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Live Reviews : Machine Head (Melbourne) – 25/03/2010

By on April 4, 2010

Machine Head

w/ Hatebreed, Bleeding Through and Emure

Festival Hall, March 25 2010

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The last time I caught Machine Head in Australia, I was just a wee little 14 year old and they were supporting slayer at festival hall. It was the first metal gig of my life, and lots of things have changed for me since then, but not as much as they have for Machine Head…

After releasing three hugely popular and influential albums, Machine Heads place in the world of metal has been in decline. The next few releases seemed to only solidify their descent into metal insignificance, as the world of nu metal was left behind, and straight and thrash metal arose once more. But then Machine Head produced something genuinely remarkable – the great comeback album. So with the Blackening in hand, it was time to see some reformed metalheads kicking ass.

But they didn’t come alone. Support on this tour came thick and heavy from American hardcore in Emmure, Bleeding Through and Hatebreed. Unfortunately, passouts weren’t available, and at the thought of being stuck in the heat of festival hall with three hardcore bands, I decided to read a book until the coast looked clear of breakdowns. As a good reviewer though, I put personal security concerns aside and entered the venue early to check out Hatebreed.

Well, what can one say about Hatebreed that you can’t say about any hardcore band. They had a lot of energy, they were aggressive, they called for a circle pit every second song, they wore bandanas, shorts and long socks, and they played ‘I Will Be Heard’…

There’s something about hardcore gigs – the stupid circle pits, the ridiculous chest thumping, the lack of melody – that I just can’t get into. And whilst I don’t dislike the occasional Hatebreed song, an entire concert of it, like an entire album, is about as repetitive as it comes.

In contrast to my own observations, the crowd were eating up every dulcet tone the band produced. Singing along, raising their middle fingers in unison, and thumping their chests and behaving like Neanderthals, Hatebreed know their target audience and play to it perfectly. But thankfully for me they were only the warm-up to the main event.

As is now reportedly mandatory for their gigs the world over, Machine Head entered the stage twenty minutes behind schedule. However, the booze fuelled crowd didn’t seem to mind the delay, and proceeded to go bonkers like Dizzee Rascal when Rob Flynn and band hit the stage and cracked into the opening track off the Blackening, Clenching the Fist of Dissent.

Rob Flynn has certainly grown into the role of rock god over the years, pulling manly poses left, right and centre, and announcing his band members every few minutes: ‘Mr Adam Duce on bass’, ‘Mr Phil Demmel on guitar’, ‘Mr Dave McClain on drums’ and repeating ad nauseum. Also his trademark “wow” to express his happiness with the crowd makes an appearance again and again, as they demonstrate their rehearsed rock star quotes. The last time I saw them, they said the crowd were so crazy, festival hall should be renamed the mental asylum. Then he said the same thing in Brisbane… and Sydney… and wherever else they played (including where they recorded their live CD…). Not that it’s a terrible thing, it just makes you appreciate bands with spontaneity that little bit more.

Having been around for so long, Machine Head have built up a powerful back catalogue that even casual fans can enjoy. Imperium for Through the Ashes of Empires, Bite the Bullet and The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears from The Burning Red, and Ten Ton Hammer from The More Things Change made up the body of the start of the show, and demonstrated to the crowd that the Blackening was a long time coming, and built up on a strong history.

The sound at Festival Hall this night was perfect, with Rob Flynn’s vocals always right in the mix, along with the great guitar melodies which were best brought out up next when the lads cracked into the Blackening material. Beautiful Mourning, Aesthetics of Hate and Now I Lay Thee Down displayed all of the amazing musical work that the Blackening has been praised for. Classic old fan track Old kept things heavy, before they brought on the mellow for one of the highlights of the night, The Burning Red. With lighters in hand, the crowd sang along as Rob stood alone in the limelight for this emotional ballad which, he explained, “is about suicide”.

Not to be left behind entirely, Bulldozer was the sole song off Supercharger, and had the crowd up and moshing, before Blood for Blood closed out the show.

Well, not entirely, obviously. Because what would a Machine Head show be without their new classic, Halo. As soon as they announced the song, the crowd, simply put, lost their shit. When the band got to the chorus, melodic guitar work in full swing, the crowd were screaming along with Flynn at the top of their voices. To finish the show, Davidian had the crowd moshing one last time, before the crowd were thanked and the band left the stage again.

I like to think that a good indicator of a bands performance is how much the crowd gets involved. By this measure, Machine Head owned this crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the crowd in the seated section to the side of the stage at Festival Hall so involved, as shirts were off, arms were in the air and heads were banging as if they were in their own little mosh pit. On the floor, the story was the same, as from one side to the other, the crowd surrounding the mosh pit had their own little mosh pits. Machine Head have lost nothing.

Photos by Scott Boelsen