The Blackening

Last updated
The Blackening
Machine Head - The Blackening.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 27, 2007
RecordedAugust – November 2006
StudioSharkbite Studios, Oakland, California
Label Roadrunner
Producer Robb Flynn
Machine Head chronology
The Blackening
The Black Procession
Singles from The Blackening
  1. "Aesthetics of Hate"
    Released: April 3, 2007
  2. "Now I Lay Thee Down"
    Released: October 2, 2007
  3. "Halo"
    Released: May 13, 2008

The Blackening is the sixth album by American band Machine Head. Released on March 27, 2007 in the U.S., The Blackening sold 16,000 units in its first week, and became Machine Head's second highest charting release at number 54 on the Billboard 200, and charted in the Top 20 throughout many countries in the rest of the world. The Blackening has been certified silver by the BPI for sales in the UK in excess of 60,000 copies. [1]

Machine Head (band) American metal band

Machine Head is an American heavy metal band from Oakland, California. The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce. The band's aggressive musicianship made it one of the pioneering bands in the new wave of American heavy metal, and it is also considered to be part of the second wave of thrash metal bands from the 1990s. Machine Head's current lineup comprises Flynn and bassist Jared MacEachern. Duce, guitarists Logan Mader, Ahrue Luster and Phil Demmel and drummers Tony Costanza, Chris Kontos and Dave McClain are former members of the band; Mader and Kontos are currently touring with the band as part of the 25th anniversary tour for its first album, Burn My Eyes (1994).

The Billboard 200 is a record chart ranking the 200 most popular music albums and EPs in the United States. It is published weekly by Billboard magazine. It is frequently used to convey the popularity of an artist or groups of artists. Often, a recording act will be remembered by its "number ones", those of their albums that outperformed all others during at least one week. The chart grew from a weekly top 10 list in 1956 to become a top 200 in May 1967, and acquired its present title in March 1992. Its previous names include the Billboard Top LPs (1961–72), Billboard Top LPs & Tape (1972–84), Billboard Top 200 Albums (1984–85) and Billboard Top Pop Albums.


The album's first single "Aesthetics of Hate", is a retaliation to an article written by William Grim for the website Iconoclast. Titled "Aesthetics Of Hate: R.I.P. Dimebag Abbott, & Good Riddance", the article praised the murder of guitarist Dimebag Darrell. Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn said the song was written as a "fuck you" to Grim and tribute to Dimebag. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Metal Performance" at the 50th Grammy Awards. The text in the mirror of the album's cover reads "the mirror which flatters not." The song "Beautiful Mourning" has been featured as a playable song in the video game Guitar Hero: Metallica .

"Aesthetics of Hate" is a song by heavy metal band Machine Head from its sixth studio album The Blackening. Written by Machine Head vocalist and guitarist Robert Flynn, the song is a retaliation to an article written by William Grim. Grim wrote that late guitarist Dimebag Darrell was "an ignorant, barbaric, untalented possessor of a guitar", among other comments which angered Flynn deeply enough to write the song. It was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 50th Grammy Awards.

Columbus nightclub shooting Murder of Dimebag Darrell and three others in a mass shooting

On December 8, 2004, four people were murdered and three others were wounded in a mass shooting at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy metal musician Dimebag Darrell, the main target of the attack, was on stage with his band Damageplan when the shooting took place. The perpetrator, 25-year-old Nathan Gale, was shot and killed by police officer James Niggemeyer while holding a wounded victim hostage.

Dimebag Darrell American musician and songwriter

Darrell Lance Abbott, best known by his stage name Dimebag Darrell, was an American musician and songwriter. He was the guitarist of the heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan, both of which he co-founded alongside his brother Vinnie Paul. He was one of the driving forces behind the development of groove metal, and is considered one of the most influential guitarists in heavy metal history.


