Machine Head

support N/A
author PP date 01/05/18 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Having previously seen Machine Head delivering dominant performances at diverse festivals back in the day, and then subsequently reading glowing appraisals of their single band concept "An Evening With Machine Head" at various venues across Europe, I was understandably excited. A near sold out Store Vega, which usually houses excellent sound, was certainly going to the crown jewel of all of these shows. At least that's my mindset while making my way towards the venue this Tuesday evening. It turns out that's not at all what the night had in store for us.

An Evening With Machine Head

Machine-fucking-head! Machine-fucking-head!, the crowd chants in anticipation as the group enter the stage looking like their menacing selves. "Copenhagen, get those fists in the air!", Robb Flynn growls, before continuing "DENMARK...are you ready to sing!?" all during the first notes to "Imperium". Behind him, the drumkit is on an elevated platform and there are plenty of big flashing lights all around, suggesting we're gonna be in for a treat especially given the solid reaction by the crowd to the first song.

The sound, however, does us no favours tonight, which is rather unusual for Vega. It's a muddled mess with too heavy bass sounds that completely drowns out the nuances to songs like "Aesthetics Of Hate" or "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent", possibly in an effort to appease the crunchy nu-metal style of the new album? Speaking of which, the second song is "Volatile" from the new album, which has drawn quite a bit of discussion back and forth online, and for good reason. It's basically a Slipknot-inspired track that feels overly simplistic compared to "The Blackening" era material or even that from "Unto The Locust". Not sure it's quite as bad as people say, but the stark contrast in songwriting is a bit too much to handle.

In the meantime, the band on stage is basically one continuous flow of hair, where especially their bassist Jared MacEachern makes his presence known. Circular head bangs, twists, and curls make him the obvious point of interest on stage while Flynn and guitarist Phil Demmel are content to regular back/forth headbangs and crowd interaction. The latter, by the way, is what Machine Head has always been exceptional at. The effortless manner of how they get us all waving our hands around for "Die" or to raise our glasses high for a simple question "Any beer drinkers here on a Tuesday, Denmark? for "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears" is a sight to behold.

Yet, something is off. The atmosphere and intensity are almost completely lacking. The reaction to some new songs is, of course, good - "Kaleidoscope" being one of them - and "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent" is utterly brilliant following the latter in terms of songwriting, but everything tonight feels like another day in the office. Aside from the bassist, Machine Head looks like they are on autopilot save for a few memorable moments, like the lengthy anecdote about the first time they played Copenhagen back in '94 with Slayer, and the bit about how all of us have a little bit of darkness within us and how it sometimes it pops up and this is one way of keeping it down. But it just doesn't feel right.

All previous times I've seen Machine Head perform they have played with such an outrageously high confidence level that it has always felt like a freight train just leveled you. That level of dominant stage presence just isn't there tonight. Instead, it almost seems like the band are shaken up and cautious in their approach. Could it be all the critique of their new album after nearly a decade's worth of unanimous acclaim for every decision they've done from genre classics to this very concept of three-hour long Machine Head concerts? It certainly feels like the band is off their game tonight. The pit will probably violently disagree with me on this one, but then again, when you're in the pit every show is the best show you've ever seen, am I right?

Perhaps it's the sound that hasn't improved much throughout the night that leaves many of their classics in underwhelming renditions. Either way, the concert is lacking in spectacular effects and true highlights, whether production-wise (375 kr is a fairly steep price for what turns out to be a very basic light show) or in terms of stage energy or crowd dynamic.

There was a time a time when Robb Flynn was a God in the metal scene and everything he touched turned to gold. It feels surprising to be writing this, but tonight feels like that time has passed. It's very telling that, by the time we reach the final song "Halo" after three (!!!) encores, he has to ask the balcony to get off their seats. Sure, "Aesthetics of Hate" was great, and "Davidian" sounded massive in terms of the sing-along, but when an old classic like "A Nation Of Fire" receives a lackluster response, you can tell this just isn't their night. A perfect example of a band completely on autopilot throughout the show, just didn't expect that from Machine Head.

6

Setlist:

  • 1. Imperium
  • 2. Volatile
  • 3. Now We Die
  • 4. Beautiful Mourning
  • 5. The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears
  • 6. Kaleidoscope
  • 7. Clenching the Fists of Dissent
  • 8. Darkness Within
  • 9. Catharsis
  • 10. From This Day
  • 11. Ten Ton Hammer
  • 12. Is There Anybody Out There?
  • 13. Locust
  • 14. Beyond the Pale
  • 15. Bulldozer
  • 16. Killers & Kings
  • 17. Davidian

-- Encore --

  • 18. Behind a Mask
  • 19. A Nation on Fire
  • 20. Triple Beam
  • 21. Aesthetics of Hate
  • 22. Game Over
  • 23. Blood for Blood
  • 24. Halo

Photos by: Michael Løgtholt

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