The year 2022 marks a new beginning for Machine Head. Not only is ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN the Bay Area metal band’s first LP with new guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (also of Polish tech-death blasters Decapitated), but it’s also their first concept album. “The story is set in a futuristic, crime-ridden wasteland where the sky is stained crimson,” Machine Head vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter Robb Flynn tells Apple Music. “It revolves around two characters, Ares and Eros. Ares loses the love of his life, Amethyst, and goes on a murderous rampage to avenge her death. Eros loses his mother to a drug overdose, spirals into a depression, and becomes radicalized by a charismatic leader. He goes on his own murderous rampage, which ends up killing Amethyst. The lyrics detail how their lives intertwine.” Inspired by sprawling concept albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, along with the manga comics favored by his kids, Flynn decided to fuse his story with the type of songwriting he did back on Machine Head’s 1994 debut, Burn My Eyes. “One of the things I really focused on was simplifying vocal cadences,” he says. “We did the Burn My Eyes 25th anniversary tour in the lead-up to the writing of this record, and one of the things I realized was that I used a lot less words back then, and it worked really well. So, I took the same approach with this one.” Below, he details each track. “SLAUGHTER THE MARTYR” “This was the only song that could open the album. It’s the impetus of everything. I was trying to imagine it like a movie. My kids were really into manga, so I was reading manga and kind of storyboarding things in my mind like a manga—top to bottom. And this was such an epic opening. It’s so lonely and cinematic that it just seemed that the beginning was the only place it could go. And then, it goes into a classic Machine Head riff, double-bass groove, and sick fucking breakdown.” “CHØKE ØN THE ASHES ØF YØUR HATE” “Lyrically, this continues in a vengeful, violent mood. Exodus’ Bonded by Blood is such a part of my DNA at this point. Gary Holt’s solo in ‘Bonded by Blood’ is the first guitar solo I ever learned to play all the way through, so whenever I’m channeling thrash, it’s always through the eye of, ‘What would Gary Holt do?’ So, this is just a full-on Bay Area thrash metal song—and probably the second-fastest song on the record.” “BECØME THE FIRESTØRM” “Another absolute face-melter. We wanted to have the first three songs be just a murderer’s row punching you in the face. I think this might be the fastest song we’ve ever written. There’s kind of like a black metal-style riff going on in there, but with classic Machine Head grooves in it as well. Lyrically, it’s just about conquering all and fucking smashing through obstacles, but it’s told in this violent, futuristic, crime-ridden landscape.” “ØVERDØSE” “The first three songs are about character number one, and now we’re switching over to character number two. ‘Overdose’ is an interlude that captures his mother overdosing and him freaking out.” “MY HANDS ARE EMPTY” “After his mother overdoses, he starts down this path trying to heal, trying to find redemption. This song is his tipping point in the story. We had already written a lot of songs when we came up with this one, but I remember thinking this was really something different and special—that we could build the whole album around this one song. It became an anchor for the record and became this wild turning point for us in writing the storyline.” “UNHALLØWED” “Character two is in the darkest depression of his life. He’s wandering through this crime-ridden wasteland trying to figure out his lot in life and what he’s going to do. He’s lost, he’s suicidal, and he’s feeling guilt. He’s just trying to process all of it and get through this moment. Musically, it’s a very midtempo song, and our guitar player, Vogg, wrote a bunch of sick riffs for this. I felt like we’ve got a bunch of fucking ragers at the beginning, but I wanted to have more of a head-banger.” “ASSIMILATE”/”KILL THY ENEMIES” “‘ASSIMILATE’ is an interlude that’s basically the intro to ‘KILL THY ENEMIES.’ We’re still going down character number two’s path. Here, he meets this charismatic leader and becomes radicalized by this person. And this is kind of the beginning of his dark path. Musically, my bass player, Jared [MacEachern], wrote the main riff. He’s really the unsung hero of the record—he wrote a lot of awesome riffs, cool vocal melodies, and some great lyrics. This one has that pounding, tribal, ’90s Machine Head kind of groove, for sure.” “NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS” “This is the two characters coming together. I think it’s one of the most melodic tracks on the record—it’s got a really haunting melody. This one was the result of these Electric Happy Hours we did during the pandemic, where we did 130 live streams just playing cover songs, and a lot of them were way outside of our box—like Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, and Bob Marley. That process opened up these new avenues for what we could do and got our harmonizing really locked in, and I feel like we really brought that to the forefront on this song.” “BLØØDSHØT” “This is another full-on rager. There’s no clean singing, and it’s just a killer uptempo groove. This is another song that Vogg contributed to. He brought some awesome riffs to the table and some sick leads, so this was definitely a collab between him and I.” “RØTTEN” “This is a song that I feel really came out of the Burn My Eyes anniversary tour. When I was coming up with these riffs, I just wanted to have one of those fucking old-school, early-’90s chugs. In my mind, it’s got a kind of Fabulous Disaster-era Exodus feel. I don’t wanna say anything about this one lyrically—I’d rather let people figure that out for themselves.” “TERMINUS” “I wanted the storyline to kind of go into an area where the listener is like, ‘Wait, what happened?’ I wanted this last interlude to put the listener in a place where, if they hadn’t been engaged in the story up ’til now, they’ve really gotta listen to the words and engage.” “ARRØWS IN WØRDS FRØM THE SKY” “This is arguably the most melodic song we’ve ever written. It’s all harmonies, nearly all clean singing, and maybe one of the most epic songs we’ve ever done. I also think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written—I’m really proud of this song. I feel like it ends the record on a little bit of a hopeful note. It’s weird because I’ve never wanted to do that in my life. I always want to end records on fury and anger or depression and death and sadness because that’s where our lyrical topics kind of hang. But I’ve never written about love and how it makes you do crazy things.”


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