LIVE: Machine Head @ The Roundhouse, London

By Sam Craddock-Camp

Machine Head are one of the bands that truly define heavy metal. Their continued influence of the genre is still felt to this day, with many modern bands struggling to play catch-up to their recorded output and ferocious live shows.

Their latest record ‘Catharsis’ divided opinion amongst their fans and the metal community in general. It may have been more stripped down and more straightforward than their previous releases, and certainly doesn’t touch the lofty heights of their classic album “The Blackening”, but it was consistent in it’s themes and tone. Album highlight “Bastards” was a breath of fresh air and showed that Machine Head still had some surprises after all these years.

On the first of two nights of their “An Evening With…” shows at the Camden Roundhouse (the band play three hour set with no support acts), Machine Head are here to lay waste to the fears that one of the most prolific bands in heavy metal have their best days behind them. Within seconds of set opener ‘Imperium’, the song that charted their return from their comeback album ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’, there’s little doubt that Machine Head haven’t lost any of their momentum, and as Rob Flynn leads the charge with the eruption of the opening line “Here Me Now”, the crowd follows suit and explodes into carnage.  Flynn is on one of the best forms of his life, roaring through classic after classic with joyous aplomb. The more recent material off of ‘Catharsis’ sits well within their previous work and his raging vocal power hasn’t subsided whatsoever. The band are tighter than ever and their colossal sound fills every space in the Roundhouse, and when both guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain are given their own respective solos, it’s a testament to their incredible talent as musicians.

Given a normal hour and a half set length, Machine Head would barely be able to scratch the surface of their extensive back catalogue, but by eschewing support acts and opting for the “An Evening With…” format, Machine Head are able indulge both themselves and their fans by playing deeper cuts from their earlier work. The new songs get an excellent reception, but when then rip into ‘Blood for Blood’ and ‘Ten Ton Hammer’, then the entire venue roars in appreciation and goes ballistic.

Ending their set with arguably one of the greatest heavy metal tracks of all time, 2007’s ‘Halo’, Machine Head have managed to stop the naysayers in their tracks and prove themselves to still be as capable and relevant as their peers. Long may they reign.