The inaugural song written for Machine Head's follow up to their 2003 release Through the Ashes of Empires was entitled "Godfather 4". This was in reference to a guitar riff in the song which vocalist Robert Flynn felt had "a Godfather type vibe". The song was shelved, although the riff resurfaced in a b-side. [2] "Slanderous" was the first song finished that was in the final track listing. By February 2005, Machine Head had penned rough versions of "Beautiful Mourning" and "Aesthetics of Hate". [2]

<i>Through the Ashes of Empires</i> 2003 studio album by Machine Head

Through the Ashes of Empires is the fifth studio album by groove metal band Machine Head. The band moved away from the nu metal genre featured on their previous two albums, and towards the style of their debut Burn My Eyes and their second album The More Things Change... It was released in the UK, Europe and Australia on the Roadrunner Records International label on December 16, 2003. At this stage, Machine Head still did not have an American record deal, having parted ways with Roadrunner Records US after the Supercharger album was released. Through The Ashes of Empires was such a success that Roadrunner Records US, in an unprecedented move, quickly offered Machine Head a new contract and the album finally reached North America on April 20, 2004. This album was also the first album to feature guitarist Phil Demmel, until his departure in 2018.

<i>The Godfather</i> 1972 US film directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo's best-selling novel of the same name. It stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning 1945 to 1955, chronicles the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.


A November 2005 demo contained thirteen songs, which included rough versions of "Aesthetics of Hate" and "Halo". "Aesthetics of Hate" contained what Flynn described as a "totally fucking lame "Angel of Death" rip off. I hated it every time we played it so I was glad to see that part go!" [2] In mid August 2006, Machine Head announced that the title of their sixth studio effort would be The Blackening. [3] Flynn and drummer Dave McClain spent August 18 and 19 jamming together, fine tuning songs chosen for the album and performing pre-production. [4] Phil Demmel resumed lead guitar duties and Adam Duce returned as bassist.

"Angel of Death" is the opening track on the American thrash metal band Slayer's 1986 album Reign in Blood. The lyrics and music were written by guitarist Jeff Hanneman. They detail the Nazi physician Josef Mengele's human experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.

Pre-production is the process of planning some of the elements involved in a film, play, or other performance. There are three parts in a production: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production ends when the planning ends and the content starts being produced.

Phil Demmel American guitarist

Phil Demmel is a musician, who played lead guitar in American heavy metal band Machine Head between 2002 and 2018, making him their longest running member in that position. He was also a founding member of Vio-lence, which also included Machine Head guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn. Demmel was also a member of Torque.

Machine Head entered Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California on August 21 to begin recording The Blackening, with Flynn assuming production duties for the second time. From twenty six written songs, the selection was whittled down to eight. [4] McClain completed the drum tracks to six of the eight tracks on August 25, followed by the remaining two the next day. [5] Tracking concluded on November 16, 2006. [6]

Oakland, California City in California, United States

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth most populated city in California, and the 45th largest city in the United States. With a population of 432,897 as of 2019, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; its Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854, which officially made Oakland a city. Oakland is a charter city.

The band was surprised at the length of "A Farewell to Arms" and "Clenching the Fists of Dissent" running over ten minutes, and wondered if their fans would "be able to get their heads around" what the band was doing. Record company Roadrunner Records hesitated the band's decision to open the album with a ten and a half minute song ("Clenching the Fists of Dissent"), and asked the band questions similar to "Are you sure you don’t want to get into something a little more direct?" [7] The band disregarded the comment and believed the song set the tone musically for the remainder of the album. [7]

In literature, the tone of a literary work expresses the writer's attitude toward or feelings about the subject matter and audience.

Flynn said "Clenching the Fists of Dissent" and "Wolves" were the most difficult songs to construct. [8] For "Clenching", he attributed the difficulty to the amount of tracks; the introduction of the song has 90, including multiple three-part harmony with two guitars, 20 tracks of snare drum, four tracks of kick drum, and military marching cymbals. The song continues with five electric guitars, three acoustic guitars and two bass guitars. Flynn also described the song "Wolves" as difficult because "it's all got to be super tight; there were so many riffs that had to be just locked on down picking". [8] Mark Keaton provided audio engineering, and Colin Richardson mixed the record in London. [8]

Flynn believes the band was naive about the length of songs, and was unconcerned if they would be suitable for radio or MTV, as the band purposely did not want to receive airplay. "Now I Lay Thee Down" has a chorus Flynn describes as "poppy" and added "fucked up lyrics" about one person killing another, and then committing suicide. [9] This was to make the song not suitable for airplay as the band wanted to make a "dark epic record". [9]

