You probably love Machine Head. Wait… you probably hate Machine Head. But… wait… odds are, if you love or hate them now, you’ve probably felt the exact opposite about them at some point in the past. Machine Head is a group that can polarize the shit out of not just their own audience, but out of metal, in general. And on a global scale. The band’s fall and rebirth in the early 2000’s is industry legend at this point. And while originality may not have always been their strongest suit at every turn, whatever subgenre Machine Head landed in, they made the style their own in a truly masterful way. But not everybody was cool with it.
It’s hard to reconcile the band that let freedom ring with a shotgun blast being the same band that d-o smoke sensi-mee-o, and that causes a lot of problems for some fans. But most bands that’ve survived on any kind of mainstream level as long as Machine Head have probably made some steps in weird directions from time to time. Sometimes the zeitgeist smiles on oddity (a la Baroness’s Green and Yellow); sometimes left-field brilliance is realized waaaay after the fact (a la Carcass’s Swansong). And sometimes it’s reviled from the jump, and will continue to be reviled forever (the Lulu). A little over a year after the release of their latest album, Bloodstone and Diamonds, Machine Head’s catalog continues to age in different ways for everyone. I, for one, am an unabashed Machine Head fan. And even though it’s hard to stand by some of Supercharger’s lowlier cuts, I choose to judge the band by their highest achievements. Fortunately for this week’s Criminally Slept-On, some of those achievements are songs a number of casual fans may have never given too much time.
1) “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones”
“Damage Inside” aside, “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones” is Bloodstone and Diamonds’s ace slow(ish) jam. This track sees Machine Head churning along in a plodding traditional structure with full instrumentation to back up some sexy substance. These dudes are no strangers to slowing things down, but “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones” feels more akin to one of the band’s shitkickers than more somber numbers like “Darkness Within” or “Deafening Silence.” It’s just as intense as the album’s more aggressive tracks, and I’d argue the mellow sections forming the majority of the song make the heavier parts hit even harder. The result is an odd collision of The Burning Red-era Machine Head with recent Deftones, and it’s some of the most unique action they’ve delivered since re-emerging with the triumphant Through The Ashes of Empires. Hey, you can probably fuck to this one, too.
2) “Our Darkest Days / Bleeding”
Before the release of Bloodstone and Diamonds, Machine Head celebrated Record Store Day 2014 by releasing a “Killers and Kings” 7-inch. Honestly, when I heard it, I was worried; I thought the song was really underwhelming, and to this day, it’s one I skip every time I listen to their latest album. The silver lining for the single was MH’s cover of “Our Darkest Days / Bleeding,” the intro combo from California punk stalwarts Ignite’s 2006 release, Our Darkest Days. For the last couple months, this has actually been the song I use for my alarm every day (naturally, my wife despises it). Machine Head undoubtedly have some deep punk roots, and as awesome as it is to hear that shine through on originals like “Game Over,” it’s a lot of fun to hear them shred up some punk covers, too. This is actually one of three covers on this list, because for every “Colors” or “Hole In The Sky,” Machine Head knock one out of the park with a jam like this “Bleeding.” Speaking of knocking one out of the park…