It's an unusual, yet exciting atmosphere that fills Birmingham's O2 Academy tonight, there's no support bands to discuss or wait with baited breath for, instead - everyone in attendance is awaiting a mammoth length set from one of the most coveted, and respected bands to live within the metal community - Machine Head. It makes sense for the quintet to set out on this kind of venture too, with a back catalogue of the most elite status and a new record to boot; how many people are really going to complain about witnessing 25+ Machine Head songs? Despite never quite making it to superstar status in the genre, it's hard to think of metal without Machine Head; and if bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth occupy the top tier slots in the hierarchy of metal history; Machine Head sit just below them headlining the second tier - as they prove tonight with consummate ease. 'Imperium' kicks things off with a familiar, heartwarming, aggressive delight before newer entries into the Machine Head catalogue 'Volatile' from latest album Catharsis and 'Now We Die' give an immediate sense of freshness and eagerness to proceedings. Frontman Rob Flynn strolls round the stage with a colonel like presence, never missing a beat - nailing every guitar line; it's almost like he's been doing this for over 20 years.
Tonight's a night that more than anything; highlights just what a special band Machine Head have been since their debut record Burn My Eyes erupted onto the scene way back in 1994. Fans implode in unison for more under the radar tracks like The Burning Red's 'The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears' and the anthemic 'From This Day' just as much as they do for more recent classics 'Darkness Within' and 'Locust' - there's a flamboyance in this set-list that states the band knew no matter the choices, they were going to have a crowd in the palm of their hands waiting for every next intro: they were right. There's a journey through metal of sorts unfolding in front of you here; there's the dads head banging to the punching chorus of 'Ten Ton Hammer' while there are circle pits aplenty cascading through the night but hitting peak vigour with 'Bulldozer'. Everyone seems to be catered for, and Machine Head are one of the incredibly few bands that offer something for anyone who has a taste for metal. As you'd expect, 'Davidian' completely levels the place, Flynn doesn't even need to put his lips to the mic for the chorus screams of "Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast", the crowd have him covered. It's everything you could want to see from a metal show: aggression, passion, love, devotion, and unity - there are few atmospheres that you could possibly experience that would weigh up to this. This none stop barrage of metal brutality comes to its end with 'Block' and 'Halo', there's been 26 songs of mostly high octane, heavy music here; but there's no signs of exhaustion from band nor crowd - a sign that something truly special happened here. 'Halo' ends things on an emphatic note with arms aloft and lungs at bursting point, a performance that has attempted to span a 24 year career has been well and truly executed here. Perhaps tonight tells you everything you need to know about Machine Head: the stage set-up is nothing overly extravagant, there's no pyro or fireworks. What there is however, is a band of musicians who have spent two and a half decades imprinting their legacy into the hearts of an audience that seems insatiably grateful for their existence, and as time rolls on, Machine Head continue to further cement themselves as one of the best metal bands to ever do it. Score: 9/10