Despite all of the success and accolades that The Blackening brought Machine Head, guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn knows that it was a product of Machine Head in 2007, and when it came time to start work on a follow-up to the immensely popular record, Flynn and company would need to avoid repeating themselves.
“We started writing for The Blackening in August 2005 and we started writing for this record five years later, in June of 2010. When we wrote The Blackening that was pretty much the limit of our abilities. But then we went and toured the record for three years and what was the limit when we were writing the record became the norm, so we were better musicians when we started writing the new album, and we didn’t want to be limited to what our abilities were five years ago.”
It’s a situation that few bands have the luxury of finding themselves stuck in. With Unto The Locust, Machine Head had to prove that their career renaissance wasn’t confined to a single album. Though Unto The Locust bears resemblance to its predecessor, both albums are thrash metal offerings arranged with progressive sensibilities, the record pushes the envelope further than The Blackening. Every song clocks in at over five minutes and explores different sonic territory. Although exploratory, the songs are also more cohesive when arranged back to back than anything else Machine Head has done.
“We just started writing to see where we could go. Then the first song that came out was This Is The End and it was this total barn-burner of a song, super-fast and really hard to play, and it was a challenge right off the bat. It was super inspiring because we realised, ‘Fuck man, this song is so fucking hard to play so we better get better to write and play at this level’. It really set the tone to push ourselves and see how far we could take things.”
Now that Unto The Locust is out, Machine Head are getting back out on the road to bring the music alive in front of fans. When The Blackening tour had Machine Head out on the road for three years, I ask Robb if, after their upcoming Soundwave appearance, the band will slog it out until 2015. “I don’t know about that. I don’t know if the world wants us out there that long,” the imposing front man laughs as he talks.
“If we were going to be out for as long as we were after The Blackening we’d probably take longer breaks in between. Everyone in the band needs to be able to incorporate their families into their lives as well as the band. I had my second son and then three weeks later I went on tour for three years. It was fucking crazy. There were some breaks here and there, but the majority of that time I was on the road. We’re a touring band, and we know that. On average, per record we tour 16-20 months, which is a long fucking time. That’s probably twice what most bands tour on a record.”
Though Flynn is reluctant to commit to such another massive tour, his band of road warriors have already started to play the Unto The Locust material live. Working with the material in a live arena, Flynn assures that by the time the band returns to the Soundwave stage the material from the record will be honed to lethal roar, and that the fans that dedicatedly came out to Machine Head’s numerous Australian tours over the last three years aren’t going to be disappointed.
“We were playing Locust on the American tour before the album had been released, and it was killer. Even though it was one song on iTunes, tonnes of people knew the song and were getting into it. It was fun for us to play a new song after playing, not the same songs, but focussing on The Blackening for three years.”
“I was stoked watching the response to the new material. I mean, you jam a song and you never really know what people’s reaction to it is going to be. You never know what people are going to like, you never know. The music business is fickle, people’s tastes change in a heartbeat. I don’t assume everybody’s going to love what I do, but I go out there and work hard and do a good job playing the music and then to see them getting into it made me think, ‘Fuck yeah. Kick ass!'”