Machine Head (band)

Machine Head

Machine Head performing in Zurich in 2007.
Background information
Origin Oakland, California, United States
Years active 1991–present
Associated acts Vio-lence
Members Robb Flynn
Dave McClain
Phil Demmel
Jared MacEachern
Past members Logan Mader
Adam Duce
Tony Costanza
Chris Kontos
Walter Ryan
Ahrue Luster

Machine Head is an American heavy metal band from Oakland, California.[1][2] Formed on October 12, 1991,[3] the group was founded by vocalist and guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce. The current lineup of the band comprises Flynn, drummer Dave McClain, guitarist Phil Demmel, and bassist Jared MacEachern. Machine Head is one of the pioneering bands in the new wave of American heavy metal.[4][5]

Machine Head was formed by member Robb Flynn, previously part of the bands Forbidden and Vio-lence. Flynn felt musically unfulfilled with Vio-lence and requested to start a side project. When his request was denied, he left the band and formed Machine Head in 1991 with Adam Duce, Logan Mader and Tony Constanza. The band's first album Burn My Eyes, was a big success in Europe where it garnered attention on MTV's Headbangers Ball. In America (with HBB taken off the air during the grunge movement) Machine Head would not have success until later albums.

The band nearly disbanded in 2002 after negotiating off its label Roadrunner Records, when controversy surrounding Machine Head's fourth album Supercharger (released 3 weeks after September 11, 2001) resulted in their songs and music video for the song "Crashing Around You" (which featured burning buildings) being pulled from all media outlets. The band re-signed with Roadrunner soon after and has released four albums since, 2003's Through the Ashes of Empires, 2007's The Blackening (which earned Machine Head its first Grammy Award nomination) and 2011's Unto the Locust. Their most recent album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, was released in 2014. Machine Head have sold over 3 million records worldwide.[6]


Formation and Burn My Eyes (1991–96)

Machine Head were formed on October 12, 1991, in Oakland, California by vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce. Flynn had recently parted ways with Vio-lence after a physical fight between the band members and a local gang. He still had a desire to write music and along with Duce recruited guitarist Logan Mader and drummer Tony Costanza to form Machine Head.[7] The band's name was thought of by Flynn because it "sounded cool", despite the popular belief that it came from the Deep Purple album of the same name.[8] The band started jamming in a local warehouse shared with four punk rock bands.[9] Machine Head recorded a demo in a friend's bedroom, funded with US$800.[7][9] A record executive representing Roadrunner Records listened to the demo and signed the band.[7]

Machine Head entered Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California to record its debut album Burn My Eyes.[10] Not long into production, Constanza left the band and was replaced by Chris Kontos. Most of the songs on the album were songs written by Flynn and Duce during the time Flynn was not in a band, about "being pissed off" from his previous struggles in Vio-lence, as well as both of their battles with illegal drugs.[7] Produced by Colin Richardson, the album was released on August 9, 1994. The album shipped nearly 400,000 copies worldwide, becoming Roadrunner Records' best selling debut album.[7] Allmusic reviewer John Franck stated "Burn My Eyes is a bone-shattering exercise in brutality".[11]

Not long after Burn My Eyes's release Machine Head started touring heavily in support of the album, opening for Slayer in Europe in the latter half of 1994, a tour which ended with their own headline show at the London Astoria. Following the success of the support tour the band returned to Europe for a headline tour in early 1995, performing in the same venues they opened for Slayer.[12] The band would return to Europe for the summer festival season but Kontos refused to tour and the band drafted Walter Ryan for the festival dates.[13] On the band's return to the US Kontos was fired because he was not keeping to touring commitments. Kontos went on to play drums with Testament, and was replaced by Dave McClain.

