Getting dropped by Roadrunner U.S after the Supercharger album saved Machine Head. The first album Burn My Eyes (released in 1994) was a success. For a debut album Machine Head went on a three year victory lap. The second album The More Things Change (released in 1997) stagnated.
In order to keep their deal with Roadrunner Records going they had to resort to the metal music that was popular at the time. In this case it was Nu Metal. The Burning Red (released in 1999) and Supercharger (released in 2001) came and went during this period.
Then the band got dropped. They even got rejected by every record label they approached for a new deal.
They could have broken up. Instead they went away and wrote Through The Ashes of Empires (released in 2003) which they self-produced. Just like how Rush’s, 2112 laid the foundations of what was to come for Rush, Through The Ashes of Empires did the same for Machine Head.
The lifestyle of a musician isn’t just rags to riches. It cycles back to rags and then back to riches and back again. I always use the Apple analogy. Apple was a leader when it came out on the scene. Then it was going out of business. Then the company got Steve Jobs back in and it became a leader again. In the process, it changed the way live and how we consume music. Now it is running on fumes again.
The list of songs you are about to read are cult favourites. They are not the songs that Machine Head will put into a concert set list every time, however they deserve the same attention as the big ones.
Left Unfinished released in 2003 on Through The Ashes of Empires.
Lyrics and music are written by Robb Flynn. It starts off with the creepy tinker box music. Robb Flynn was adopted at birth. He told LA Weekly that for the longest time he hated his biological parents and never wanted anything to do with them. He wrote this song as a “F.U” to them.
After the tinker box music, a Pantera groove kicks in.
How Korn like are the verses? All the way from the vocal melody to the phased/flanged/tremolo’d guitars to the bass hitting the note and sliding the finger down to the hip hop groove of the drums.
The chorus again is a standout, with the perfect backing vocals of Adam Duce.
I’ll never forget
Life you disdain
So to the parents that bore me this pain
With all those things you left unfinished
This is real life, this is real hurt. This isn’t no Bon Jovi song written by a committee. It isn’t pretty. It is the anthem for all the other kids given up for adoption. I can never relate to the lyrical theme of the song however I can relate to the pain. Pain doesn’t discriminate. It affects us all. The abandonment that Robb feels can be translated to the abandonment a kid feels when the school bully lays into him or her.
You never could love me
I’m glad that you never did
My parents that raised me
Had plenty of that to give
And for that
I’ll love them forever with all my heart
But to you don’t let there be no mistake about it
F.U you cocksucker F.U, you whore
I’ll live my life the opposite of what you are
Love will be my rock
The rock that I stand on
It’s all there. The exorcism of a childhood denied from one set of parents to the childhood obtained from another set of parents. I can’t help but make the connection to Queensryche and Chris DeGarmo’s Bridge, which served as his exorcism of being abandoned by his father.
Don’t try to reach out to me
Don’t try to call
The boy that you created
Is dead for all you f&@king know
You just pretend you’ve never heard or seen
The name Lawrence Mathew Cardine
Wow. The world knows him as Robert Conrad Flynn. However his birth certificate states Lawrence Matthew Cardine. I have seen Robb perform with Machine Head on three occasions in Australia, and he commands the stage. When he says the words, the circle pit gets into a frenzy. You would never pick up on his wounded past.
We are all damaged a little bit. The ones that make it through the heartache and the depression end up changing the world.
As I have said many times, you cannot copy the vocal style of Robb Flynn. You need to have lived his lifestyle to have his vocal style. To me it is the best voice in the metal genre. He can be melodic in a Rob Halford /Bruce Dickinson way, he can be aggressive in a James Hetfield way, he can be progressive in a Jonathan Davis/Maynard Keenan way, he can be hardcore in a Phil Anselmo way and he can be deathly in a Chuck Schuldiner way.
In a world where everyone believes they are a winner, a world-beater who feels entitled to success, you have Robb Flynn the anti-hero to the victorious life portrayed by the fakes. The maestro Flynn who has more questions than answers.
People like Robb Flynn and Corey Taylor have made it through and they are changing the world.
Descend The Shades Of Night released in 2003 on Through The Ashes of Empires
Lyrics are written by Robb Flynn and the music is written by Robb Flynn and Dave McClain. It’s my favourite song on the album.
What can I say, when I heard this song I was in a bad place. The acoustic intro is so sad and depressing. The reason why this song connected with me, is knowing that there are other people out there feeling the same way.
Sitting in the empty black
The last slivers of dusk have passed
Accept the dawn to ease the fear
One day I will not be here
They don’t teach you about death in school. They don’t tell that death can come at any time. You feel invincible when you are 18. As you get older you start to think about death a bit more.
The lead break from Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn for some reason reminds me of Tesla. I know, they are two separate bands from two totally different time periods and genre’s, however the whole passage and even coming into the harmony guitars, just reminds of The Great Radio Controversy from Tesla released in 1988.
Then the sing with me part is up lifting.
It is the humanity in the song, knowing that Robb Flynn has got more questions than answers. We can put on a happy face and we can get along with those at work but what we really want to do is let go, be ourselves and be accepted.
