After almost three years, a Bloodstock Open Air headlining slot, a new bassist (the excellent choice of former Sanctity frontman Jared Maceachern) and a new record label home in the shape of Nuclear Blast Entertainment, Machine Head are back with their eighth studio album Bloodstone & Diamonds. Does it measure up to the band's impressive back catalogue?
The latest offering from Machine Head starts off in terrific fashion. Opener Now We Die hits the sweet spot and is an instant Machine Head classic which means the listener will be far too busy headbanging to notice the songs seven and a half minutes length. The chorus is also one that will join the likes of Imperium and Aesthetics of Hate as a mandatory sing-along in Machine Head's epic live shows. Killers and Kings (released as far back as the Spring in demo form) is another enjoyable high tempo song, whilst Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones features a great vocal performance from Robb Flynn and some phenomenal guitar work from Flynn and Phil Demmell throughout. So far, so good. But sadly Machine Head are not able to maintain Bloodstone & Diamonds' excellent start.
Much like their former long time record label mates Slipknot with their recent release The Gray Chapter, Bloodstone & Diamonds suffers from a weak mid section of the album. Songs like Beneath The Silt and Eyes Of The Dead do little to leave a lasting impression while In Comes The Flood would have been far better had it not outstayed it's welcome by a good couple of minutes. The longest track on the album, Sail Into The Black, is the latest in a line of slow burning Machine Head songs such as The Burning Red and Descend The Shades Of Night. Over the years Machine Head have excelled at this type of song but sadly Sail Into The Black does not match up to its predecessors as it does not have the same level of impact once the song fully kicks in.
It's not all totally downhill after the beginning with Bloodstone & Diamonds. Game Over could easily be described as a Machine Head take on a pop punk song and as ridiculous as that sounds, it works. Full of energy, cracking riffs and a chorus bigger than a T-Rex, it's a curve-ball of a song that hits the mark brilliantly.
Overall, Bloodstone & Diamonds is a reasonable start to life with Nuclear Blast for Machine Head. When they got it right, they got it right brilliantly (the first three songs and Game Over). The main problem is the album is simply too long and would have benefited from a more concise approach, but there is still plenty here to keep the Head Cases happy.