The More Things Change... and The Burning Red (1997–2000)

After touring for Burn My Eyes, Machine Head entered the studio to record its second studio album, The More Things Change..., with Richardson producing and mixing for a second time. The album was released on March 25, 1997, and debuted at number 138 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.[14] Machine Head toured in Europe with Napalm Death, Coal Chamber and Skinlab, then went on the first Ozzfest for the first tours in support of the album.[15] Mader showed up to a practice session late, high on methamphetamine, cursing at and insulting the band members; and quit the band later that day. Ahrue Luster replaced him and finished touring,[7][16] while Mader toured with Soulfly in support of their self-titled debut album.

After three years of touring and working with producer Ross Robinson, Machine Head released its third studio album, The Burning Red, on August 10, 1999. The band added new elements to its music, including rapping vocals, a move which some believe to have been influenced by Ahrue Luster himself.[7] This album and the band's change in image/musical direction (nu metal/alternative metal) was highly criticized, with critics and fans alike accusing the band of "selling out".[7] Nevertheless, McClain stated they weren't trying to sound like popular bands but "wanted to sound different".[7] Rick Anderson of Allmusic stated Machine Head was "sounding a bit looser and less constricted musically than they have in the past".[17] The Burning Red became Machine Head's top selling album for a number of years, and debuted at number 88 on the Billboard 200.[14][18]

Supercharger and Through the Ashes of Empires (2001–05)

Machine Head finished touring for The Burning Red, and entered a studio with producer Johnny K to record Supercharger. Debuting at number 115 on the Billboard 200, the album was released on October 2, 2001.[14] The album met the same criticism as The Burning Red, especially for the ever-present rapping vocals. reviewer Borivoj Krgin stated Supercharger "is likely to disappoint everyone who is expecting the Bay Area quartet to return to the ultra-testosterone-charged sounds of their first two albums".[19]

Guitarist Phil Demmel performing with Machine Head in 2009.

Machine Head released a single for "Crashing Around You" as well as a music video. The video was released several weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and was banned from MTV for the depictions of falling buildings. Roadrunner Records, expecting to make a fair profit from album promotions, dropped the band's funding, causing Machine Head to leave the label.[20] At the same time the band was leaving Roadrunner, Luster departed from the band for musical differences.

By 2002, Machine Head had sold over 1.3 million albums worldwide, and overall Supercharger (mixed by Colin Richardson) would go on to sell 250,000 copies worldwide, which was their lowest selling album to date. Once the tour for the album had been completed, Machine Head and Roadrunner Records mutually decided to sever ties with regards to distribution in North America and around the world, however to fill the ties, the band released Hellalive (also mixed by Colin Richardson) which was a recording of a Brixton Academy, London set.

In 2002 Ahrue Luster left the band and was temporarily replaced by Phil Demmel, who played in thrash band Vio-lence alongside Flynn. Demmel played some festival shows with Machine Head (including a headlining slot at the With Full Force festival in Germany). Then with Phil not being able to commit to the band, he and Machine Head parted ways. The remainder of the band starting writing songs for the next album (eventually Through the Ashes...), and hoping to get signed to a record label. They recorded a short demo, including a radio-style song called "Pins and Needles", and an Electronic Press Kit for the companies, also hoping they can get signed on the strength of their previous efforts. Nearly every record label in the music industry rejected the four track demo.

After Machine Head's European tour, Ahrue Luster returned to his family business and the band started writing together as a three-piece, while leaving a position open for Demmel. In March 2003, Demmel joined Machine Head as a full-time guitarist and started writing with the band. By June 2003, Machine Head entered a studio with Flynn producing.[21] On October 27, 2003, Machine Head released Through the Ashes of Empires in Europe.

