Stepping Stone: Machine Head’s Supercharger

I’m off the awkward age where I sit a few years older than a good portion of the staff here, but I’m not as old as some of

6 years ago

I’m off the awkward age where I sit a few years older than a good portion of the staff here, but I’m not as old as some of the relics kicking about here either. This middling age means that I was finding my feet as a metalhead when metal was having a complete identity crisis. The turn of the century was a total cluster fuck in terms of the band’s that were blowing up and the bands playing catch up. One such band was Machine Head. Fresh from the garish nightmare of The Burning Red, the Robb Flynn machine pushed on with Supercharger. These are my words in defense of this record. I’m also gonna call it out for its shit too, don’t worry.

Past Opinion:

Supercharger was the pinnacle of heavy music in my twelve year old eyes. I remember thinking that nothing could ever sound as dark and catchy. The first single “Crashing Around You” might have had limited play in the States but it made a big dent on my music TV habits. At an age where anything with fire, “epic” choruses and hard guitars was sweet, sweet music to my ears, this band had it all for me. I dragged my old man to get me the album and by the time the car journey home had come to an end, I was so hooked. Line and sinker. “Bulldozer” kicked my ass with it’s breakneck start and low slung, low end groove. I seriously thought it was going to be my favourite song for the rest of time. I was wrong. Obviously. It was still a nice feeling to have at the time though. The whole record was full of punky attitude, thrash feels and dirty riffs. I was in heaven.

Robb Flynn’s voice was a big part of why I loved Supercharger too. Switching between angelic cleans and a rough around the edges snarl, Flynn was shaking the foundations of metal for me. His vocal style and techniques reminded me of the KoRn that I had heard at this point, but I liked this more. It didn’t seem so whiny and forced. Instead it seemed honest, open and felt way more intense. The whispered passages of “Only The Names” and “Deafening Silence” felt spooky and serious and it was unlike any other metal vocal performance I had heard at the time. Before, I thought metal had to be loud. Didn’t matter whether it was screeched, screamed or grunted, before Supercharger I didn’t know it was okay to sing softly over heavy music.

Present Opinion:

Aw man. I think I was already smoking crack at that age. This album really sucks. I mean, almost every riff sounds like Slipknot B-sides from their debut. It’s only “Crashing Around You” and “Only The Names” that saves the record even slightly. Flynn’s delivery on his gritty, hardcore style rapping is woeful and wonderfully misguided. Who let this guy believe that he had the phrasing skill to spit over jerky guitar riffs and hip-hop style drum beats? Who thought any of it was a good idea? I don’t know what I find more offensive. Is it the minimal effort, three note riffs and thin pissy breakdowns? Nah, I think it’s more the fact that at some point, all of my concentrated time and energy was put into learning every word and every moment of this album. I don’t often wish for a time machine but in this case, fuck it. I wouldn’t go back to change any significant world event. I’d jump back to 2001/2002 and tell my idealistic young self to go buy Dirt or Vulgar Display Of Power instead. Idiot.

OK. I’m being a bit too harsh on myself. Possibly a bit too harsh on Flynn and co. as well. Supercharger is still a better record than The Burning Red. Not that big a compliment considering how big a turd that album really is, but a compliment none the less. “Crashing Around You” is still a beast of a single, fifteen years later. The production on this record is still pretty nifty also. I do love how tight the drums sound when smashing in unison with the thicker than shit bass tone. The band’s use of every studio trick and tool to try and create an atmosphere out of next to nothing still holds a candle to more recent material too. It was a bold attempt at mashing the nu metal style of the time with the thrash and groove that Machine Head entered the world with. I’m not going to be spinning itagain any time soon but this record still had a huge impact on me as a young metal fan. That I will not forget any time soon.

Matt MacLennan

Published 6 years ago