Pearls Before The Swine released in 2011 on Unto The Locust
It’s a Robb Flynn, Phil Demmel and Dave McClain composition.
It’s the familiarity of the Ride The Lightning intro. The drums and bass groove from McClain and Dice is identical to what Ulrich and Burton play in Ride The Lightning. It is that familiarity that hooks me in. I didn’t like this song when I first heard it because the other songs like Unto The Locust, Be Still and Know, This Is The End, Darkness Within and Who We Are really stood out. However, playing those stand out songs to death, I unearthed this little gem, sitting between Darkness Within and Who We Are.
This is what guitarist Phil Demmel told Sonic Excess magazine about the song;
“It was a song without lyrics really for a while, without a concept. We kind of came up with an idea to write about addicts and addiction, when talking to each other and watching Breaking Bad episodes to kind of catch up and start again to see it. (laughs) It’s not a song about hope. It’s just a song about being in the throes of addiction, in its claws, and a lot of my lyrics are in there. So, there’s a lot of descriptive thoughts of addiction. It’s not a song of hope for sure. It’s not ‘Stairway To Heaven.'”
Lie in this state of perdition
Never to awake
Perdition – A state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful person passes after death. What a powerful line that sums up what addiction and depression is.
Make love to denial her sober embrace
Nails they’ve embedded never to release
If you don’t realise you have a problem, you can never treat it.
Count the 12 times you step equal 12 times you fail
No abstination relapse tip the scale
As you swallow the hook and you chew on the line
Choke on the sinker in this sea of lies
Man, what a verse. The 12 steps of rehab just didn’t work out and before you know it, the habit is back; hook, line and sinker.
The passage from 3.18 is superb. The music, the build and the melodic vocals. People have tried to imitate Robb Flynn in his vocal style, however as far as I am concerned, you need to have lived his life in order to sing like him. His vocal style is his lifestyle. I will replay this song a thousand times just to hear this section.
Broke vows and broken rosaries
Bind these rusted hopeless dreams
Broke vows and broken rosaries
Bind these rusted hands in prayer
Faith trust and love are mowed down lonely In these killing fields
What a vocal melody. It’s goose bumps all the way. The double kick from McClain keeps it rolling.
Then it’s all thrash from 4.36. I would have loved to be in the studio when they wrote this bit. It would have been high fives all around. The whole song is progressive. Not in the weird time changes progressive, just the fusion of so many different styles and melodies and riffs.
Machine Head hold their own against the Big 4. Hell, that concept should be expanded to include Machine Head. Better yet get rid of Anthrax and put Machine Head on the bill.
A Farewell To Arms released in 2007 on The Blackening
This is the album where Machine Head finally got their victory lap. The Blackening is such a strong album that other songs could be missed if you don’t dig deep into it. A Farewell To Arms is unbelievable. Great music and great vocal melodies. The lyrics are written by Robb Flynn, Adam Duce and Phil Demmel. The music is written by Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel.
Blackening as coffin line the sides
Filled with fathers
Who has won?
When only sons
Hold their grieving heads and mourn
A farewell to arms
The end product of war for the ones that do not return. It comes across in a powerful way. While the verses are great what truly makes the track is the chorus.
I’ll wave this flag of white
So the venged see the light
We’ll pay for closed eyes
With our genocide
Is venged even a word? Who cares right, as it fits the vocal melody to a tee? The chorus has a similar guitar melody like Halo underpinning the vocal melody.
Then the Iron Maiden-esque lead break wails from 7.10. The drumming and the backing tracks all have that Maiden Trooper Gallop. Then at 7.40 it is the Creeping Death “Die By My Hand” part from Metallica.
Somehow they bring it all back to an ending reminiscent of Master Of Puppets, again from Metallica. Just when I think it’s over, a few more bars of clean tone and the immortal words A FAREWELL TO ARMS.
Who has won when we’re all dead? This song also points the finger at the rich and the government officials that pushed the country into war. One of the verses deals with how the children of the fallen are left without fathers and how the children of the government officials will never know what it is like to fight a war.
Kick You When You’re Down released in 2001 on Supercharger
It’s a Robb Flynn, Ahrue Luster, Adam Duce and Dave McClain composition. The Supercharger album didn’t get as much attention from me as it should have when it first came out. As I got older, I went back and listened to it. Now I appreciate it more.
You have to trust in yourself
You must believe in yourself
You have to follow your heart
You overcome, improve, endure
It’s the anthem for the determined. As the other lyrics in the song state, sometimes you fight and you win, sometimes you fight and you lose, however it is the fighter in you that will never lose. In the end you move forward by overcoming obstacles, improving on what you did before and enduring. Remember, to be a winner, you need to outlast the competition.
Deafening Silence released in 2001 on Supercharger
This song is a Robb Flynn, Ahrue Luster, Adam Duce and Dave McClain composition.