The band was turned down by multiple record labels in the United States, until Roadrunner USA, interested in the new album, offered Machine Head another record contract. Machine Head accepted the offer on the grounds that the band owns 100% of the music. On April 20, 2004, Through the Ashes of Empires was released in the United States with a bonus track for the Americans' long wait for the album's release.[21] The album debuted at number 88 on the Billboard 200.[14] The band released a single for "Imperium", the video for which received heavy rotation on MTV. Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic stated Through the Ashes of Empires "marked a return to form in no uncertain terms".[22]

Machine Head headlined the True Metal stage at the 2005 Wacken Open Air festival to 40,000 fans—the band's largest headlining crowd at the time.[23] The band released a DVD containing a full sold-out concert held at the Brixton Academy in December 2004, a documentary, and music videos. The DVD debuted at number 13 on the U.S. music video charts.[24] They also played in Dubai for the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2005. This was their first show in the Middle East. The band also played at the farewell concert of Böhse Onkelz on the Euro Speedway Lausitz.

The Blackening (2006–09)

Machine Head's sixth studio album, titled The Blackening, was released in North America on March 27, 2007. It entered the Billboard 200 at number 53, the highest charting position for the band at that time, with first-week sales of 15,000.[25] It also made the top 20 in several European countries. Robb Flynn stated during an interview that the band are fans of Rush and received a great deal of influence from their album A Farewell to Kings while creating The Blackening.

The album received positive reviews from music critics, with some labeling it the best metal album of 2007. reviewer Don Kaye awarded the album a 9.5 out of 10, saying The Blackening is "one of the purest, finest, most powerful expressions of modern heavy metal released" and compared it to the 1986 Metallica album Master of Puppets,[26] while Allmusic editor Thom Jurek described the album as "an over the top rage and pummelfest with all the qualities that earned the group its enormous fan base by touring and recording", praising the songs "Beautiful Mourning", "Halo", and "Now I Lay Thee Down".[27] Rolling Stone reviewer Andy Greene, however, responded negatively as he was displeased with the songs running over ten minutes.[28]

Machine Head toured North America with Lamb of God, Trivium and Gojira in early 2007 to promote The Blackening, and opened for Megadeth and Heaven & Hell in April 2007. A European tour saw the band make an appearance at the Download Festival in Donington Park.[29] Shortly after, the band announced a co-headlining tour of Japan, Europe, and Australia titled The Black Crusade from October to December. Other bands on the bill included Trivium, Arch Enemy, DragonForce (Europe only) and Shadows Fall (Europe only).[30] On June 12, 2007, at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, the band won the award for "Best Album", and Flynn won the "Golden God" award.[31] Machine Head also won Best Album at the Kerrang! Awards 2007. The band replaced Bullet For My Valentine supporting Metallica's Wembley Stadium show on Sunday July 8, 2007, as Bullet For My Valentine's vocalist Matt Tuck required a tonsillectomy.[32] Machine Head also toured North America with Hellyeah, Nonpoint and Bury Your Dead in early 2008.[33] Machine Head recently completed a world tour where they played Bengaluru, India, Israel and Dubai, U.A.E. in March 2008.[34]

Robb Flynn of Machine Head as support band for Metallica in Rotterdam 2009.

In October 2008 the band toured in Australia with Slipknot.[35] The band then toured Europe with Slipknot and Children of Bodom in November and December.[36] The band recorded a version of Iron Maiden's classic, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" for a Kerrang! tribute compilation album, entitled Maiden Heaven: A Tribute to Iron Maiden; this song was played live multiple times since its release and has become a permanent in their current touring setlists. Amongst other bands who appeared on the album were label mates, Dream Theater and Trivium.

