Machine Head - The Burning Red. (RoadRunner Records)

The More Things Change was a major disppointment in my eyes. Lack of songs that stuck in the head. They lost ground. This, along with the subsequent departure of some guitar blokey, makes this a pretty important release for the band. And from a personal point of view, roping in Ross Robinson on production wasn't the best move. Nothing wrong with his production. Far from it. It's just that he's established a sound and reputation which means that you worry that you already know how and who this is going to sound like. Remember Roots. Major Korn influence in the sound. But like I said, that's just a personal fear. Time will tell if it's founded.

Oh and Mr Flynn? Heís calling himself Robert. Oh dear. No, not done. Itís like if Iím called David not Dave. Donít like it. Itís the name your given at birth, but itís only used when being told off by your parents, abmonished by someone, or youíre in trouble with the missus. Crikey, being picky and the first track hasnít even started yet. ok, Intro, do your thang! Yeah, well itís an intro. Theyíre all meaningless. But Desire To Fire has kicked in now. Kick drum intro that has Flynn cajoling the crowd. Sounds promising. Thereís a cry to "fuck the shit" and a "come one" and theyíre off. You can instantly visualise this as the set opener. But then we get a guitar part that hints at the Korn production sound. Itís what I was worried about. It doesnít last, and thereís nothing inherently wrong in it, just the fear that the production will stamp itís identity all over this more than Machine Head will. Oh, and thereís a hip-hop style vocal rap thing. I know itís different, itís expanding the music, but itís expanding it towards what everyone else is doing, and that makes it kind of boring and disappointing.

And then thereís that cover. Message In A Bottle. A mistake. No, itís not bad. Itís a good song and not that bad a cover. Though I just close my eyes and imagine Snuff doing it so much better. But no, itís a mistake putting it on the album. Cos someone somewhere will pick up on it. Itíll get released as a single, or radio airplay track in the States, and theyíll be known for that cover. Theyíll be under pressure to play it live at gigs for that reason, where itíll get a huge response from the non MH fans and will become a millstone around their neck. Oh Dave, you forseer of doom. Yeah well, someoneís gotta do it. Good b-side fun cover song. Not an album track.

But those are my gripes. And in many respects theyíre minor and picky. Because in all honesty, the rest of the album gives the feeling that this could be their most accessible, but more importantly, most consistent piece of work to date. The dreaded word mature strikes you. But where mature is often a pseudonym for cack when it comes to music, here it reflects a quality of song and performance that the band have previously not attained. It is definitely more melodic, and for me, thatís a major plus. Case in point being From This Day, which features a particularly effective chorus. In fact the middle of the album is the absolute heart of it. From Nothing Left, The Blood The Sweat The Tears, Exhale The Vile and Silver to From This Day, thereís not a duffer in sight. Thereís plenty of familiar beacons. That Machine Head guitar squeal, the slow intro like Death Church from the debut. Itís just better than theyíve done before. Itís given them more options, thereís more shades to their work and it makes it so much more interesting. Case in point being album closer The Burning Red which is 7 minutes in length. But it opens with an intensly spartan melodic piece before building. It sucks away those 7 minutes and turns a lengthy song from a thing of dread to a thing of beauty. Course, if you subscribe to the harder than thou, macho, intensity can only ever be shown by full on rage, then youíre going to struggle. And be oh so sorely misguided. This track could gain them so much shit from people. Which would be a shame. Like in life, you have to balance things. Light with shade. Love with hate. This goes for the balance, and it pretty much gets there. Which is something that in all honesty I wasnít banking on. I was ready to rip this thing to shreds before I listened. But I simply canít. Bugger. What a disappointment. But that was preconception. You have to listen first instead. Thatís my lesson to learn from this one.

 

Undergroove #11

Ah, new Undergroove. From the people that bring you the recorded works of Shallow and now Charger, you have to remember that they originated out of the zine. And hereís the latest one. Featuring interviews with the likes of Neurosis, Monster Magnet, Orange Goblin and The Jellys, itíll test your perceptions of music. It mixes things up, slaps in a bit of humour, some cartoons, horrorscopes and a whole bunch of demo reviews. I think Metal Hammer said while reviewing the Shallow EP that Undergroove was the best zine in the UK. So why you still reading this? You should be reading the contact address by now.£1 plus SAE.

Undergroove, PO Box 172, Shrewsbury, SY3 9WL. www.undergroove.co.uk

 

Ministry - Dark Side Of The Spoon.

 

 

Much like that Machine Head album, I had this one pinned. Mid way through Supermanic Soul I had it figured. This was Ministry returning to the Psalm 69 blueprint. This was Ministry failing to match the magic of Lard (the project featuring a certain 2 members of Ministry and Jello Biafra on vocals. If youíve never checked them out, do so NOW). That was going to be the album then. Great music, just crying out for the lyrical and vocal inspiration of the Biafra.

Bad Blood also features a typical Ministry riff, simple, repetitive, yet highly effective. Got it. Nailed. Ministry have returned to the style that brought them to mass prominence. But then, by the time I got to the end of the album, (by that I mean track 9, 10/10, not the stupid piss me off utter waste of time cack that is the silence that takes you up to track 69. When will record labels or bands, whoever makes the choice, realise that it isnít good, it isnít clever, it isnít funny, it just makes you look like a bunch of sad fucking t!*ts with nothing better to do). Anyway, by the time Iíd reached the end of the album, my figuring out this was about as accurate as my maths used to be. Which means I was way off the mark. Thereíd been changes of pace and elements that Iíd just not expected. There were times that it felt jazzy in there. Oi, jazzy I said, not, oh forget it. Means Iím going to have to listen a few more times and see if I canít figure this out. Which is good. Though it wouldíve been much easier to write the review if it had been what I knew it was going to be. Please come back later ....

Ok, well, Iíve listened to it a few times. Itís not clicked yet. Hang on in there ....

Oh I dunno. It challenges the listener again. Which you may think all Ministry has, but really Psalm 69 didnít, which is what helped make it the great album it is. But here, tracks such as Nursing Home and the majestic Kaif force you to listen. Eureka Pile has a cool riff before dropping down a tone or two and nipping in with those eastern style backing vocals. And at this stage, I honestly donít know. It isnít immediate. Itís probably going to be the fact that I bought this, and so donít want to have wasted my money, that drags me back for future listens. And it needs them. Best come back in 6 months time, cos right now Iíll be fucked if I know if this is good or not.