Lyrical themes

Lyrical themes explored on The Blackening include love, war, organized religion, anger towards society, and Machine Head's "winner take all" spirit. The album's first single, "Aesthetics of Hate", is a retaliation that captures the band's anger towards an article written by William Grim for the conservative web site Titled "Aesthetics of Hate: R.I.P. Dimebag Abbott, & Good Riddance", the article praised the murder of Dimebag Darrell by Nathan Gale, while Darrell was performing with Damageplan on December 8, 2004. Grim wrote Darrell was "an ignorant, barbaric, untalented possessor of a guitar" who looks "more simian than human" and is "part of a generation that has confused sputum with art and involuntary reflex actions with emotion". [10] After reading the article, Flynn was furious and wrote the song to send a message to Grim implying "fuck you", and pay tribute to Dimebag. He created a post on the band's message board soon after the event describing his friendship with Dimebag. [10]

"What would YOU know about love or values? What would YOU know about giving to the world? All that you know is teaching prejudice, and your heart is as black as the 'ignorant, filthy, and hideously ugly, heavy metal fans' you try and paint in your twisted, fictitious ramblings. It's because of people like YOU, that there are Nathan Gale's in this world, NOT the Dimebags and metal musicians who work to unite people through music". [10]

Robb Flynn speaks about William Grim who wrote an article praising Dimebag Darrell's murder.

The songs "Clenching the Fists of Dissent", "A Farewell to Arms" (probably a reference to Ernest Hemingway's novel of the same title, A Farewell to Arms , which is set during the first World War), and "Halo" deal with politics, the war in Iraq, and organized religion respectively. The band wrote the lyrics about the Iraq War after conducting research and found that "a lot of stuff does not add up", [8] according to Flynn, which angered the band. Machine Head's debut album, Burn My Eyes , featured a similar song titled "A Thousand Lies" which dealt with the Gulf War. "Slanderous" deals with hate that still exists throughout society and "Wolves" addresses the band's competitive "winner takes all" spirit. [11] "Now I Lay Thee Down" features a Romeo and Juliet -esque love story about one person killing another person, and then killing themselves. The song relates to the William Shakespeare play, Romeo & Juliet, where at the end of the story, two lovers kill themselves because they assume that their lover is dead. The original lyrics to the chorus of the song were considered "poppy" by Flynn and his band-mates, so they intentionally changed the lyrics so it wouldn't get radio play.


Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [12]
Allmusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [13] 9.5/10 [14]
Blender Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [15]
IGN 8.4/10 [16]
Kerrang! Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[ citation needed ]
MusicOMH Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [17]
PopMatters 8/10 [18]

The Blackening received critical acclaim. reviewer Don Kaye awarded the album an almost perfect score of 9.5 out of 10, saying: "one of the purest, finest, most powerful expressions of modern heavy metal released". [14] Kaye praised the guitar work of Flynn and Demmel on the tracks "Beautiful Mourning" and "Aesthetics of Hate", and thought the band members surpassed their musical ability in an "intense and dynamic way". [14]

Thom Jurek of Allmusic described the album as "an over the top rage and pummelfest with all the qualities that earned the group its enormous fan base by touring and recording" and that the thrash metal element "rivals Slayer at their best". [13] Rock Sound magazine reviewer Eleanor Goodman awarded the album 9 out of 10, praising the first two minutes of the opening song, "Clenching the Fists of Dissent", as "a full-on old-skool thrash attack". [19]

"Aesthetics of Hate" received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Metal Performance" at the 50th Grammy Awards, which took place on February 12, 2008. Though heavily favored, they controversially lost to eventual winners Slayer who had won the previous year for the same album (other nominees in the category were King Diamond, Shadows Fall, and As I Lay Dying). [20] At the fifth annual Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards and at the Kerrang! Awards in 2007, The Blackening won best album over albums by Slayer and Lamb of God. [21] The album also won a 2007 Danish Metal Award for International Album of the Year. [22]

