Machine Head's The Blackening is an over-the-top rage and pummelfest that proves a gamerchanger in heavy metal. Period. Not only does it contain the visceral qualities the band has displayed since commecning its recording and touring career but the growth in songwriting, dynamics and production place MH in their own league as perhaps the most important mainstream genre act on the planet bar none. The record starts out unlikely enough (thankfully) with a left-of-center call to arms for the youth of their nation to not blindly accept the words (and threats) of "patriotic brutes." It calls for a righteous rage with triple-timed slamming beats and blistering lead guitar breaks, as the piece alternates between death metal, industrial metal, hardcore thrash and prog. It blends seamlessly. At ten-and-half minutes for an opening cut, one can tell this is no ordinary heavy metal record. "Beautiful Mourning" is anything but gothic heavy metal. Commencing with a taut, explosive riff matched by the drum kit, Robb Flynn is off and running, celebrating being "taken under" by her, and the seductive power of both women and death. The thrash element here rivals Slayer at their best, and breaks new ground within the realm of composition for aggressive music. The intense dual arpeggios between both guitarists -- Flynn and Phil Demmel on "Aesthetics of Hate" (as just one example) are among the tightest ever. The drama produced by Dave McClain's blastbeats and the steady guidance of Adam Duce's basslines comprise a deeply intuitive rhythm section for the six-stringers to fly from. They don't so much fly as fight, though. Other standouts include "Halo," and "Now I Lay Thee Down." Essential.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek