Episode 164: Regression. Stagnation. Progression.

We’ve discussed this a few times on the show:  growth vs. transformation, “going back to our roots” vs. regressing, consistent vs. stale. Some bands start as heroes but live long enough to see themselves become the villain, so to speak.  Some pull a Darth Vader and find their way back. (Am I being nerdy enough for you?) Others just stay stuck at 55 in the right line. Then there are the ones who amaze coming out of the gate, so now we have to see where they go, if anywhere. This week’s reviews inadvertently became a study of these ideas, so get listening and share your thoughts in the comments!


Ghost Brigade IV: One With the Storm (Season of Mist)
Machine HeadBloodstone and Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
Skyharbor – Guiding Lights (Basick)
Soen Tellurian (Spinefarm)
Toothgrinder – Schizophrenic Jubilee (Spinefarm)

Live Review:
MegaDeaf Tour 2014: Part Deux featuring He Is LegendMaylene and the Sons of Disaster, and Wounds at Webster Theater Underground in Hartford, CT on November 11, 2014

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds 

Ghost Brigade – IV: One With the Storm 

Toothgrinder – Schizophrenic Jubilee

Skyharbor – Guiding Lights

Soen – Tellurian


  1. Now that I’ve listened to Bloodstone & Diamonds a few times, I have some comments. First is regarding your discussion of songs to cut on the album. This album is over 70 minutes long and certainly could use some trimming. You guys mentioned 3 songs you’d cut (one for Brian and 2 for Nick) but I’m surprised that none of you mentioned cutting “Imaginal Cells.” “Imaginal Cells” isn’t even a real song. It’s pure filler that adds nothing to the album and only forces me to hit skip when it comes on. Next to be cut is “Damage Inside.” It sounds like “Damage Inside” would make a good intro to a song, but then it just ends. I’m ok with contrast and the fact that this type of thing isn’t the heaviest sounding music in the world, but it has to fit in with the album. “Damage Inside” leads nowhere and seems just stuck in the middle without any sense of the flow on the album.

    It says something about Bloodstone & Diamonds that we are even talking about what we’d cut. Did anyone ever talk about what songs they’d cut on Unto The Locust? What would you cut on The Blackening? Those are rhetorical questions I pose just to illustrate the point that we don’t need to have those discussions about those albums.

    Even though I don’t think “Night of Long Knives” is a song I would cut from the album, I do agree that the lyrics are too direct and straightforward. I realize that Robb Flynn’s lyrics have never exactly been subtle (such as “Imperium” and “Aesthetics of Hate”), but the lyrics on “Night of Long Knives” don’t come across as the good storytelling that they are trying too hard to be.

    I do agree that Bloodstone & Diamonds has that “collection of songs” feel to it rather than a cohesive entity of an album. That’s not really a plus for it in my book.

    One thing I feel that Bloodstone & Diamonds could benefit from is more Phil Demmel. Guitar solos and other guitar weedeling are certainly present on the album, but not in enough quantity for my taste. It’s almost as if on Bloodstone & Diamonds Robb said “ok Phil, here’s where you put your part in” instead of working together as a collective team effort.

    Regarding your question about why Machine Head is getting more critical acclaim now than they did for the past few albums, I would refer you to last month’s editorial in Decibel (the one with Machine Head on the cover). Some people including the what’s his name editor of Decibel (Albert?) wrote Machine Head off in the late 90s and early 2000s. Then when they came back with strong releases later on, it took a few albums for those people who wrote them off to get back on board with Machine Head and admit the error of their ways. For example, I believe that The Blackening wasn’t even in Decibel’s top 40 of 2007.

    So where does that leave Bloodstone & Diamonds for me? Right off the top of head I can name 5 albums from 2014 that are better than this, so that means it won’t be in my top 5 of the year.

    1. I keep going back to this and enjoy it every time. Damage Inside is skip-able, and I sometimes skip Imaginal Cells. The latter is an instrumental-like track with a message. It’s not the first time it’s been done, even by this band. Beyond that, I don’t really have a complaint about the album. When The Blackening came out (or at least when they announced the follow-up), we all kinda said they aren’t going to top that, and I don’t expect them to. This album goes back to Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change, from the song writing to the overall flow and feel of the album. BMY is a classic in my book so I am perfectly ok with this. Also, while your argument for why the magazines are picking up on this more is valid…and realistic…I think the throwback vibe of this album also helps that.

      Is Night of Long Knives Flynn’s best lyrical work? No. Do I think it’s horrendous and worth skipping the track? Not at all. Does the album feel like less of a team effort? Arguable…I don’t think so. (I should check the liner notes to confirm either way). Is this as good as The Blackening? No. But we only have a five point system, so it’s hard to quantify the differentiation.

      As far as end of the year lists go…I have no idea where it will fall. There are a whole bunch of other 5 ratings it is up against, and I have gone back to albums like Watchers of Rule and Phemonena as much as have been/will be going to this. And that’s not to mention the other spectacular albums I don’t frequent but are probably better than those n

      1. First I’ll point out that just by the fact that we are talking about Bloodstone & Diamonds so much means not only is it one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, but also one of the best. Is it a top 20 album of the year? Certainly. Top 10? Almost certainly.

