Machine Head is dead. Long live Machine Head.
When Machine Head was first booked to play The Clyde Theatre on October 26, it looked like a “nice get” as the iconic thrash band has usually chosen to bypass the Summit City in favor of bigger markets when mapping out their tours. With the announcement, fans of the band began to eagerly anticipate the rare visit to our area, knowing that “An Evening With Machine Head” meant two and a half hours or more of pure cacophony that would create memories they could brag about for years to come.
Now, with news of the imminent breakup of the band surfacing a couple of weeks ago, this show is not only a highly anticipated “nice get,” it’s also a “must see.”
Machine Head rose to prominence in the world of thrash with their 1994 debut album, Burn My Eyes. Touring with the likes of Slayer, Coal Chamber, and Napalm Death, Machine Head held their own when it came to putting on an energetic and powerful live show, gaining fans at every stop. Their sophomore album, The More Things Change, solidified the band as bonafide headliners and champions of the thrash genre.
An early influence to bands like Slipknot, Lamb Of God, and Bullet For My Valentine, to name a few, Machine Head have experimented with injecting rap and other influences into their songs from time to time and have become more progressive over the years by increasing their songs’ complexity and technicality. Despite these slight changes in musical style, their core fan base has remained extremely loyal, gobbling up and enjoying most music that Machine Head have released over the years.
But the years haven’t always been easy for Machine Head. Flynn has been pretty transparent about his personal struggles and there have been firings and hirings from time to time. They’ve even taken part in therapy sessions in hopes of ending their issues, with the core of the band seeming indestructible and willing to persevere — until now.
Just a few weeks ago, news broke that guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain had decided to quit the band and Machine Head was breaking up. While most fans were understandably taken aback by the sudden news, there was a sliver of good stuff to report as well. There would be one last chance to see the band as the two parting members agreed to honor their obligations of an already booked, and mostly sold out, “Freaks and Zeroes Tour.”
Robb Flynn, Machine Head’s vocalist and only remaining founding member, addressed the lineup changes and the bands decision to fulfill their tour obligations in a Facebook live stream, stating that both McClain and Demmel were tired of playing in the group and no longer wanted to deal with the way Flynn ran the band.
“We have grown apart as people,” Flynn said. “Musically, we’ve grown apart. I have held on too tight to the reins of this band, and I have suffocated those guys.”
He went on to say that his “rough edges” have helped the band become what it is, but “they’ve also hurt the people around me. I’ve got a lot of drive, but I’ve got a lot of anger and rage. And that drive of mine has alienated folks in the band.”
Flynn went on to lament the loss of his two longtime bandmates, but also made sure to compliment the parting musicians, as well. He said that despite the fact that he was the catalyst for the split, the breakup was actually amicable between all members. He then said that the upcoming tour would not only fulfill obligations the band had already committed to, but it would also become a celebration of this era of Machine Head.
Demmel, who originally played with Flynn in the legendary Bay Area thrash metal band Vio-lence, clarified the reasoning for his imminent departure from the band by stating on his own Facebook page that it was “simply time” for him “to step away and do something else musically.
“People naturally grow apart over time and it’s no one’s fault. It’s amazing, and we’re so fortunate to have been able to do it for so long. This last run will give us an opportunity to say goodbye as a group and have a sense of closure to an incredible run.”
In the end, though, it seems you can’t kill a juggernaut like Machine Head that easily.
After having some time to contemplate the breakup and gauge the reactions of fans, Flynn “clarified” his position on the band. He said that although the current tour was indeed a farewell tour, he’d “been getting a lot of texts based on the video that I did earlier today on Facebook Live, and I just wanted to clarify that this is the farewell tour of this lineup, this era of Machine Head. This is not the farewell tour of Machine Head. It’s been a very emotional 48 hours, and I very well could have said that weirdly on Facebook Live – or not as good as I could have. And while the future of Machine Head is uncertain,” it will be back.
Some may think that there could be an inclination for band members to simply “mail this one in” and move on with their lives, but early reviews of the tour that began a couple of weeks ago say the band is as brutal as ever, perhaps the best they have been in years. One review actually called the night “epic” with an interesting mix of newer and older songs.
Anyone who has seen the band in the past knows they will have many chances to scream at the top of their lungs as the band does what it does. But, what we now know is this will be the last chance to do it with this version of the band.
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June 27 • The Clyde