Whenever an album starts off with phrases chanted in Latin you can pretty well rest assured that there's eternal damnation just around the corner, and that's exactly what Machine Head brings on "I Am Hell," the opening number of Unto the Locust. Most listeners won't know that lead vocalist Robb Flynn's foreboding a cappella intro to the song is all about murder, suicide and warriors of fire but it doesn't take a student of Classical language to know what's coming and it only takes a minute or so before Machine Head launches into a full-blown maelstrom. The thrashy, pummeling cut is actually about a female arsonist and the band fans her flames fervently throughout the eight minute song; clearly this femme firebug wants to be the new queen of Hades and Machine Head is happy to carry her to her throne atop a bed of guitar hot coals and frantically popping drum embers. Yes, Unto the Locust is heavy; it is perhaps the heaviest album Machine Head has ever recorded. The band never backs down on any of the eight songs but like with the Latin verse that opens the record, Flynn and company gussie-up this visit to the underworld with a few non-thumping distractions: delicately-picked acoustic guitar is used as a prelude to "This is the End" and in a frighteningly sleazy moment a children's chorus embellishes "Who We Are." Those affectations are just brief chances to catch your breath though; Unto the Locust otherwise is concentrated cranium rattling.
Machine Head - Unto the Locust