        You said that when The Blackening came out, you didn’t expect them to top that. But in my opinion they did. Unto The Locust is not only Machine Head’s best album, but is a top contender for album of the decade at this point (believe it or not, the first half of decade of the 2010s is over in a month). So this is my own personal issue that I need to get over the fact that Bloodstone & Diamonds doesn’t top Unto The Locust. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good or isn’t a top album of 2014. Let me break it down by song: “Now We Die” is good. “Killers & Kings” is very good. “Ghost Will Haunt My Bones” is very good. “Night of Long knives” sticks in my head despite the lyrics being too direct. “Sail into the Black” drags out the slow intro a bit too long but then turns into a very good song. “Beneath the Silt” is nothing short of awesome. “In Comes The Flood” I have mixed feelings about. The lyrics strike me as a bit naïve. My analysis of the lyrics requires an 8 hour economics lesson. But as a pure abstract music, it’s not the best song either. “Damage Inside” is a skip. “Game Over” is an awesome song. “Imaginal Cells” is pure filler that only distracts from the other good songs. And as someone mentioned, “Take Me Through the Fire” is good but is not the epic closer that I would expect from a Machine Head album.

        As a follow up to your comment, I’m not surprised that you love Watchers of Rule, but I am a little surprised that you go back to Within In Ruin’s Phemonena so much. I will say that I love love love the song “Gods Amongst Men”, but the rest of the album is rather mediocre. If you point me to other songs on Phemonena that are good, I’d reconsider my opinion on that album.

        Finally, I must point out that this comment is fueled by a significant amount of Schlenkerla Smokemalt Rauchbier Spirit. As the label on the bottle says, it is “distilled from Schlenkerla Smokebeer and finished on fresh smokemalt.” This is the drink I discovered with Brian at Barcade that is made from the beer that tastes like smoked bacon. Imagine that beer that has been concentrated. I found a bottle of it for sale from a shop in California and had it shipped to me. It is one of the most amazing drinks I’ve ever had. I gave Brian a taste of it and can’t imagine how he didn’t like it. I’m going to put in an order for another bottle of it now. And yes, in case you were wondering, I sometimes do actually play the drinking game while listening to the podcast.

      2. What happened to the “Crunk It Up” section of the website? Where did it go?

  2. Decibel’s Top albums of 2014 is out and once again it sucks balls. Of their top 40 albums, maybe 6 of them would be on my top 40. Sure, their 1, 2 of Pallbearer and At The Gates are picks I can’t argue with (though those won’t be my top 2). But the rest of the list? Crap. Machine Head, Mastodon, and Beyond Creation are certainly all deserving of the top 40. But who the f are some of these bands? I feel like you could do about 4 episodes of “shit we missed” just from Decibel’s top 40. Horrendous? Thou? Dead Congregation? Woods of Desolation? Krieg? Cult of Fire? And that’s just in their top 20! I actually thought that Decibel was turning a corner when they featured Machine Head on the cover of their last issue, but other than that their 2014 list confirms that Decibel’s music just isn’t my music.

    1. HAHAHA! Awful, right?!

      We covered Horrendous back in 2011 or 2012. They were the first band who I credited naming the band to fit the sound. …We didn’t really feel that we needed to spend more time with them…

  3. Yeah, there are are shortcomings for sure, but as I mentioned when I first started the review – I still love the majority of the album and MH continues to be the best example of straight up American Metal out there at the moment. My criticisms were more of “concerns” compared to other recent outputs.

    You win on the Opeth thing. Pale Communion was much better than Heritage as we noted when we reviewed it. Call it hyperbolic, call it “being Kyle” – I was just using it against my overall impressions between Soen and recent Opeth. …Heritage is still shit.

    And, yeah, Sky-eract.

  4. Regarding Machine Head’s Bloodstone & Diamonds, I haven’t even listened to it yet. Not that I don’t want to, but I am really trying to stick to listening to recent releases in the order they were released. So that means I’m still listening to At The Gates, Beyond Creation, and Devin Townsend. I’ll get to Machine Head shortly, but it will take me a few weeks to get through all the recent albums to ensure that I know where these fit in at the end of the year.

    There’s an awful lot of things that “didn’t work” for Nick on Bloodstone & Diamonds for an album that gets a 5.

    I’m a Locust guy, as that’s my favorite Machine Head album. Then Blackening, then Ashes.

    Which has a better ring to it: Sky-eract or Tesser-harbor?

    No teaser for next week’s reviews? I’m hoping next week’s reviews still include a couple of proggy albums that were released this past week.

    You probably knew you were asking for this when you said it, but Pale Communion by Opeth is NOT shitty! You both gave it a 3 when you reviewed it. Wow, if a 3 of an album is shitty then you listened to shit ton of shitty albums this year. I’m sure you’ll be reading about Pale Communion more in the next several weeks, as I have a feeling I’m not the only person who will have it on their year end list.

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