Machine Head, Catharsis. Album Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

The very act of liberation is always one that finds itself as being the most memorable of stories, the very act of shedding all the shackles, of letting go and finding yourself free to take your life in the way that you want it to go; that is the measure of cathartic control that we could all use. Whether it is just emptying a year’s worth of piled up junk into a skip or seizing the moment to declare yourself independent of the scourge and the curse of self imposed terrorism upon your soul, Catharsis is beneficial to those that see it for the symbolic bloodletting that it is.

It could be argued, it should be demanded, that Catharsis is Machine Head’s finest album to date, enraged, bitter, pounding and positive in its stance; Burn My Eyes may well be a musically architectural dream, The Burning Red considered less constricted and The Blackening holding onto the passions of the West Coast dominance of the genre with a tight and bloodied grip. Yet in Catharsis the shedding of the skin, of the blood-letting and the rage which is as terrifyingly beautiful as watching the sun on the verge of going supernova or seeing a mountain crack in half due to the pulling apart of geological pressure – this is seismic, this is the one that binds all the others together and asks for unrelenting allegiance.

In songs such as Beyond The Pale, the absorbing, punchy and proud Triple Beam, Ba**tards, Screaming At The Sun, Hope Begets Hope and Heavy Lies The Crown, what comes through is the satisfaction at the end of a lengthy battle, the steam rising from the blood laying on the floor, mixing with mud and mucus, the groans of the defeated and the sight of a single person, sword in hand, standing triumphant over all; this is the sense of the catharsis, the act of liberation, of scintillating healing and the drama of the exercise.

This is perhaps where it was always leading, rage may begat rage, anger is swift, to capture it with intensity and meaning; Catharsis is easily placed to sit in amongst the true greats of the genre, the blood on its sword is testament to that.

Machine Head’s Catharsis is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Ian D. Hall