The fifth in a series of video blogs featuring footage from the recording sessions for "Bloodstone & Diamonds", the new album from San Francisco Bay Area metallers MACHINE HEAD, can be seen below. Due on November 10 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment, the CD was recorded in part at GREEN DAY's JingleTown Recording compound in Oakland, California.
Says MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn: "I cannot even begin to tell you how proud we are of this album. It's been a heck of a ride. It looked like it might not ever happen again at one point, but man, this album is a milestone for us.
"Without getting too philosophical on ya, bloodstone and diamonds represent two of the hardest materials on earth. It is also a lyric from the opening track of the album, 'Now We Die'.
"In many cultures, the bloodstone has been used as an amulet to protect against evil, and is the symbol of justice. Diamonds are the hardest natural material on earth (which is how we feel about our music), and it also represents the diamond logo I drew 22 years ago (in my wife's apartment on Dover St. in Oakland) that has become the symbol for the band."
"Bloodstone & Diamonds" track listing:
01. Now We Die
02. Killers & Kings
03. Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones
04. Night Of Long Knives
05. Sail Into The Black
06. Eyes Of The Dead
07. Beneath The Silt
08. In Comes The Flood
09. Damage Inside
10. Game Over
11. Imaginal Cells (instrumental)
12. Take Me Through The Fire
Adds Flynn: "10 songs, an interlude, and an instrumental with an audio collage of spoken word snippets (think 'Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies') by Dr. Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman, taken from their (incredibly inspiring) audiobook 'Spontaneous Evolution'.
"It was once again produced by your truly The General and Juan Urteaga, and like the last seven out of eight albums, masterfully mixed by Colin Richardson. Additional tracking, editing, and mixing was done with heavy metal legend Andy Sneap and Steve Lagudi.
"Guest musicians include two different string quartets featuring the original Quartet Rouge that appeared on our last album 'Unto The Locust'. And a new all-male quartet which we featured on the song 'In Comes The Flood'.
"String arrangements for two of the songs, 'Now We Die' and 'Sail Into The Black', came courtesy of myself and Rhys Fulber who has worked with everyone from Sarah McLachlan to FEAR FACTORY, and the string arrangement for 'In Comes The Flood' came courtesy of myself and ex-WORSHIP and current-BRING ME THE HORIZON keyboardist Jordan Fish, who is a producer in his own right.
"We worked with several artists to complete the 28-page (!) 'standard' CD booklet, as well as the 48-page (!) hardcover leather-bound mediabook that will serve as the special edition, including Rafal Wechterowicz, Marcelo Vasco, and longtime MACHINE HEAD art-collaborator Strephon Taylor. The theme was to have both CD and hardcover mediabook look like an old alchemy book from the 1800s, with weathered edges, sepia toned pages, and magic / masonic / alchemy themed woodcarvings throughout.
"It turned out fucking amazing!!
"All album photos were done with our friend Travis Shinn, who took some mind-bogglingly awesome photos, that again, were set to match the theme of the book with an old 1800s / alchemy feel to them."
Regarding the musical direction of "Bloodstone & Diamonds", Flynn told Metal Hammer magazine: "There's definitely a lot of urgency on this record. It's a really heavy record arid there's a dark and evil vibe to a lot of it, but I feel like there's more of a rock vibe in there too. It's stripped down at times, and I like that. I think that sense of urgency has carried over from the demos we did, which were all done very quickly and spontaneously. We tried to keep that spontaneous vibe on the album."
He continued: "At one point we started getting really anal on the tracks and spending tons of time on stuff, and we'd listen back and say, 'You know what? This doesn't have the vibe of the demos.' The demos were so fuckin' frantic, so we changed our mindset and now it's a little bit looser. Some of the guitar takes are basically live. Often, 40 or 50 percent of a song came from a spontaneous, live take and that's killer! It adds energy and makes the songs feel alive."
As part of this year's Record Store Day on April 19, MACHINE HEAD released a 10-inch vinyl single, with the A-side containing the "demo" version of "Killers & Kings". The B-side was a cover version of the track "Our Darkest Days" from one of MACHINE HEAD's favorite bands, IGNITE.
Flynn recently stated about the band's new material: "I would say… that the songs are as epic in scope [as those on 2007's 'The Blackening'], if not more so, except where 'The Blackening' was more epic in the guitar department, this is more epic in the EVERYTHING department. Strings arrangements, keyboard arrangements, massive vocal layering (one track, 'Sail Into The Black' has 40 tracks of vocals), drum overdubs, and, of course, the standard MACHINE HEAD quadruple tracking of the guitars."
He added: "I want to reiterate, I don't feel this record sounds like 'The Blackening'. It feels like we're still moving forward. If I HAD to compare it to another record of ours, it may be closer to 'Through The Ashes Of Empires' in one aspect only, the simpler song arrangements. It's still what I would just call classic metal, but we've simplified beats, simplified riffs, taken the unnecessary complicated-ness of something and made it simple. I've even applied that to my lyrics, where I've stripped out a lot of extra words ('the's,' 'and's,' etc), and invented a lyrical technique I call 'clustering,' where you cluster vowels or cluster 'plosives' ('K's,' 'T's,' 'Ch's') together to make it sound heavier, or flow better. It doesn't read all that poetically, but in the song it sounds really cool. I've also really worked hard on sharpening up my rhyme schemes, finding clever places to place rhymes, instead of the usual place at the end of a line, or even again, 'clustering' rhymes. It makes an abstract concept like 'Killers & Kings' (which references 20+ Tarot Cards, and that I'm very proud of the end result) to have a real meaning. Out of that stripped down musical landscape, we've then taken that new (to us at least) 'extra space' and added in layers of strings, layers of dark, ambient keys, layers and layers of vocals, and it sounds HUGE."
Photo credit: Travis Shinn