Friday, January 30, 2015

Machine Head at Irving Plaza

Phil Demmel & Robb Flynn
Robert Conrad "Robb" Flynn (born Lawrence Matthew Cardine in Oakland, California) joined the thrash metal band Forbidden (originally Forbidden Evil) in 1985, while in his graduating year at high school. He left after two years and before the band's debut album was released in order to join local thrash metal rivals Vio-lence. Flynn felt musically unfulfilled with Vio-lence, however, and reportedly requested to start a side project. When his request was denied, he left the band. In 1991, Flynn became the lead vocalist and guitarist for Machine Head, one of the pioneering bands in the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Machine Head has sold over 3 million records worldwide. The band's eighth and most recent studio album, Bloodstone & Diamonds, was released on November 5, 2014. The current lineup of the band comprises Flynn, who is the sole remaining original member, guitarist Phil Demmel, bassist Jared MacEachern and drummer Dave McClain.

"An Evening With Machine Head" at Irving Plaza tonight meant the band celebrated its 20th anniversary with an extended set and no opening act. Nineteen songs were drawn from all eight Machine Head albums, even one song from each of the two turn-of-the-century albums fans that hardcore metalhead fans deplored for being commercial hip hop-influenced nu metal. Tonight's pummelfest showcased an expert blend of traditional heavy metal with thrash and groove metal, even while two songs featured Flynn playing an acoustic guitar. Machine Head opened with "Imperium" and "Beautiful Mourning" before introducing "Now We Die," the first of five songs from the most recent album that were spread out through the set. Flynn's full-throated roars alternated between clean vocals, screams and death growls, and Demmel followed the dark verses and choruses by bringing fine melodic guitar leads to the front. Between songs, Flynn took every opportunity -- perhaps way too liberally -- to appreciate the audience and exhort the fans to sing, scream, jump, raise their metal horns or form a circle pit. He did not need to do any of that; the ultra-heavy music was strong enough that the fans would have freely offered those responses. After 20 years, Machine Head may be at its peak.

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