PITTSBURGH - Machine Head brings its Eighth Plague Tour to Pittsburgh's state-of-the-art Stage AE beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Even the most inspired and successful of bands often reach a plateau at which they tend to stagnate or fade away, but Oakland, Calif.-based Machine Head shows no signs of becoming one of those bands.
Seven albums and nearly two decades into their career, Machine Head turned a corner with 2007's "The Blackening," then somehow dug even deeper for last year's masterpiece "Unto The Locust," solidifying the band's reputation as one of the most creatively daring and critically acclaimed bands the metal genre has ever seen.
The heavy metal band Machine Head brings its unique vision to Pittsburgh’s state-of-the-art Stage AE at 6 p.m. Tuesday. For information, visit www.MachineHead1.com or www.StageAE.com
"I think that when you're in a band for a while, especially in metal, it's real easy to fall into the status quo of what everyone else is doing where you're more trying to keep up with the Joneses than you are doing what you want to do," explained Machine Head leader Robb Flynn on the phone from the third stop on its current Eighth Plague tour in frigid Minneapolis-St. Paul.
"But I think we've been lucky enough at times to be able to take a look around and say 'hey, this isn't where we want to go,'" Flynn continued. "But that's the beauty of it - you have to jump into the unknown fearlessly and try to write from this honest place. As long as we get goosebumps, that's our barometer, and it's served us well."
Serve them well it has. The proof is in the undeniable artistic quality of the band's latest "Unto The Locust," a darkly-complex assault on the senses that kicks off with a somber multi-tracked melody sung completely in Latin before spiraling through a brutal, yet beautiful, seven-song journey as textured as it is heavy. Laced with strings, neo-classical flourishes, patented down-tuned guitar riffs/harmonics, and intensely deep lyrics delivered by vocals that alternately growl and soar, it's hard to interpret Flynn as anything but genuine when he states that "there are bands that are a little heavier than us or a little more technical than us, but when it comes to what we do - we are the best at it."
One quickly becomes aware after a few minutes of conversation with Flynn that Machine Head's authenticity is a natural extension of who he is as a person. Intelligent and well-spoken, his personal quest for continued inspiration has seen him pursue both vocal and classical guitar instruction as well as an insatiable appetite for listening that ranges from hip-hop to folkster Ray Lamontagne.
"I normally hate that kind of music but he's just different ... the dude's just got this ache in his voice that is incredible, and you can feel what he's singing about. I love music like that," he states of Lamontagne.
In addition, Flynn has been finding recent inspiration from another unlikely source for the typical metalhead.
"I heard this quote that Keith Richards said - 'It's not about what you're doing ... it's just a matter of staying an open vessel and allowing it to pass through you.' I couldn't say it any better than that."
That same authenticity also extends beyond the music world to his personal life, and the father of two boys recently found himself leading the family through the traumatic experience of a home invasion.
"When it happened it was kind of a shock," he said. "The Blackening" had done really well, and I had just moved into probably the best neighborhood that I've ever lived in, and our house gets broken into. We were targeted. I was cased, and I was followed. It happened at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. I came home with my two sons and we discovered it and I started freaking out. I realized that the more I freaked out the more they freaked out, so I had to stop myself. It was a rough time. I was paranoid and sleeping with a knife under my pillow. My sons were afraid the robbers were going to come back, and I had to assure them that 'Daddy's not going to let that happen.' Eventually we had to just let it go."
Flynn lit up when asked about the band's upcoming show in the Steel City.
"We love Pittsburgh," he said. "Our tour manager is actually from there. We did the only off date while we were on the Heaven and Hell tour in Pittsburgh and it was so intense - it was like a religious experience. There were banners everywhere and people hanging from the rafters. We have truly genuine and amazing memories from Pittsburgh."
(Joe Zelek is the heavy metal critic for Weekender.)