"Catharsis", the new video from San Francisco Bay Area metallers MACHINE HEAD, can be seen below. The song is the title track of the band's ninth full-length album, which will be released on January 26, 2018 via Nuclear Blast. The follow-up to 2014's "Bloodstone & Diamonds" was produced by MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn and recorded, mixed, and co-produced by Zack Ohren (FALLUJAH, ALL SHALL PERISH) at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California. Mastering was handled by Ted Jensen (HATEBREED, ALICE IN CHAINS, DEFTONES) at Sterling Sound in New York. Cover photography was created by Seanen Middleton.
Flynn explains: "'Catharsis' was a tricky concept to translate to a visual. How do you express somebody's catharsis? Frasier, the director, brought up the Butoh dance concept and it tied in so well into the idea of what catharsis could be. And when the Butoh dancers began performing for the video, we were blown away. Their expressions were so pained, almost horrifying, and yet very sad; it was extremely moving."
The other side of the "Catharsis" video recounts the experiences of mental asylum patients. Oftentimes, in the '50s and '60s, people went through traumatic and regrettable experiences, and those vivid photos still linger today.
Flynn continues: "On a personal level, I related to this aspect. My uncle Jimmy lived with us for years while growing up. He had experienced some pretty severe drug testing when he was younger and didn't come out of it very well. For the rest of his life, he would do things like not eat for seven days straight and talk to Jesus all day. It was a trip to grow up with that at home. So, we took these disparate elements and turned them into a very cinematic and psychedelic visual to express that."
Flynn adds: "We love making videos now. There used to be a bunch of rules and around what you could and couldn't do in a music video. Most of it was a boring performance, with us 'pretending' to play and sing the song. Now, it's like making a crazy, whacked-out movie. You can get weird and strange and have a blast. We are super proud of how well this video tuned out!"
Butoh dance is literally and figuratively the dance of death and pain.
Born from Hiroshima/Nagasaki post-World-War-II-era Japan, the dance was created around the radioactive wasteland left behind in the wake of the nuclear bomb being dropped. Dancers would paint themselves in ash and take on a gaunt, deathly look. Facial expressions are agonizing and the body language is often deformed and contorted, expressing the pain and suffering that was a direct result of atomic warfare.
Flynn told Jason Ellis of SiriusXM that "Catharsis" is a simpler and more straight-forward effort than some of MACHINE HEAD's past outings.
"I've been telling everybody, 'Keep your expectations low for the heaviness,'" Robb said. "It's a very grooving, very melodic record, and it's kind of freaked people out — understandably, I guess."
Asked how "unheavy" "Catharsis" really is, Flynn said: "It's got some pretty melodic moments, man. This isn't us at our heaviest. To me, if 'The Blackening' was us at our most thrashing and most heavy, this is probably us at our most grooving and most melodic. And it's still heavy, it's great songs, it's just… it's a new trip, and I dig it, man."
According to Flynn, MACHINE HEAD had "no plan" while composing the songs for "Catharsis". "We just start writing," he explained. "There's never a plan. We just started writing, and it came out the way it came out, and it was just cool. That was the shit that got our dick hard, and we were, like, 'Fuck! Let's go with it.'"
He added: "To me, Keith Richards summed it up best. We're just a vessel and we're just channeling what's going through us."
Pointing out that "Catharsis" is a 15-song collection of music with a running time of around 75 minutes, Flynn admitted that "it's a big commitment" for the listener. But, he added, "The majority of the record is short songs. And it was nice. It was just, like, the first two songs we wrote were just short and sweet and heavy, and we were, like, 'Fuck! It doesn't need to go on for six more minutes or have 20 other changes.'"
As for what brought about the slight change in direction for MACHINE HEAD's new album, Flynn said: "I don't listen to a whole lot of metal — I'm being straight with you. To me, a lot of it doesn't interest me, a lot of the lyrics don't interest me. I listen to a lot of hip-hop. I grew up on a lot of hardcore, punk rock, hip-hop, and I just love… Love it or hate it, I love just the fucking direct, ignorant-ass lyrics of hip-hop. It's very clear, it's very blunt; there's no metaphors. Metal's full of metaphors. We've been singing about the same shit now for 30 fucking years and I get a little bored with it. And with this record, I really wanted to just strip it down and make really clear, really simple, really blunt… Especially my choruses, just really clear… Like, you know what the fuck I'm talking about exactly when I'm talking about it. And it's cool. Like real vulgar language and coarse language, and it's a good vibe, man."
Flynn went on to say that he was inspired by the idea of changing up the formula and taking MACHINE HEAD down a new path without veering too much from the band's established sound.
"How the fuck do you blow people away? How do you say something different?" he asked rhetorically. "'Cause there's the two sides — there's the type of bands that are, like, 'We wanna be AC/DC. Never change. It's always the same.' And then there's THE BEATLES, which is probably the most evolution that's ever happened over the course of 10 years in music history. And I don't wanna say we've changed that much, 'cause I never think that we have, but I love the evolution. I love trying to find some new thing that keeps you going."
"Catharsis" track listing:
03. Beyond The Pale
04. California Bleeding
05. Triple Beam
08. Hope Begets Hope
09. Screaming At The Sun
10. Behind A Mask
11. Heavy Lies The Crown
13. Grind You Down
14. Razorblade Smile
The album is available for pre-order at this location.
The North American tour in support of "Catharsis" will kick off on January 25 in Mesa, Arizona.