MACHINE HEAD's ROBB FLYNN On 'Of Kingdom And Crown': 'It's Really A Very, Very Guitar-Heavy, Ferocious Album'August 22, 2022
In a new interview with Rock Sound, MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn spoke about the production of the band's tenth studio album, "Of Kingdom And Crown", which will be released on August 26 via Nuclear Blast/Imperium Recordings. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It was Zack [Ohren] and I doing the production again, and then it was Colin Richardson and Chris Clancy mixing it, which added a whole other level of just ferocity to the whole thing.
"I think the approach with this one was a little more stripped down," he explained. "The last few records that we've done, from '[Unto The] Locust'  on, have been a lot of classical bits, a lot of symphonic elements and even keyboards here and there kind of adding these soundscapes and ambient stuff. And with this I just really wanted to kind of strip it back and make it more just like guitars. If it was gonna be a soundscapey-type sound, it was just gonna be a guitar making that sound. And it kind of limits you in a way, but I liked that — I liked that it was kind of forcing us… And I did try to experiment with a couple of buddies who I had worked with forever to try and bring in some of that pianos or keys or strings or whatever, and it just made it… I don't know. I didn't like what it did to it; it just kind of softened it up in a way that I didn't dig. And so it's really a very, very guitar-heavy, ferocious album."
The follow-up to 2018's "Catharsis", "Of Kingdom And Crown" includes the three songs that were featured on last year's "Arrows In Words From The Sky" single: "Become The Firestorm", "Rotten" and "Arrows In Words From The Sky". Much of the new MACHINE HEAD album was recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California.
Back in December 2021, drummer Navene Koperweis (ANIMALS AS LEADERS, ENTHEOS, ANIMOSITY) joined Flynn, bassist/backing vocalist Jared MacEachern and Ohren at Sharkbite Studios to jam on the final tracks for "Of Kingdom And Crown" and add some finishing touches to the songs.
Last month, Flynn told El Cuartel Del Metal about the lyrical inspiration for "Of Kingdom And Crown": "The concept is set in a futuristic wasteland where the sky is always crimson red, and it's based around two characters. Character number one is named Ares [pronounced Aries], and he loses the love of his life, Amethyst, and goes on a murderous rampage against the people who killed her. Character number two is Eros [pronounced Arrows], who loses his mother to a drug overdose and, in his downward spiral, depression, becomes radicalized by this charismatic leader and goes on his own killing spree and is one of the people who killed Amethyst. And so the lyrics detail how their lives intertwine. The opening track, 'Slaughter The Martyr', is essentially… it's the origin story for character number one. He's just lost the love of his life and he's in just a murderous, venomous rampage and revenge is all he's thinking about. And so the story unfolds from there."
As for how he was inspired by the Japanese anime series called "Attack On Titan" for the new MACHINE HEAD album, Flynn said: "When I first started writing the concept, it was a very American story arc: it was good guy, bad guy, good guy wins. And I wasn't connecting to it. It was good, but I couldn't connect to it; I couldn't get any kind of emotion out of it. And then my family, my kids started watching — I've got two two teenage boys and they both started watching a lot of anime over the pandemic. And we were all locked up anyway and we couldn't go out.
"I used to be a total anime nerd when I was their age — 'Akira' and 'Space [Battleship] Yamato' and 'Robotech' and all these anime series. So to see them go through this same thing, I was just, like, 'Dude, this is rad.' And of course, it's now modern and it's super bloody, and it was even better. So I was, like, 'Let's watch this together. I'll fucking totally watch this with you.' So we started watching it. And one of the things about that particular series — 'Attack On Titan' — the part that inspired me was in that series there is no good or bad guy; both sides believe they're doing good, but both sides are committing evil and atrocities. And that was like a total lightbulb going off in my head. I was, like, 'Oh, wow. I can maybe write it like that.'
"So then… here I am writing through… Now I'm writing through not just one character's eyes but a polar opposite character's eyes. And for a guy who's written nine albums pretty much solely through my eyes — my experiences; the way I see the world — now to have to try and write through these other characters, it was really cool," he added. "It was really interesting and it just made the whole experience awesome."
Asked if there was any research involved in writing the lyrics for "Of Kingdom And Crown" or if it was all just in his head, Robb said: "It was just in my head. Jared wrote a lot of lyrics too — Jared contributed quite a bit of lyrics, and we bounced a lot of ideas off of each other. He came up with some great melodies, some great lyrics. But it really was just about constantly writing and just consistently waking up… Most of this record was written at three in the morning. [Laughs] I'm a total night owl — I wake up at 3 a.m. almost every night and I just do work or I write or whatever. So I just would set a timer for 20 minutes and I would just write anything that came to my mind — dumb shit, killer shit. I would just try and make everything rhyme; I would try and make a sequence out of it. And then I would just go back to bed and then wake up and look at it the next morning and then I would either sing it or try and mess around with it. And I think just doing it, kind of just chipping away at it like that every day, really helped the story come together."
Flynn previously told Metal Hammer magazine about the musical direction of the new MACHINE HEAD material: "It's similar to [2003's 'Through The Ashes Of Empires' and 2007's 'The Blackening'] in that we're moving forward into something fresh and new but it's got that classic MACHINE HEAD vibe. We have a lot to deliver and expectations are very high, so I'm lucky to have great people surrounding me. Jared really stepped up and wrote some great riffs and great vocals. Vogg [guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka] contributed a few ideas and brought some really great songs."
He continued: "It's fucking heavy, probably the heaviest we've been in a few albums. I've been playing so much guitar recently; I do Electric Happy Hours every Friday and sometimes you play a song you haven't played in 10, 20 years, or go through a whole album from top to bottom. When we toured 'Burn My Eyes', it took me back to where I was writing that music. I don't think I can ever be in that place again lyrically, but riff-wise, I think that all spilled into this album."
This past February, MacEachern told Primordial Radio about his contributions to MACHINE HEAD's new album: "I think that I was very aware from day one that Robb is the leader, he's the creative leader, the musical leader… We all have our inputs but I think it's always understood that ultimately the decision is up to him for how things go. But, yeah, I definitely made contributions and I feel great about those contributions and I'm asked about my opinion on certain things. But, like I said, I'm following his lead."
As for the sound of the new MACHINE HEAD LP, Jared said: "It's a pretty — to use Robb's word… I believe he used the word 'colossal' the other day. It's a pretty big-, epic-sounding album. I've been listening, sitting down, taking the time to listen to it all the way through, and the way it goes, it's a ride — a really great, heavy, beautiful, melodic, raging, thrashing ride."
In November 2020, MACHINE HEAD released a single, "My Hands Are Empty", via Nuclear Blast. The song marked the first musical collaboration between Flynn and original "Burn My Eyes" guitarist Logan Mader in 24 years.
"My Hands Are Empty" was just one in a line of singles to be released by MACHINE HEAD, which issued "Do Or Die" in October 2019, "Circle The Drain" in February 2020, and the two-song digital single "Civil Unrest", consisting of "Stop The Bleeding" and "Bulletproof", in June 2020. "Stop The Bleeding" featured guest vocals from KILLSWITCH ENGAGE frontman Jesse Leach, and was written and recorded just days after the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
MACHINE HEAD will team up with Sweden's Viking metal overlords AMON AMARTH for a co-headline "Vikings And Lionhearts" European arena tour in September and October. Support on the trek will come from THE HALO EFFECT, the new band featuring five former members of IN FLAMES: Peter Iwers, Daniel Svensson, Jesper Strömblad, Niclas Engelin and Mikael Stanne.
"Catharsis" was the final album to feature guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain, who both left MACHINE HEAD in October 2018.
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