The Grand Re-Listening: Part 14: Machine Head – Burn My Eyes

Machine Head - Burn My Eyes

Machine Head - Burn My Eyes

For this (belated) installment of The Grand Re-Listening, I chose to skip ahead to Machine Head’s debut album and one time Roadrunner Records fastest ever selling debut, Burn My Eyes.

I have had this album for a very long time, a good decade I’d guess off of the top of my head, and I have had a varied a twisted relationship with it.

One thing has always remained constant however, opening track ‘Davidian,’ is amazing!
I will often claim that it is the single best Machine head track to date, although sometimes I’ll claim it is the best by a slim lead or other times, by a wide margin.

When I first got the album, the only other Machine Head album that I had heard was Supercharger which at the time I didn’t really warm to (I have subsequently become a huge fan of that album and will strongly advocate it’s quality) and when I bought Burn My Eyes out of interest generated from hearing ‘Davidian,’ on MTV2, I initially thought the album was god awful and that ‘Davidian,’ was the only good track on it.

During the first few years that I owned Burn My Eyes it received very little playtime and my impression of the album was of a very lightweight album, with stylistically Nu Metal material.

One year, a re-listening informed me that the album sounded nothing like that at all, I had wrongly remembered everything about the album and that it is actually in the same Vulgar Display/Demanufactue/Chaos AD league of almost accessible but blisteringly heavy 1990s metal. Call it Post-Thrash or Groove Metal if you like, but the style is very much not one finger riffing, bright sounds and thin textures.

On this current re-listening, the thing which is sticking out most in my mind is how different Rob Flynn’s voice is. I remembered that he didn’t do any of the clean or rap style vocals obviously, but his normal voice is hugely different too which surprised me.

What I initially disliked about Burn My Eyes all those years ago at a gut level, but couldn’t put into words is now what makes me like the album… Machine Head are really unique, to the point where it sounds like they are ‘Playing Wrong.’

Some of the riffs, a lot of the tones and the majority of the song structures are really atypical to the point where I can’t tell if the band are being progressive or they just don’t understand how to arrange a song correctly. Whatever the real answer, the end result is a wonderfully unique album that stands completely alone in musical history.

I say that, in full awareness that the band’s second album is so similar in style to Burn My Eyes that many people, including me, have on occasion claimed the band released the exact same album twice.

Re-listening to both I notice more and more that the two albums have entirely different spirits. ‘None But My Own,’ for example would sound plain wrong on The More Things Change; with its Annihilator sounding ending, but fits perfectly on Burn My Eyes.

I think a large part of this is that Cris Kontos has a very different style of drumming than Dave McClain. Dave perfectly suits Machine Head because his style is just as ‘wrong,’ as theirs, his drumming is so inventive and unique that it sounds like he couldn’t ‘do it properly,’ if he wanted to and it is just a coincidence that he is as talented as he is.

Anyway, on this re-listening I found myself enjoying Burn My Eyes the single most I ever have. No songs seemed weird or out of place and even the flappy, screechy Mick Thompson sounding intro to ‘The Rage To Overcome,’ or the inexplicable intro to ‘Old,’ which used to annoy me, now could not detract from the songs which are otherwise excellent anyway, especially the former which contains both on of my favourite ever riffs and arguably Machine Head’s best guitar solo as well as structurally pathing the way for all of the music on The Blackening and Through The Ashes of Empires without sonically doing so, giving it an interesting place of importance in my link-and-classification reliant brain.

The only thing which seems out of place is the unsuitably fast and heavy ‘Blood For Blood’ which while being a great song that I’m glad to have heard, doesn’t really fit on this album.

Overall, I think Burn My Eyes is a really strong and singular album which deserves its place on best of lists and greatest album countdowns

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