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Through the Ashes of Empires

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Album Review

When they first emerged in 1994, San Francisco metalheads Machine Head appeared poised (along with the then-unstoppable Pantera) to lead the cause of American metal, proudly and purposefully, through the second half of that grim, grim, alternative rock-dominated decade. But, much to their fans' dismay, the band's masterful debut would soon give way to undercooked repetition on their sophomore effort and then, horror of horrors, a grueling descent into nu-metal sellout with their third, before finally crash landing to an uninspired nadir with their fourth. Within the span of seven short years, Machine Head's proverbial cup had gone from brimming to empty, their few remaining believers understandably holding out little hope for any sort of redemption. But against all odds, just when the jig seemed to be most certainly up, all of these missteps were summarily erased by the group's stunning fifth album, Through the Ashes of Empires, which saw them rediscovering their roots while reuniting bandleader Robb Flynn with his original Vio-Lence six-string partner in crime, Phil Demmel. Coincidentally or not, the results marked a return to form in no uncertain terms, with colossal first track "Imperium" single-handedly eclipsing the previous two and a half albums, while simultaneously recapturing the dark majesty and crushing authority of early Machine Head triumphs like "Davidian" and "Ten Ton Hammer." The same was true, to a slightly lesser extent, about ensuing headbangers "Bite the Bullet," "Left Unfinished," and the epic "In the Presence of My Enemies," which collectively showed what could happen when a great band actually follows its instincts instead of half-heartedly following trends. Not that Machine Head came back from their "lost weekend" completely empty-handed, as incrementally melodic and emotive material such as "Elegy" and "Days Turn Blue to Gray" successfully reenvisioned (and authenticated) a few elements of those failed experiments through the prism of the band's own sensibilities — not Korn's or Limp Bizkit's. (In fact, only the rhythmically chugging "All Falls Down" was guilty of a complete and sorry relapse into nu-metal's intolerable whining.) And with the rousing final number, "Descend the Shades of Night," Machine Head delivered yet another monolithic highlight, as steeped in their glorious past as it was promising of the future.

Customer Reviews

Thank God for this album!

the amazing song "Imperium" alone saved this band from a downward spiral into an odd Nu-Metal scene that wasn't taken to kindly by the fans. Through the Ashes of Empires shows a return to a true progressive thrash metal take and really blows your mind. Other standout tracks are "Bite the Bullet" and "Descend the Shades of Night". This album eventually leads to their real metal masterpiece; "The Blackening"


Yes, albums after burn my eyes sucked, but everyone can redeem themselves, very good metal album.

A Resurrection

As a fan of Machine Head, even through their "darker years" as many call them, I have to say that I got much more than I expected when I bought this album. I got it well over a year ago, but after revisiting it after almost burning out on two straight weeks of their newest album, "The Blackening", I now remember why I love Machine Head so much. Granted, I'm probably the only fan who will openly admit that I liked- not loved, however- both "The Burning Red" and "Supercharger", even with their nu-metal influence. But "Through the Ashes of Empires" brought me back to loving them again. Robb Flynn is a master at coming up with heavy yet meaningful lyrics, particularly in songs like "Wipe the Tears" and "In the Presence of my Enemies". Also, the addition of Phil Demmel compliments Flynn's guitar work immensely; the two of them play off each other beautifully. Now, many say that Machine Head is still not back to form, and I agree- this form far exceeds their old. They've managed to mix the creativity of their nu-metal years with the thrashing sound of their younger years and blended it into something amazing, and can only go up from here. Don't believe me? Listen to "The Blackening".


Formed: 1992 in Oakland, CA

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Influential West Coast heavy metal quartet Machine Head formed in 1992 around the talents of ex-Vio-Lence guitar players Robert Flynn and Phil Demmel, bass player Adam Duce, and drummer Chris Kontos. Their D.I.Y. work ethic, aggressive playing, and relentless self-promotion eventually landed them a deal with Roadrunner Records, a relationship that would extend all the way through 2005. Their blistering debut, 1992's Burn My Eyes, blended the powerful, modern attack of Pantera and Alice in Chains...
Full Bio
Through the Ashes of Empires, Machine Head
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