Ex-MACHINE HEAD Guitarist PHIL DEMMEL Says Some Songs On 'The Blackening' Would Not Have Happened Without His Contributions

September 19, 2020

Former MACHINE HEAD guitarist Phil Demmel says that he is proud of his contributions to the band's "The Blackening" album.

Released in 2007, the Grammy-nominated LP was recognized three years later by the U.K.'s Metal Hammer as the "Album Of The Decade". The magazine said at the time that "The Blackening" "not only re-established MACHINE HEAD as one of the most important metal bands on the planet, but also made a mockery of the increasingly popular notion that the age of the album is dead."

Speaking to the "Aftershocks" podcast, Demmel said (see video below): "People hail ['The Blackening'] as this huge thing. The dudes in METALLICA were really inspired by that record, and I had a lot to do with that record, whether it's credited or not, or recently discredited on [MACHINE HEAD's] web site. A lot of those songs don't happen without my contributions.

"The way that I wrote back in the earlier parts, and throughout my MACHINE HEAD career, was I tried to come up with as much of a song as I could, because I knew once I brought it in, it would get finished or moved in a direction or whatever," he explained. "So a song like 'A Farewell To Arms', I was the catalyst for that; I brought in the intro. And 'Slanderous' was the first song that I wrote for that record. Songs like that, and 'Beautiful Mourning', those songs were all brought in by me. The beginning to 'Now I Lay Thee Down', the beginning was brought in by me, and then we'd collaborate later."

Demmel added: "These are all songs that don't happen — whether I wrote 20% or end up getting credited for how much, the other parts just don't come. They come from this nucleus that is formed when it's brought in, and those were my contributions in that sense."

This past March, MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn celebrated the 13th anniversary of "The Blackening" by hopping on Facebook Live to stream an impromptu guitar run-through of some of the LP's deeper cuts. The band also acknowledged the anniversary in an e-mail blast to its mailing list, stating the following, in part, about the record: "While ex-guitarist Phil Demmel is often viewed in the media as the savior of the band, 85% of the material on 'The Blackening' was written by drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Robb Flynn, with Robb playing all guitars on the album, including rhythm, lead, all intros, harmonies, and all dueling lead guitar harmonies. McClain wrote the main riff in 'Halo' and Robb wrote all of 'Aesthetics Of Hate'."

That same day, Demmel took to his Twitter to apparently address MACHINE HEAD's characterization of his involvement with the record, writing: "13 years ago. Proud of this record and my contributions. 'Beautiful Mourning', 'Slanderous', 'Now I Lay Thee Down' and 'Farewell To Arms' simply do not happen without them. Thanks for all the kind words and continued support from all the Head cases."

When one fan on Twitter told Demmel, "Sad that the email sent out to the mailing list tried to downplay your contributions. That record wouldn't have been what it is without the entire band at the time.", he responded: "Yeah, right? Sometimes ALL of the glory isn't enough."

Demmel announced his exit from MACHINE HEAD in October 2018, explaining at the time that he wanted "to step away and do something else musically." Phil, who first played with Robb in VIO-LENCE in the late 1980s and early 1990s, went on to complete the Flynn-fronted act's "Freaks & Zeroes Tour" before officially leaving the band.

Last year, Demmel told the "In The Pitts Of Metal And Motor Chaos" podcast that MACHINE HEAD ended up becoming a Flynn solo project toward the end of his time with the group. "We weren't a band," he said. "That was Robb's trip, and we were basically just being told what was gonna happen… Everything had changed over time. Shit, we were together for 16 years and stuff changes after that. It's been the band that he started. So things shift, and as they weren't what we agreed to or what we wanted to be a part of, [McClain and I] just left. So we do our own thing, and he does his thing." Demmel also said that the musical side of MACHINE HEAD took a sharp turn for the worse during the writing stage for 2018's "Catharsis", an album that he said he hated.

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