MACHINE HEAD - ARROWS IN WORDS FROM THE SKY (EP)
ROBB FLYNN RE-DISCOVERS HIS ANGRY MOJO
Machine Head’s story has, arguably, been increasingly harder to follow the longer it continues. Smashing into the scene with a timeless, totemic and brutal classic debut Burn My Eyes in 1994 they subsequently went through various well-known stylistic eras and multiple personnel changes until now – as far as can be discerned – only founder Robb Flynn and bassist Jared MacEachern are the full-time, hands-on members.
Their most recent full-length Catharsis (2018) included experimental aspects, as well as a few superfluous twists, and consequently got a mixed reception, so the band’s next move was going to be intriguing. Arrows in Words from the Sky is a three song EP and fits relatively appositely with the latter day output with similarities to Unto the Locust (2011) and Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014). The opener Become the Firestorm could easily have come from those sessions; it is five minutes’ worth of rampaging wrath that incorporates a lot into the mix. Structurally, the song frantically tears through various passages of blast beat velocity thrash, concussive pit-friendly breakdowns, high-register warbling cleans and an unabashed frenetic solo. Flynn seems up for it, too, more natural and less faux-rage.
The largely mid-paced Rotten has some strong, revving repetitive engine-like riffs that may well find approval among acolytes of the band’s earlier cannon. Heavy, confrontational and abrasive it has snarly mojo and attitude. The title track, meanwhile, offers an impassioned metalcore-ish quasi-ballad. Dreamy and ruminative it has strong melodies that offset with some crunchy rage.
Arrows in Words from the Sky crams a lot of variety into three songs: neo-thrash, melody, metalcore, moodiness and plenty of spit. At roughly five minutes each, the songs are not as excessive or extravagant as some recent output but probably at their absolute limit in terms of duration. The riffage can be fierce and here, like the band’s best music, a truly propulsive drumming contribution is centrifugal to their core sound. Flynn seems to be in indomitable form too, so this is perhaps the optimal niche for modern-era Machine Head with some nods to past glories but wedded to current expectations.