Three years after the release of The Blackening, Machine Head wrapped their touring cycle for the album, finishing in Sydney, Australia on 28 March. In February 2010, The Blackening was awarded the Album of the Decade award from Metal Hammer. [23] On October 8, 2011, the album was voted Roadrunner Records "Album of the Century" in a poll. [24]

Chart performance

Flynn performing at a concert promoting The Blackening RobFLynn.jpg
Flynn performing at a concert promoting The Blackening

The Blackening was leaked on to the Internet two weeks before its release by an American journalist who received an advanced copy. Demmel thought it unfortunate, but that it created a "pre-buzz", as did Flynn who thought the buzz was nothing like the band had before; "There’s internet street buzz vs. record company hype and if the hype matches up to the street buzz, then you’re seeing a lot of bands selling a lot of records in the first week". [25] The Blackening became Machine Head's highest charting release in the United States, where it entered the Top Rock albums at No. 9, and the Billboard 200 at No. 54 (their highest charting and first week ever), with sales of almost 16,000 copies. This improved on the band's 2004 release, Through the Ashes of Empires, which sold 12,000 units in its first week, and entered the Billboard 200 at No. 88.

The album did exceptionally well overseas where it entered the Mainstream Top 20 in the German and Belgium charts at No. 12, No. 14 in Australia, No. 16 in the United Kingdom and No. 19 in Sweden. Charting positions below the Top 20 consisted of Ireland at No. 23, No. 29 in the Netherlands, No. 34 in France and No. 55 in Italy. [26] The Blackening sold more copies in two weeks than Through the Ashes of Empires sold in three years. [27]

Cover art and special edition

The artwork for The Blackening was designed by Robb Flynn, longtime Machine Head collaborator Paul Brown, and Deanna Alcorn. Based on an engraving from the 16th century, it conveys the recurring Christian themes of the temporary nature of worldly power. It features a skeleton on a throne, covered in symbols and trappings of royalty. The skeleton bears a mirror with the words "The mirrour (sic) which flatters not." Flynn thought "this whole record is like holding up a mirror to ourselves. It's talking about things that are going on now, but it's not necessarily specific to this time." [28]

Three special editions of The Blackening were released: a two-LP gatefold vinyl, a two-disc special edition packaged in a silver foil-enhanced slipcase, with a bonus Metallica cover added to the end of the album. The second disc was a DVD featuring a video entitled The Making of The Blackening, and a 2006 tour diary of the Sounds of the Underground Tour. Both of these versions were released in 2007.[ citation needed ]

The third version, released in 2008, was a 3-disc set which came with the original album, a CD featuring various covers the band had recorded in the past, demos and other unreleased material and a DVD which featured various live performances of the band at festivals, the Burn My Eyes 10th anniversary show and music videos from The Blackening accompanied by their "making's of".[ citation needed ]

Track listing

1."Clenching the Fists of Dissent" Robert Flynn Flynn, Dave McClain, Phil Demmel 10:37
2."Beautiful Mourning"FlynnFlynn, Demmel4:46
3."Aesthetics of Hate"Flynn, Adam Duce Flynn6:30
4."Now I Lay Thee Down"FlynnFlynn, Demmel5:35
5."Slanderous"FlynnFlynn, Demmel5:17
6."Halo"FlynnFlynn, McClain, Duce, Demmel9:03
7."Wolves"FlynnFlynn, Demmel, Duce9:01
8."A Farewell to Arms"Flynn, Duce, DemmelFlynn, Demmel10:13


Writing, performance, and production credits were adapted from the album's liner notes. [29]


Machine Head


Visual art

  • Alex Solca – photography
  • Bau-da Design – package design
  • Deanna Alcorn – package design
  • Robb Flynn – package design



Australian Albums (ARIA) [30] 14
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria) [31] 19
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders) [32] 52
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia) [33] 74
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) [34] 29
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista) [35] 33
French Albums (SNEP) [36] 36
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100) [37] 12
Irish Albums (IRMA) [38] 23
Italian Albums (FIMI) [39] 55
Japanese Albums (Oricon) [40] 59
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista) [41] 36
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE) [42] 79
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan) [43] 19
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade) [44] 29
UK Albums (OCC) [45] 16
US Billboard 200 [46] 54


RegionCertification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI) [47] Silver60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

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