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Machine Head 

Through the Ashes of Empires (Roadrunner)

Machine Head's last disc, Supercharger, was a big comeback from the wackness that was The Burning Red. Now Through the Ashes of Empires, its fifth studio album, ups the ante again. Other, younger bands are plenty heavy, but Machine Head is simply crushing.

Through the Ashes is a reunion record for vocalist Robb Flynn; the guitar slot's been filled by Phil Demmel, an old bandmate from 1980s thrash act Violence. Flynn produced the album, and as he did last time, Colin Richardson mixed it. The results are awe-inspiring: The guitars hit like concrete slabs falling from the sky, and the drums are like battering rams. No bullshit about it; this album's precisely targeted destruction gives it more bone-breaking impact than anything since classic Pantera. And it's not just about huge riffs. Machine Head has actually written songs -- and good ones, to boot. The two tracks that open the disc, "Imperium" and "Bite the Bullet," are guaranteed to make crowds crack the floor of any rock barn these guys play.

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