Did this band make a statement with this tour this time around? Not a doubt in my mind.
It’s been a tough week in the Pacific Northwest for the past week with gloomy weather and heavy snow. Nothing warms the heart more than a stacked line up of metal and this time around I decided to cover this tour in Seattle’s Showbox) and Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom (Thanks to Live Nation and Nuclear Blast) to help get myself over this crappy start to 2024.
Machine Head bring the Slaughter The Mar-tour with some excellent support bands Fear Factory, Orbit Culture and Gates to Hell. This is their first appearance since 2018 and I am pretty excited to see which Machine Head we will see. Will they bring out more of their more emotional songs, or nu metal? Or will they make a statement this time around and bring the chuggy riffs with the heavy stuff?
If you got a chance to check out the review of their latest opus called Of Kingdom and Crown, I think that will provide a hint to what we will hear this tour. That album brought back the heavy, unlike the album previous which was Catharsis which received a lot of mixed reviews on the bands direction with that album.
Not only a new album but 50% of the band is also new since we saw them last. I was unsure what to think with both Phil Demmel (lead guitar) and Dave McClain (drums) leaving the band in 2019 after the Catharsis tour. Both those guys were involved with some of Machine Heads best albums that revived the band with albums like The Blackening, Unto the Locust and Bloodstone and Diamonds.
Founding member Robb Flynn (lead vocalist / guitarist) who is the leader of this band had to make some decisions with where to take Machine Head in the future. Recruiting Waclaw ”Vogg” Kieltyka of Decapitated was a eye raising move, as he is a riff lord that can add some modern metal punch. Tonight we have Reece Scruggs on guitar (Havok) , filling in for Vogg. As well as new drummer Matt Alston (formerly of Devilment, Eastern Front) on drums and bassist Jared MacEachern who has been with them since 2013.
Both of these shows in Seattle and Vancouver were close to being sold out, as they were packed in to see what this band will do. I can tell you that the Vancouver stage setup was much larger and had a large screen for visuals behind the drum riser. Unfortunately Seattle did not get that as the Showbox stage area is not large enough for that kind of eye candy.
However, both get the same setlist and they start off heavy with “Imperium”. Robb’s voice is as good as ever, and both Scruggs and Jared are headbanging along with the fanbase. “Ten Ton Hammer” is up next, and thereafter with a new one with “Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate”. That one definitely has the Vogg feel to it, along with the speed in Matt’s drumming who doesn’t disappoint this night.
They continue to pulverize the audience with “Aesthetics of Hate” which is the heaviest song from the critically acclaimed album The Blackening (2007) and a further bludgeoning from their premiere album Burning My Eyes with “Old”. That riff is to die for, and these first 5 songs are complete metal apocalypse that warms all our lost souls. Also to note, Robb did a ode to Seattle and the music that has been created over the time frame of the 90’s. He mentioned that he was very influenced by all those great bands from the grunge movement, but also the hardcore bands too like The Accused.
Things slow down with “Locust” as the lights go green for this one. Speaking of lights, if I had one beef, it was this as they just seemed a little generic with either all red or all blue or all green during the songs. You will notice that in photo gallery below.
As for the sound, if I were to compare the Showbox to the Commodore, the Commordore definitely has the superior sound system. In fact, i would say it’s one of the best in the Northwest right now at least for metal.
Every setlist has a surprise or a deep cut and to me this night it was “Take my Scars” from 1997’s The More Things Change.. album which I have never heard live from these guys. It’s one of those songs that start off with clinky guitar and gradually crushes you like being run over by a steamroller of high gain distortion.
Time to hit into a couple more new ones form the new album and they do so with “No Gods, No Masters”. To me, I think they missed the mark on this one as would of loved to hear “Become the Firestorm” or “Kill Thy Enemies” instead which are a lot more fierce. As predicted on my review of the album last year, “Slaughter of the Martyr” was next and that was an acceptable choice to do live which is could easily be a track from The Blackening album that Machine Head that revived the band back in 2007.
After a solid hour of pummeling metal, in Vancouver (I don’t recall him saying this in Seattle) that he told everyone to put their phones down on this next song. Rob goes on “about the power of music to save you and be in the moment”. He also goes deep here and tells the story how this next song was contrived saying “how I was in a really dark place, for like months in a deep depression and could not get out of it”, as he slowly strummed the chords to from “Darkness Within”. He played the chords during his depression one night and the next day “vomited out the lyrics of this song and I dedicate this song to anyone that might be in this dark place”. That was a pretty emotional moment of the setlist, and he did this both in Seattle and Vancouver which is a pretty cool introduction to that song. Rob did the acoustic part with Scruggs adding in the electric side with the harmonics that gradually picks up towards the end during this blue lit piece.
After that mushy part of the show, believe me, they bring the heavy back right away on the next one with “Now we Die” which has the nugga nugga heavy breakdown half way through that gets the heads slamming again.
“From this Day” is up next which is a opening riff characterized by the tapping of Scrugg’s wah pedal. This is a favorite of mine from the Machine Head Nu-metal era. Remember Robb with that short spiky hair? Be prepared to jump when you are on the floor for this one, I think Seattle did that better than Vancouver on that song. .
One more from Burn My Eyes with another classic with “Davidian” and took a break before hitting….you guessed it…”Halo”. I think they have ended every Machine Head show with that song since 2011.
So I got a good look at this tour back to back in Seattle and Vancouver and they put on nearly identical shows. Same setlist too, and they played all their best songs in my opinion while keeping it super heavy for the most part I think. Could they have played at least 1 more from that superb new album? How about a drum solo and Scruggs playing “Exteroception” ? That instrumental is absolutely mental, and that would’ve drove the headbangers over the edge with next day muscle relaxants. But in saying all that, you just cannot hate this band, I think it is a tour that is existentially setup to put them back into alignment of where they started with Burn My Eyes, and that is not a bad thing. Amazing performance, go see this tour!