Editor's note: After this item was posted, the show was canceled due to an illness in the band.
Usually when a solid metal band blows up, they make a couple shitty and overly strategic cash-grab albums, experience a backlash, learn a lesson, and shift back to prime form. With this year's Catharsis, Oakland, California's legendary thrash-metal and nu-metal hybrid Machine Head reminds us that if you stick around long enough, you can actually enter that cycle more than once.
Take it from someone who's stuck with the band for a long time: 1994's punishing and fresh Burn My Eyes was a massive game-changer for me. There are many memories of driving around and growling "Jesus wept" along with vocalist-guitarist Rob Flynn while blasting "Old" at full volume or sitting around trying to learn that nasty guitar riff with the harmonics on "Davidian." I even stuck around when Flynn started rapping and dressing like a member of Korn when 1999's The Burning Red arrived and then dipped out entirely for 2001 radio-rock bomb Supercharger, which still has to be their most disappointing and forgettable album to date.
By the time the band released 2003's Through The Ashes Of Empires, a fresh movement of metalcore, thrash-metal, and death-metal bands had all but eclipsed nu-metal and Flynn must have thought, "Oh shit, this is finally cool again!" From there, Machine Head proceeded to release a great run of albums that found them shedding the rap-rock elements they'd been flirting with and replacing them with shards of thrash and Swedish death metal.
This brings us to the freshly released and heavily produced Catharsis, which finds the band slumping back down toward forgettable guitar riffs, radio-ready song structures, and lyrics like, "Don't give a fuck if I'm banned / The fucking rodents down at Disneyland / Highway 5 down to 99 / I'm getting head near the Fresno sign" from "California Bleeding." While the new album is a bummer, Machine Head has released a ton of timeless jams, and it's pretty rare that we get a metal band of their stature in Madison, so you should probably go. —Joel Shanahan