MACHINE HEAD
"Supercharger"

(Roadrunner)

01. Declaration
02. Bulldozer
03. White-Knuckle Blackout!
04. Crashing Around You
05. Kick You When You're Down
06. Only The Names
07. All In Your Head
08. American High
09. Brown Acid
10. Nausea
11. Blank Generation
12. Trephination
13. Deafening Silence
14. Supercharger

RATING: 8/10

One of the year's most highly anticipated releases, MACHINE HEAD's Supercharger is a surprisingly diverse and defiantly "untrendy"-sounding effort that is likely to disappoint everyone who is expecting the Bay Area quartet to return to the ultra-testosterone-charged sounds of their first two albums, 1994's Burn My Eyes and 1997's The More Things Change.... While several of the tracks on the new album feature a noticeably more aggressive vibe than was the case with the group's last studio offering, 1999's The Burning Red, Supercharger sees MACHINE HEAD combining the elements that made TBR one of the most underrated metal albums of the last decade and with several new ingredients to create a crushingly heavy-yet-infectiously-melodic mix that should satisfy the more open-minded fans of the group's previous efforts.

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Whereas The Burning Red was a bold departure from its predecessors and a creative high point that, in the eyes of this writer, should have catapulted MACHINE HEAD to the ranks of the genre's forerunners, Supercharger is for the most part picking up where the album before it left off—just different enough to be passed off as a natural progression, but essentially treading a similar musical ground to The Burning Red without managing to outclass it in the songwriting department.

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As usual, there are a number of highlights here that reaffirm mainman Robert Flynn's status as one of the most talented and versatile composers in the metal genre today at the same time, however, there are a few moments that indicate that MACHINE HEAD might have taken their current sound as far as they could, with several of the tracks falling short of the standard set by the group's previous releases and consequently preventing Supercharger from being the all-out masterpiece that we were hoping it would turn out to be.

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Without further ado, here is a song-by-song breakdown of the compositions that make up MACHINE HEAD's latest CD:

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01. Declaration (1:11)

Your standard pointless intro, this one includes the sound of sirens and spacey-sounding effects that mercifully end after just one minute and 11 seconds.

 

02. Bulldozer (4:37)

One of several tracks the band premiered during their West Coast mini-tour last November, this one takes a few sharp twists and turns along the way, but generally cruises along at a quicker pace than anything on The Burning Red, with an all-out aggressive chorus that is sure to go down a storm in a live situation. And as an added bonus, the band throw in a "Davidian"-style heavy breakdown part at the end that comes about as close to Burn My Eyes' primitive brutality as one can get without rehashing it.

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03. White-Knuckle Blackout! (3:14)

Another track that was previewed at the aforementioned gigs, this mid-paced number revolves around an infectiously catchy main riff that embeds itself in the listener's brain even before the song's powerful, crushingly-heavy chorus kicks in. Classic MACHINE HEAD at its best.

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04. Crashing Around You (3:13)

Possibly the most "radio-friendly" song on the offer and a likely first single, this one revolves around a simple, straight-forward drum beat and an extremely catchy chorus that is about as close to a "single" cut that MACHINE HEAD are ever likely to write. While not exactly representative of the rest of the album (or MACHINE HEAD, for that matter), it is a strong track that could potentially help expand the group's current fan base, given the right kind of exposure.

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05. Kick You When You're Down (4:01)

An up-tempo crusher with a "notey" main riff that is somewhat reminiscent of VIO-LENCE (Flynn's pre-MACHINE HEAD outfit), but with a totally unconventional chorus and a brutally heavy post-chorus section that is as powerful as anything the band have ever done.

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06. Only The Names (6:07)

A slow-moving, eerily-dark tale about cocaine addiction, this track combines familiar sounding riffing with Flynn's passionate, emotional vocals that reach a climactic finale without the aid of the the usual musical build-up that had become a MACHINE HEAD trademark. Not one of the standout cuts in its demo form, “Only The Names” has turned into a surprisingly moving number that is easily among Supercharger's highlights.

