If Unto The Locust receives a lot of negative criticism, it is only because it failed to live up to the unexpected mythic status set by The Blackening, much in the same way that The More Things Change was left in Burn My Eye’s shadow.
Judged on musical merit, Unto The Locust is a very strong album indeed somehow managing to be both instantly loveable and yet also a grower. Everything on the record is tight and perfectly formed, not a second of the album is wasted… impressive considering how long, dense and complex the record is.
The album officially clocks in at seven tracks, only one of which dips below the six minute mark and the album ends up lasting almost 49 minutes overall despite only featuring seven tracks.
If you want more long songs, more high speeds and more guitar solos and dual guitar harmonies then Unto The Locust ably provides; tracks like ‘Be Still And Know,’ and ‘I Am Hell,’ are absolutely full of impressive guitar moments from Rob Flynn and Phil Demmel (and of course not forgetting the usual incredible drum fills from Dave McClaine)
It seems pointless listing highlights on an album that only has seven tracks, all of which are great but special mentions should be made for ‘This Is The End,’ is a brilliant mix of crushing heaviness, big grooves a little melody now and again, has a lot of ideas in its time span as well as featuring one of the best (brief but perfectly formed) guitar solos in the band’s career.
On top of the superb songwriting and performances, the production is absolutely fantastic on the record and really captures the Machine Head sound perfectly. A version of near-title-track ‘Locust,’ was available for a while before the album’s release with a different production style, but the actual version on here is much deeper, more energetic sounding and with a different feel on a few of the leads; now the track actually feels a bit more like the band’s first two records than it ever did one the advanced mix version.
In summary; Unto The Locust is a very good album indeed, and gets better with repeat listens. Machine Head are absolutely on form in terms of songwriting and musicianship and do their best to mix adding new ideas and retaining what made their last two albums so good, the only thing that might stand in the way of this record meeting universal praise is simply the fact that The Blackening already did that.
**** The fan pack edition; which at the minute is the only physical version available in the UK at the time of writing, comes with a few extras. In addition to the album in a large, solid digibook style box, with the pages stuck into the spine and the disc held under a cardboard fold; the album contains a live version of the title track live at the 2011 Mayhem Festival. This does not feature the DVD with the Making-Of documentary however, so beware if you were intending on buying this set for that reason.
The set does however come with a large poster that has the album artwork (landscape) on one side and a quartered set of the band members (portrait) on the other side.
You then get a set of five guitar plectrums (two black, two red, one white) with Machinehead imagery and words printed on them in white eg. ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ OR ‘Ten Ton Hammer.’
Finally you get a metal bottle opener keyring with the MH logo carved/embossed on it and a white-on-black patch with the MH coat of arms on it.
All of these extra little bits and pieces are of course in addition to the special edition of Metal Hammer Magazine, which has articles on all manner of Machine Head related articles, from the best Youtube clips involiving Machine Head, to the making of the album, sections on what all songs they’ve covered over the years, an article on Phil Demmel’s contributions since joining the band, photos of many fan’s Machine Head tattoos, reviews and track-by-tacks comments of every single Machine Head album and song to date.
There is much more to it than that, but you should get a broad idea of the overall content by now. Overall it works out at around 200 pages, although that does feature a lot of advertisements unfortunately. One thing I will mention as well is that if you aren’t a fan of the style of journalism, layout and graphics that Metal Hammer usually employs then don’t expect anything different from this fan pack, it is very much done in the Magazine’s usual style. If such things don’t concern you however, the magazine is an excellent addition to the set (for which you are likely buying the album for anyway.)
If you can get the fan pack for close enough in price to what you would get a CD for and don’t mind not having either the Rush/Judas Priest cover songs or the bonus DVD then this fan pack is a good way to get yourself a copy of the new Machine Head album.****