"Interesting". A word that has been bandied around about this album as soon as it started trickling in to the inboxes of the music media world. The word began to pick up further traction as Machine Head released a series of new tracks to an absolute myriad of mixed responses. In one corner you had the Machine Head nuts who will run through walls and circle pit if Robb Flynn simply farted in to a microphone, in the other you had people relentlessly picking each track apart asking why none of it sounded like Davidian. Then you've got your group in the middle of it all who have simply ended up a little apathetic. To be frank right from the off, Machine Head have really gone for it as far as trying something new, and in the most part it just hasn't hit the spot. They should absolutely be applauded for exploring their art exactly how they want, and Robb Flynn will be the first to tell you he doesn't give a shit whether you like it or not, but to talk about this album like it is complex, interesting (there's that word again) and challenging as if we're talking about a sprawling musical masterpiece is beyond wide of the mark.
The opening few numbers houses the only true set of highlights on the record. Volatile in to the title track in to one of the first singles released Beyond The Pale provides a good dose of Machine Head mixing things up with their incredibly distinctive heavy riff-work alongside a decent level of melody - all of which will probably prove to be good additions to their set-lists on this particular cycle. From here though it all just spirals out of control, and not in a good way. The main issue this record has is the incredible lack of focus. The band actually sound like they're clawing from one thing to the next in quite a forced manner of exploring new boundaries. What it has ended up sounding like is a b-sides compilation you'd get as part of a deluxe package for a live album. At a time where there is a new age of bands smashing through and grabbing the heavy scene both figuratively and literally by the throat, Machine Head sound wildly out of depth throughout Catharsis.
Never mind some of the general blandness and lyrics that will make you cringe so hard it will feel like you're having some form of seizure (ahem.. Triple Beam), the actual production on the record is also very poor. There isn't ever really a point where you feel enveloped by that characteristic Machine Head power and force which is truly disappointing. When you're barely hitting the mark and good moments are few and far between it doesn't help that the record feels like it drags on and on and on as well - certainly should have been a far more liberal approach with the cutting knife.
Overall then, considering what we all know Machine Head are capable of there's absolutely no hiding the fact that this is an anticlimactic effort. We're not against them running down a completely new avenue, as musicians they have every right to explore their artistic capabilities, but with that comes the risk of opening yourself up to criticism, criticism which for the most part is absolutely justified here. For us we've sat on this record for several weeks now and we've absolutely heeded the almost incessant levels of "please make sure you give this album time" type advice which in all honesty has only helped fuel the overall indifference. It'll be interesting to see where this'll fit in the wider spectrum of the Machine Head legacy.