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07. All In Your Head (4:06)

Previously described by this writer as a distant cousin to The Burning Red's "From This Day", this song starts out with a SLAYER-esque slow riff and kicks into a heavy groove section under Flynn's marginally rap-tinged vocals before climaxing with one of the most memorable, melodic choruses on the album. A soon-to-be MACHINE HEAD classic.

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08. American High (3:45)

Featuring one of the most memorable riffs the band have written (the “vocal” version of which opens the track, followed by laughter from Flynn as the actual riff kicks in), this is yet another up-tempo number with a super-catchy chorus that is guaranteed to turn into a live favorite. As with "Bulldozer", "Supercharger" and "Kick You When You're Down", this one moves at a quicker pace than most of The Burning Red, but without losing any of the dynamics or taking away from Flynn's much-improved vocal performance, which has grown leaps-and-bounds since the band's earliest days. Where “American High” is clearly unlike anything else the band have previously done, however, is in the lyrical department, which features a more tongue-in-cheek approach than anything Flynn has previously written and is sure to be the topic of many a discussion among MH fans (a lot of whom will be “pleased” to know that Flynn “couldn't get a goddamn date” in high school, as the frontman tell us in the song's lyrics—I kid you not!).

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09. Brown Acid (0:59)

Pointless one-minute interlude featuring nothing but weird guitar noises.

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10. Nausea (4:21)

Formerly known as “Sick Of You”, “Nausea” is a mid-paced number that is largely devoid of any memorable moments, save for a catchy pre-chorus and a hooky chorus that prevents the track from coming across like a completely workmanlike affair.

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11. Blank Generation (6:38)

Known as “The Drive” in its early incarnation (under which title it appeared on the group's November 2000 five-track pre-production demo), “Blank Generation” is a relatively standard MACHINE HEAD “build-up” type of track (a MH trademark, as stated above), but one that sadly lacks an especially memorable chorus or anything else that would help lift the song from its current “second-rate” status and turn it into anything other than a mere album “filler”.

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12. Trephination (4:57)

Based on the same subject as The Burning Red's “Five”, the lyrics to “Trephination” are far more graphic and explicit than was the case with the aforementioned song—a notable fact considering that both tracks deal with the subject of child molestation, which Flynn has experienced first-hand and goes into some depth about here. Musically, this is yet another up-tempo cut that sounds much better here than it did in its unfinished demo form, with the SLAYER-esque middle section certain to raise some eyebrows due to its rather blatant nod to the veteran Los Angeles thrashers.

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13. Deafening Silence (5:33)

One of the most "different" of the new tracks, this one can best be described as a MACHINE HEAD-style "power ballad", a dark, emotionally-charged epic that allows Flynn's passionately melodic vocals to shine through in a most convincing fashion. Like “Crashing Around You”, this song is hardly typical of the band and is likely to get panned by the same people that dismissed The Burning Red for its lack of aggression, but it is one that works wonderfully in this context, even if it's unlikely to ever get played live.

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14. Supercharger (3:50)

Easily the most testosterone-charged and straight-up aggressive track on the album, “Supercharger” is a no-holds-barred attack on the senses that doesn't let up from the get-go and sounds curiously out of place at the end of the CD, especially after some of the less memorable moments that precede it. All things considered, however, this is probably the only song that sounds like it could have comfortably fit on an album like The More Things Change…, which is a direction that MACHINE HEAD have clearly moved on from and have no intentions of repeating. If nothing else, it will give the die-hard fans of the group's early albums something to drool over while the band goes off and pursues other aspects of their songwriting—a prospect that they obviously find infinitely more interesting, as evidenced by the rest of the CD.

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While not the amazing album that everyone was hoping MACHINE HEAD would deliver at this stage of their career, Supercharger is definitely the most diverse and musically accomplished CD that the band have recorded so far, and it is one that stands a good chance of expanding the group's fan base without offending any of the band's current supporters.

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