Machine Head – “Of Kingdom And Crown” Review

Machine Head – “Of Kingdom And Crown” Review

12th September 2022 0 By Gavin Griffiths

When it comes to longevity, and legacy, nobody can deny MACHINE HEAD as being one of the most important bands in modern metal. For over thirty years now the Californian’s, led by Robb Flynn, have been pummeling listeners with their thrash-inspired style of aggression, and while they did dabble in nu-metal during the subgenre’s millennial peak, they quickly reverted and, truly cemented themselves with “The Blackening” …arguably the metal album of the decade, back in 2007. 

Ever since, they’ve ridden a wave of respect and adoration …but three decades into a career, is quite some time, and sometimes, like in long term relationships, you have to try and spice things up a bit, you know? Get a bit experimental; try some pegging or something? I digress. This brings us to 2022, and the band, with a newly shuffled line-up, have decided to make their first concept album; “Of Kingdom And Crown”.  

Set in a dystopian wasteland, we find ourselves following the stories of two characters, Ares and Eros, who, for their own respective reasons, go on separate killing sprees. It turns out this dystopian wasteland is Columbine, Colorado? (I jest, Harris and Klebold worked as a team…granted, poorly, but they were a team) – The question is …is this album going to kill, or are we just killing time? Let’s find out… 

The album kicks off with “Slaughter The Martyr” …and it’s all well and good that the band want to dabble in concepts, but they don’t have to go full-on prog-metal to do it. At over ten minutes long, our opener is excessive. The track kicks off like, someone trying to tune in their guitar from a YouTube video, before we do actually get some soft, husky vocals that lend to an emotive build in tone and delivery. This itself, lasts for around three minutes, which is a track in itself already, but no, it’s all rammed into one piece here. The transition into the more metal sounding stylistics is smooth, but who truly wants to take 10 minutes to get into a track, let alone an album, despite how smooth the riff-work is? Nobody, the answer is nobody. 

Understanding that this, as a concept album, is going to have more of a niche appeal, let’s take a look at some of the immediate highlights musically. “Become The Firestorm” kicks off as an absolute scorching melee of blast beats, riffs and vitriol, while somehow impressively maintaining subtle clean hooks that allow for maximum experience and enjoyment. This track is tailor made for live crowd interaction and it works. ”My Hands Are Empty” has the slow build, that leads into a flurry of fury, while incorporating harmonic gang vocals for a sense of involvement, and again leans towards crowd interaction. 

In terms of accessibility, we can’t ignore “No Gods No Masters”, which despite its riff-heavy approach and aggressive vocal qualities, harbors so many hooks and sing-along prospects, and the chorus allows for a truly fun listen. “Unhallowed” follows in similar footsteps truth be told, and for the most part is quite the mellow, hard-rock offering which provides the listener with this, inclusive experience.


Where do we faulter though? The interlude “Overdose” can get in the bin immediately…nothing personal, and I don’t care where it fits into to the narrative, but, a heart monitor beeping and cutting out, leading to a lady’s death and, almost demonic, gut-wrenching pain and emotion from the delivery of the message from the nurse? 58 seconds I’ll never get back right there. I thought Holby City was cheesy! “Assimilate” at 59 seconds can also get in the bin. Some sort of motivational rallying cry, spoken word etc, it doesn’t need to be a track of its own at all and they frankly wasted their time. “Terminus” too suffers a similar fate, which means ideally, we’ve cut not only over three minutes, but three tracks from this album, which is far more appealing. 

The special edition does have “Exteroception” which, as a stimulus does refreshingly take us back to the heady days of no-nonsense thrash, but as an instrumental, is wasted. We also get an acoustic version of Arrows In Words From The Sky” and this would work better as either the actual tracks replacement, or a B-side. 

Ultimately here, the band have experimented with something creative and have committed, while staying true to themselves. Has it worked? It entirely depends on what you want from your metal and your Machine Head. Heavy as all fuck? Not always, but it’s got riffs. Aggressive? In places, sure, but mature about it. Proggy? Again, in places, sprinkled throughout the album as a whole.  

This isn’t a straightforward Machine Head album, this is an artistic Machine Head album, and it’s going to create divisive opinions. To summarize, ironically, talking about crowns, we’ve just gone from Queen Elizabeth II to King Charles III….new doesn’t always mean better. Take that how you will. It’s a decent album and worth a stream, but compared to their back catalogue, it garners no royal privilege.

Score: 6/10

Track List:

  1. “Slaughter The Martyr”
  2. “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate”
  3. “Become The Firestorm”
  4. “Overdose”
  5. “My Hands Are Empty”
  6. “Unhallowed”
  7. “Assimilate”
  8. “Kill Thy Enemies”
  9. “No Gods, No Masters”
  10. “Bloodshot”
  11. “Rotten”
  12. “Terminus”
  13. “Arrows In Words From The Sky”
  14. “Exteroception” (Bonus Track)
  15. “Arrows In Words From The Sky [Acoustic]” (Bonus Track) 

    Record Label: Nuclear Blast

    Release Date: August 26th (Available Now)

    For all things Machine Head, click HERE and to purchase the album, click HERE

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