It was announced on August 10, 2008 that Machine Head and Austin, Texas based band The Sword would be opening for Metallica at ten shows in January 2009. In a recent interview conducted with Phil Demmel, he revealed that with Machine Head's upcoming touring commitments, the band would not have chance to write a follow up album until at least 2010, for an expected 2011 release date.[37] Machine Head toured with The Sword in Metallica's World Magnetic Tour for the Death Magnetic album from 2008 to 2009. Machine Head also opened for Megadeth, Slayer and Suicide Silence on the Canadian Carnage tour in late June.[38] Machine Head reportedly cancelled their appearance at Sonisphere Festival in the UK because they had disagreements with the staff over their slot. They thought they should play after Limp Bizkit. However, a week before the Sonisphere festival took place on August 1 and 2, Machine Head agreed to take back their slot below Limp Bizkit. Their appearance was kept secret until the day they played. In August 2009, they won the Inspiration Award at the 2009 Kerrang! Awards.[39] It was announced on the August 31 that Machine Head would tour through Europe and UK in 2010 with Hatebreed, Bleeding Through, and All Shall Perish in what will be known as "The Black Procession", as well as adding dates for an Australian and New Zealand tour cycle in March. This will be the last time the band tour in support of The Blackening before writing the next album, as Dave McClain described in an interview, before their Belfast show in Northern Ireland.[40]

Unto the Locust (2010–12)

In November 2010, Machine Head began writing and demoing new material for their seventh studio album, Unto the Locust.[41] With Robb Flynn acting as producer, Machine Head officially began recording the album on April 16, 2011 at Green Day's Jingletown Studios in Oakland, California.[41]

In the summer of 2011, Machine Head toured as a part of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival.[42] During the tour, the band debuted a new song off of Unto the Locust, entitled "Locust".[43] The song was later released on Amazon and iTunes on June 14, 2011.[44] Unto the Locust was released on September 27, 2011, to critical acclaim.[45] The album charted in several countries, including number 22 in the US (the first time the band had ever cracked the top 25 in US) and at number 5 in Germany.[46]

Robb Flynn (left) and Phil Demmel (right).

After the release of Unto the Locust, Machine Head began its Eight Plague Tour and during the first European leg, the band was supported by Bring Me the Horizon, DevilDriver and Darkest Hour.[47] On the North American leg, Machine Head was supported by Suicide Silence, Darkest Hour, and Rise to Remain (although Rise to Remain was later forced to drop out).[48]

In 2012, Machine Head headlined the Soundwave Festival in Australia.[49] The band also played at the 2012 Download Festival, Metalcamp, Graspop festivals, as well as headlined both Bloodstock Open Air and the Wacken Festival.[50][51][52] Machine Head were also scheduled to be part of the first-ever Mayhem Festival cruise,[53] until it was cancelled.[54]

On September 10, Machine Head announced a North American tour with Dethklok, All That Remains and Black Dahlia Murder, beginning with a "Warm Up" show on October 24, the tour starts on October 30 and ends on December 8.[55] On September 14, Machine Head won the "Best International Band" award at the 2012 Metal Hammer awards in Berlin, Germany.[56] On October 1, Machine Head announced the release of "Machine Fucking Head Live", the band's first live album since 2003's Hellalive.[57] The album will feature 15 live recordings from the band's various 2011-2012 tours and is to be released on November 13 on a two disc set or download with 4 bonus tracks, with pre-orders of the album having a six track rarities & B-sides EP.[58]

On November 13, Machine Head announced cancellation of their North American tour dates from the 13th to the 23rd due to Robb Flynn requiring emergency surgery to treat an inguinal hernia.

In a November 2012 interview, Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel revealed that the band planned to begin writing new material for their eighth studio album in 2013 and hopes that they will begin recording it before the end of that year.[59]

Bloodstone & Diamonds (2013–present)

On February 22, 2013, the band announced that bassist/founding member Adam Duce left the band, albeit on friendly terms. 4 days later, Robb Flynn revealed in his online blog that he fired Adam Duce because of ongoing differences. His departure makes Flynn the only remaining original member.[60] As of March 2013, Unto the Locust has sold 100,000 copies in the United States, making it their third quickest-selling album behind The Blackening and Supercharger which have sold 260,000 in two weeks and 250,000 copies in 4 months in the United States respectively. [61] The band began the process of searching for a temporary bassist for the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in the U.S. For a limited time, the band accepted and reviewed YouTube submissions.[62] On June 24, 2013 the band announced that former Sanctity rhythm guitarist and vocalist Jared MacEachern has joined the band as their new bassist. Robb Flynn said of MacEachern: "Monte Conner recommended Jared since he was already on the tour, and that ended up being a great call. Jared flew out a few days before the tour and rehearsed with us and did great." Phil Demmel continued: — "There were dozens of amazing players, and it was interesting to watch each one take on our tunes. One of our biggest criteria for this gig was to be able to sing the high harmonies. That was our litmus test. And Jared passed with flying colors.".[63]

