The Blackening is one of only a couple of post-thrash/groove metal albums which I've enjoyed truly thoroughly, and I've often lamented that there are not more groove-metal albums in the style. Machine Head, it is widely accepted, will have to do a lot to top it, in the albums follow-up, "Unto The Locust".
Musically, it would seem that Machine Head have taken what was enjoyable about The Blackening, and built upon it. Robb Flynn's growling, angry, and yet almost tuneful vocals are very reminiscent of the album, and the speed and aggression of the music is there, and is often built upon, especially in songs such as the blistering and remorseless three-part opening track, "I Am Hell" which opens the albums musical gates open wide, in the same way that "Clenching the Fists of Dissent" did on the blackening, although I cannot decide which is more enjoyable, although the latter still certainly holds my personal seal. While the album opener equals it's predecessor, it doesn't, in my opinion, top it, which is what so many people hoped. However, Unto the Locust then proceeds to demonstrate that Machine Head not only are undeniably still on their game, but also that they can pull a few improvements out of the box. "Be Still and Know" is a technically masterful and catchy groove-fest, very lead heavy, and with fist pounding choruses - exactly what groove-metal is about, and exactly what machine head do best, and, as the track shows, continue to improve at.
The production is similar to The Blackening, and continues to be very much acceptable - no clicky, over-polished junk, but certainly no fuzz either. Judging that "The Blackening" has perhaps the optimum production for the band, and that this album is the same, it doesn't really bode mentioning. Musically too, for the most part, the band seem to be sticking with what they honed in The Blackening. Although there are certainly subtle differences, and what would appear to be an increase in technical ability among the band members, Unto the Locust is what I'd essentially describe as a slightly higher definition of it's predecessor, a groove metal sandwich with a little bit more filling - In places, it's very apparent that the album is as such. A lot of it is quite a bit more intense, with a lot more speedy-riffing and machine-gun vocals, and, on the faster songs, a higher tempo than just about anything on The Blackening. There's more depth to the music too, and it's clear that on this album, the band have felt more comfortable to put a few extra layers into the music, for example the many layers of backing-vocals on "This Is The End".
Unto the Locust is definitely mined from the same vein of creativity that spawned The Blackening, but as the vein is mined, it seems to be getting a little richer. Ideally, this album is the second of what could be a plateau of good albums, a streak which hopefully will not end here. The only down-point on the album was "The Darkness Within" - a good song on it's own merit, but it stuck out on the album like a sore thumb, sounding more generic and mainstream than the bands usual enjoyable output, although it does redeem itself later on in the song. The album is solid, and it lives up to it's predecessor like a son to a father.
I give Unto The Locust 9/10.
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