It’s been a tumultuous couple of years in the Machine Head camp, but they drop new album Of Kingdom And Crown this month, followed by a UK tour with Amon Amarth in September. Chris Andrews caught up with frontman Robb Flynn to see what’s new in the metal icons’ world.
After more than 30 years and with two members leaving the band, including long-term drummer Dave McClain, a lesser driven person may have called it quits on the metal juggernaut that is Machine Head. Not Robb Flynn: the Oakland band’s frontman doggedly called up former members Chris Kontos and Logan Mader and took the band on a tour to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their ground-breaking album debut album Burn My Eyes just before the pandemic hit.
Now in 2022, they are back and in devastating form, with new guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka and drummer Matt Alston filling the vacant slots; armed with a new album, Of Kingdom And Crown, and a UK tour to boot. But with all the upheaval and of course, the pandemic was there ever a thought that this might be the end of Machine Head?
“I think any band would have had challenges writing over the pandemic, so that was no different for us, but like many bands nowadays, we aren’t all in the same area and so overcoming that was the biggest part of it. So, it really became about collaborating online, and in some ways was more productive – but people forget that when the two members quit, we went on tour together two weeks later, and after that we did the Burn My Eyes anniversary tour.
“But at no point did I think it was going to end, it was more a matter of, well where do we go from here?” he continues,” “but that’s the same with every record, because I don’t ever want to repeat ourselves. I’m not a fan of bands who constantly repeat themselves, I’m more of a fan of bands like The Cure or The Beatles.” So constantly evolving? “Absolutely.”
Considering the impact it had and the high regard in which Burn My Eyes is held, did Flynn ever consider bringing back the classic lineup to record? “If the pandemic hadn’t hit I don’t know what would have happened. We were definitely in the mindset of ‘hey, let’s write!’ and Logan and I did have a co-write on the album, with My Hands Are Empty – but with the pandemic, everybody was just too busy hustling and trying to survive. Everybody’s life just came to a standstill.”
In a recent interview, the Machine Head frontman confessed that he couldn’t write Burn My Eyes now, as he’s “not that person anymore”, and on new album Of Kingdom And Crown Flynn has taken a more conceptual approach. He explains: “It’s set in a futuristic wasteland where the sky is always crimson red and it revolves around two characters – the first being Aries, who loses the love of his life, Amethyst, and goes on a murderous rampage to avenge the perpetrators that killed her. Character number two is Eros, who loses his mother to a drug overdose and during his depression, becomes radicalized by a charismatic leader and goes on his own murder spree, and he is also one of the perpetrators that killed Amethyst.
“So lyrically, for me, the biggest challenge was not just to tell a story; I had to feel some connection to it, in my life. So it was a trip to write it from that standpoint, because I’ve written nine albums now through my own lens. And apart from murder – which I can relate to – the other thing was love and that’s really where I got my connection from.
Having witnessed Machine Head’s incendiary first live show on Welsh soil, I thought I’d dig into the frontman’s memory banks to see if he can recall the Newport Centre show in 1994, when they opened for Slayer. “Oh yeah totally! It was crazy, insane. I remember that venue – there was a big pool and I think we all went swimming after the show.”
So with a return to Wales on the cards, with Amon Amarth on a double-header tour, is the frontman looking forward to coming back? “Cardiff, right? Yeah we can’t wait! We love those guys and we are really looking forward to it.”
Machine Head / Amon Amarth, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 9 Sept.
Tickets: from £30.50. Info: here
words CHRIS ANDREWS
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