, UK, Motorpoint Arena
Friday 9 – CARDIFF, UK, Motorpoint Arena
Saturday 10 – LONDON, UK, The SSE Arena, Wembley
Monday 12 – MANCHESTER, Uk AO Arena
Tuesday 13 – DUBLIN, Ireland, 3Arena
Friday 16 – ZURICH, Switzerland, Hallenstadion
Saturday 17 – VIENNA, Austria, Stadthalle
Sunday 18 – KRAKOW, Poland, Tauron Arena
Tuesday 20 – TALLINN, Estonia, Saku Arena
Wednesday 21 – HELSINKI, Finland, Ice Hall
Friday 23 – OSLO, Norway, Spektrum
Saturday 24 – STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Hovet
Monday 26 – COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Forum Black Box
Tuesday 27 – HAMBURG, Germany, Barclays Arena
Wednesday 28 – FRANKFURT, Germany, Festhalle
Friday 30 – OBERHAUSEN, Germany, König Pilsener Arena
Saturday 01 – BERLIN, Germany Velodrome
Sunday 02 – AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, Afas Live
Tuesday 04 – MILAN, Italy, Lorenzini District
Thursday 06 – BARCELONA, Spain, Sant Jordi
Friday 07 – MADRID, Spain, Vistalegre
Saturday 08 – LA CORUNA, Spain, Coliseum
Sunday 09 – LISBON, Portugal, Campo Pequeno
Wednesday 12 – PARIS, France, Zenith
Friday 14 – MUNICH, Germany, Olympiahalle
Saturday 15 – LEIPZIG, Germany, Arena
Sunday 16 – PRAGUE, Czech Republic, Tipsport Arena
Tuesday 18 – BUDAPEST, Hungary, Barba Negra
Thursday 20 – ESCH SUR ALZETTE, Luxembourg, Rockhal
Friday 21 – BRUSSELS, Belgium, Forest National
Saturday 22 – STUTTGART, Germant, Schleyerhalle
More information on Machine Head’s new album and tour is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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