One thing I really liked about this period of Machine Head (1999 to 2001) is that Robb Flynn was pushing himself lyrically and really went to town writing about his own personal issues. That is why the albums that came after had the perfect mix of personal reflections, political reflections and religious reflections.
You drink a thousand lies,
to freeze the past in time
Numbing the present with alcohol. I am sure every metal head has been in this situation. That is why we gravitate to this kind of music. We are the outcasts, the ones that society couldn’t pigeon hole. Note the reference to a song from Burn My Eyes.
See the pain in my eyes
see the scars deep inside
My God, I’m down in this hole again
With the laughter I smile
with the tears that I cry
Keep going down this road called life
The chorus above speaks volumes about society in general. My favourite lines are “With the laughter I smile, with the tears that I cry, keep doing down this road called life.” That is who we are in a nutshell. We just roll along. The ones that don’t, end up taking their lives.
Silver released in 1999 on The Burning Red
It’s got similar lyrics from A Nation On Fire. This song really reminds of Tool, especially that Cold breakdown. Lyrics are written by Robb Flynn and the music is written by Robb Flynn, Dave McClain, Ahrue Luster and Dave McClain.
Take my hand
Across this land
Escape this, all the hell inside
Creating that other shell of a person to take the pain while the real person is hidden somewhere in the recesses of the mind.
Create this man
To make my stand
And break this hardened shell in time
It’s like this, we put out a face of confidence to all who see us, however inside, we are filled with doubt. We are scared. We are questioning. And if we feel like everything is going great, the real person will break away the mask and step into the light.
I see a mirror to me
The lines along my face are drawn in
I believe reflections bleed
The sorrows of our souls
I remember reading an interview with Robb Flynn that he was bulimic at one point in his life, always forcing himself to chuck up so that he can look the part. It’s a powerful verse with great imagery. We have all stood in front of the mirror and we have all judged our appearances.
A Thousand Lies released in 1994 on Burn My Eyes
The verse riff is the same as Cowboys From Hell from Pantera. Lyrics are written by Robb Flynn and the music is written by Robb Flynn, Chris Kontos, Logan Mader and Adam Duce.
In poverty there is no democracy
Basically in poverty there is the motto that only the strong survive. That whole fairness and equality is rubbish. Even in poverty there is class warfare.
This urban life is so volatile
An inner city or a concrete hell
This is it, you either live, or you die or you end up in prison.
What is a man who don’t stay true to the game
Don’t care for no one, only cares for his greed
He’s playin’ God killin’ thousands of people ‘
Cause the power is the fix that he needs
When Robb is writing about themes that piss him off, he is always on game. He is basically saying, who can we trust in this world anymore, when all we get is lies.
A Nation On Fire released in 1994 on Burn My Eyes
Lyrics are written by Robb Flynn and the music is written by Robb Flynn, Chris Kontos, Logan Mader and Adam Duce. The intro clean tone riff is that good, that it was re-written for A Farewell To Arms and Unto The Locust.
A world that spends more to kill than to cure
Another brilliant line. What kind of a world do we live in? Our Governments give more money to the military then what they do for research on finding cures.
So take my hand across this land
There are the lines that re-appear in Silver. It’s almost like he is saying to an angel to take him away from this world.
You tell me peace, Well I hear gunshots all night
The scars I have, I’ve earned ’cause I’ve had to fight
As we get older and we accumulate knowledge, we find it hard to believe the B.S that our Politicians try to push. The themes that Robb explores on the first Machine Head album keep re-occurring time and time again on other albums.
How cool is the SLOW part at the end. The groove just gets slower until the song ends.
I’m Your God Now released in 1994 on Burn My Eyes.
Lyrics are written by Robb Flynn and the music is written by Robb Flynn, Chris Kontos, Logan Mader and Adam Duce.
The vocal melody at the start is that good, that Robb Flynn used it again for A Farewell To Arms. It’s a sad and sorrowful tale of addiction. The “her” in the song is the heroin. Drug addiction is covered a far bit in the songs of Machine Head.
So pain told you to take her
Well I learned to accept that feeling
‘Cause I found how to numb it
If only for just a short while
I’d get so high, I’d forget my own name
I scarred my fist, I scarred my brain
I think that I’m going insane
I think that I’m going insane
This song was brought back into my memory when I was listening to the Sixx AM album and the song, The Girl With The Golden Eyes. Nikki Sixx is another person that struggled to deal with the abandonment of his father.
So now I’m in your system
And I’m what helps you numb your pain
With time you will confide in me
So lonely my friend, I’ve made you lose control
You’ll use me more and more with time
Our friendship grows with each mainline
So glad that you could be so blind
So glad that you could be so blind
Again I am thinking of the Sixx AM song.
She speaks to me in Persian
Tells me that she loves me
The Girl With Golden Eyes
And though I hardly know her
I let her in my veins
And trust her with my life
I wish I never kissed her
Cause I just can’t resist her
The Girl With Golden Eyes
Every time she whispers
Take me in your arms
The way you did last night
Everything will be alright
Everything will be okay
People like Robb Flynn, Nikki Sixx and Corey Taylor have made it through and they are changing the world.