Album Review: Machine Head’s Passion Can’t Carry the Bloated Catharsis

The Lowdown: Machine Head’s ninth full-length marks the California metal stalwarts’ most strident – and discombobulated – record in years, packing in 74 minute of blistering solos, anthemic choruses, nü-metal drug PSAs, Motörhead tributes, and even folksy, election-inspired screeds.

The Good: Though its pristine production and predominantly clean vocals deviate from the militant, groove-metal palette showcased in previous latter-day Machine Head albums, Catharsis is not without its share of fan service: opening rager “Volatile” is a commendable pit-starter, as is the roiling, Pantera-esque lead single “Beyond the Pale”.

The Bad: Considering how much flack Robb Flynn and friends caught for their butt-rock dalliances back in the early Aughts, you’d think they’d know better than to pull another Limp Bizkit on tracks like “Triple Beam”, a dismal (if well-intentioned) track about the dangers of meth (“Ain’t easy to make cash living off of meth/ It’s a paranoid world, violent and mean!”) that finds Flynn doing his best Violent J impression. The cringe is real.

The Verdict: Catharsis 15 tracks prove that, nearly three decades into their career, Robb Flynn and co.’s inflammatory zeal remains intact. Their creative judgement? Not so much: coupled with Durst-ian disasters like the aforementioned “Triple Beam”, the band’s predilection for edgy, ham-fisted statements (“And if these words are fists/ Can you feel my catharsis?” or “They can’t ignore us anymore/ ‘Cause I don’t give a fuck!”) and reheated riffs proves grating, especially within the context of a 74-minute (!) listen.

Essential Tracks: “Beyond the Pale”, “Volatile”, and “Catharsis”

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