Machine Head

support Sonic Syndicate
author AP date 29/11/14 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Bay Area thrashers Machine Head are no strangers to Denmark, and as such, with the announcement of a new album earlier this year ("Bloodstone & Diamonds", a review of which you can find here) it was a given that the quartet would find their way to the Danish shores again sometime in the wake of its release. They're in the country tonight for the second time in less than six months, having played in Denmark's second city Århus this past August, but despite their frequent visits the place is bustling with metal heads young, old and everything in between when I arrive just in time to watch the evening's support act: the Swedish modern metal group Sonic Syndicate.

Sonic Syndicate

Our brothers from across the Øresund strait are sadly plagued by the typical support act syndrome: the mix allows little else than the drumming of John Bengtsson & the singing of vocalist Nathan James Biggs to pertrude an otherwise thundering wall of bass. Using earplugs the experience is a little more favourable, but even so there's little in the band's music to justify their booking as main support in place of Devil You Know and Darkest Hour, the latter of whom were unable to be here due to their frontman John Henry marrying his fiancé this weekend. Virtually every song played follows the same basic formula of verse-chorus-verse, with the clean/harsh vocal dynamic used only in the most frustratingly predictable way, and it is perhaps for this reason that Biggs' continuous attempts at riling up the audience go largely unmet. There's a fuck or fucking in between every word creating the illusion that Sonic Syndicate are a much harder, tougher band than a song like "Beauty and the Beast" would suggest.

There's a basic level of catchiness to this stuff that renders it possible to enjoy on some casual level, but in general, as the set progresses, nothing in the music really changes. It's all so painfully average, even the older track "Aftermath", which though at the very least inspires the first real pit action of the evening once a sufficient number of fucks have been spat out by Mr. Biggs. Were Sonic Syndicate an explosive live act, my verdict would likely have been more positive, but with utterly forgettable songs and standard, unmoving metal poses galore, there's very little here to maintain my interest beyond polite head bobbing and foot tapping.

5

Machine Head

Not ones to ease into the groove, Machine Head initiate their own proceedings by dealing a crushing blow first with the staple "Imperium", and next with the invigorating "Beautiful Mourning" - my personal favourite off the group's 2007 masterpiece "The Blackening". Closing in on 50 years most of them, there's an air of charisma and class to the way in which the four musicians, frontman Robb Flynn, lead guitarist Phil Demmel, drummer Dave McClain & newly joined bassist Jared MacEachern, carry themselves; yet at the same time, you'd be hard pressed to find a more imposing looking band. It certainly helps this impression that the mix has been honed to near perfection (my only regret is that it should really be louder), thus affording McClain's percussion & MacEachern's bass foundation a strong presence without sacrificing the profuse amount of melody for which Machine Head are renowned.

"Bite the Bullet" is delivered like an iron fist in our face, the continuously operational mosh slash circle pit growing wilder with each passing song and reaching an early climax with the much loved "The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears". But as awesome as the sheer sonic violence of which Machine Head are capable is to behold, they have an equally impressive knack for penning a softer and more epic sort of song. First, new song "In Comes the Flood" proves its strength in the live setting as well, and immediately after, Flynn delivers a heartfelt speech about what it is to become and be in a band whilst strumming his acoustic guitar in an extended lead-in to the brilliant "Darkness Within". It's scintillating to hear the crowd reciprocating its signature hummed melody, especially as during said speech a number of peasants in the back felt it necessary to heckle Flynn with yells of "shut the fuck up and play some songs!" in what I feel is a testimony to the size of this band now - like Volbeat, they're beginning to attract your Sunday metal 'fans', whose idea of a good concert is to drink themselves into a stupor and forget they even went.

Still, although it's difficult to place a finger on anything Machine Head aren't pulling off with true finesse, it feels as though something is missing tonight. There's a touch of automation to the way the show proceeds without much interaction with the crowd beyond the customary beer throwing routine and some roaring in admiration of our Viking heritage, and especially "Bulldozer" and "Killers & Kings" near the end of the ordinary set pass by, for me, without much fanfare. The circle pit which erupts during the latter, however, suggests a lot of people must disagree. And as jaded as I feel at times, however, there's no denying the euphoria to which the classic "Davidian", with its gang roared punchline "Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!", gives rise, ending the ordinary set in convincing style before the ode to Dimebag Darrell, "Aesthetics of Hate" launches the obligatory encore. It is refreshing to find the new, nu-metal laced "Game Over" played here for only the second time ever, but while that track tickles forth a strange kind of intrigue, it is no match to the towering duo of "Old" and "Halo" which conclude this evening in the company of the mighty Machine Head. It's a great showing, but far from the best Machine Head are capable of.

Setlist:

  • 1. Imperium
  • 2. Beautiful Mourning
  • 3. Now We Die
  • 4. Bite the Bullet
  • 5. Locust
  • 6. The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears
  • 7. Ten Ton Hammer
  • 8. In Comes the Flood
  • 9. Darkness Within
  • 10. Bulldozer
  • 11. Killers & Kings
  • 12. Davidian

--Encore--

  • 13. Aesthetics of Hate
  • 14. Game Over
  • 15. Old
  • 16. Halo

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