By Dave Pehling
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Influential ’90s metal band Machine Head brings their Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary Tour to Oakland Friday night for a three-hour marathon of heavy music spanning the band’s career.
Founded in 1991 by Robb Flynn, the former guitarist with thrash-metal act Vio-Lence, Machine Head would become one of the most influential new metal bands to emerge from the Bay Area during the 1990s. Teaming with bassist Adam Duce, guitarist Logan Mader and drummer Tony Costanza. Flynn developed a groove-heavy style of metal informed by the aggression of thrash and the socially conscious vitriol of punk that got Machine Head signed to Roadrunner Records on the strength of their first demo.
New drummer Chris Kontos — a founding member of the crossover thrash-punk band Attitude Adjustment who also played with Verbal Abuse — would join the fold just as the band started recording its debut album Burn My Eyes. One of the seminal efforts of ’90s metal, the 1994 recording quickly established the group as a new force with such corrosive anthems as opening salvo “Davidian” (referencing the Waco Siege), “Old” and “A Thousand Lies.” A European tour supporting Slayer after the album’s release expanded Machine Head’s fanbase on a global scale; by early 1995, they were headlining the same arenas they had played as openers only months before.
Though Kontos would depart that year (he was eventually replaced by drummer Dave McLain) band continued to refine its downtuned groove metal on sophomore album album The More Things Change… in 1997, building on its already substantial following. The group would see more changes between that effort and its next with Mader leaving Machine Head during the initial touring for the album (guitarist Ahrue Luster would take his place) prior to the quartet’s collaboration with nu-metal producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit) on The Burning Red in 1999. Another commercial hit, the recording had some detractors among fans over the shift in vocals that incorporated rapping and a more melodic, clean delivery as well as the late ’90s image the band adopted.
Machine Head would struggle to find its footing over the next few years, parting ways with Roadrunner after the lackluster Supercharger in 2001 and the in-concert document Hellalive in 2003. The band eventually returned to it’s earlier, more aggressive approach after Flynn’s former Vio-Lence partner Phil Demmel joined for the recording of Through the Ashes of Empire. The quartet reached new creative heights in 2007 with The Blackening, an ambitious album full of complex, epic metal tunes that many critics hailed as its greatest achievement yet.
Flynn and company have kept up a steady output of quality metal ever since, even with founding bassist Duce leaving in 2013 and the more recent departures of Demmel and McLain. While he has convened a new line-up of the band featuring guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka (of the Polish death metal band Decapitated), British drummer Matt Alston (Devilment, Eastern Front) and longtime bassist Jared MacEachern and has released a pair of new songs, last year Flynn and the group launched the unique Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary Tour in Europe.
The marathon shows featuring Machine Head’s current line-up bashing out an array of the band’s hits for a full set prior to Flynn and MacEachern being joined by Mader and Kontos to perform Burn My Eyes in its entirety played sold-out arenas across the UK and Europe last fall. The band embarked on a U.S. leg of the tour last month and brings the blistering three-hour-plus show to Oakland for a hometown celebration of metal at the Fox Theater Friday night.
Machine Head: Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary
Friday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m. $39.50-$49.50