On October 2, 2013 the band announced that it signed to Nuclear Blast.[64] In February 2014, the band entered the studio to record their new album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, for a late summer release.[65]

In early 2014, Duce filed a lawsuit against his former band and manager in federal court "for trademark infringement, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of partnership agreement, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic relations, negligence, defamation and unfair competition, and he wants the band enjoined from using the Machine Head marks."[66] The lawsuit was settled out of court on July 2 with undisclosed terms.[67] In August 2014, Robb Flynn announced the track listing for Bloodstone & Diamonds, consisting of 12 tracks along with its artwork.[68]

Bloodstone & Diamonds was released in November 2014 to positive reviews from fans and critics alike, with many saying how the addition of MacEachern brought a sense of rejuvenation to the band. The band embarked on a lengthy world tour in support of the album, including a leg of European shows, two American legs and various others in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

On June 1, 2016, a stand-alone single titled "Is There Anybody Out There?" premiered on Sirius XM Octane, and on June 3 the single was available for digital download.

Musical style, Influences and Legacy

Machine Head's music crosses multiple genres such as thrash metal, groove metal, and heavy metal.[69] The band is influenced by Californian thrash metal bands such as Vio-lence, Metallica, Exodus, Slayer and Testament, crossover thrash bands Suicidal Tendencies and Cro-Mags, groove metal bands Pantera and Exhorder, and grunge bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains,[70] but they also have influences from 70's/early 80's metal acts such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rush and Black Sabbath.

Their early albums Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change... show a groove metal and thrash metal approach, similar to bands like Pantera and Exhorder. The albums also featured brutal and technical drumming by Chris Kontos and Dave McClain.[71][72] The band changed their musical direction for the albums The Burning Red (1999) and Supercharger (2001), which have been described as displaying a nu metal sound.[73] These albums featured rapping by Robb Flynn and simpler guitar riffs, but retaining part of their aggressive sound. This change in direction resulted in criticism from many fans because of the popularity of nu metal at the time.[74][75][76][77]

Machine Head returned to the groove metal and thrash metal sound of the first two albums with the album Through the Ashes of Empires, which proved a success.

Machine Head increased the complexity and technicality in their sound for the next album, The Blackening, which partially changes the sound of their first 5 albums in favor of a more classic heavy metal and thrash metal oriented sound, with fully complex song structures and guitar riffs.[78][79] Unto the Locust features heavier, faster and more complex riffs by both Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel, influenced by classical music, and supported by fast and complex drum patterns by Dave McClain. This is also the first Machine Head's record to include blast beats.[80]

Robb Flynn makes use of different vocal styles including clean vocals, screams and death growls.[81]

Machine Head is one of the bands that support the New Wave of American Heavy Metal[82] and influenced bands such as Slipknot, Hatebreed, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Bullet for My Valentine, DevilDriver, Gojira, Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold, Hatriot, Killswitch Engage, Chimaira, The Black Dahlia Murder, Throwdown, Suicide Silence.

Band members

Current members [83]

Former members

  • Logan Mader – lead guitar, backing vocals (1991–98)
  • Ahrue Luster – lead guitar, backing vocals (1998–2002)
  • Adam Duce – bass, backing vocals (1991–2013)
  • Tony Costanza – drums, percussion (1991–93)
  • Chris Kontos – drums, percussion (1993–95)
  • Walter Ryan – drums, percussion (1995)




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