Machine Head: Unto the Locust (2011)

Unto the Locust is Machine Head’s seventh studio album, released on September 27, 2011, by Roadrunner Records. Produced by Robb Flynn, the album showcases a blend of thrash metal and melodic elements, featuring Flynn’s classical guitar influences and a children’s choir on “Who We Are.” Fun facts include Flynn taking classical guitar lessons during the album’s creation and the band’s children contributing to the choir, adding a personal touch to the project.

Machine Head: Unto the Locust (2011) album artwork

Track Listing

  1. I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)
  2. Be Still and Know
  3. Locust
  4. This Is the End
  5. Darkness Within
  6. Pearls Before the Swine
  7. Who We Are

Album length: 48:52

Music genre

Thrash metal, Groove metal

The Lineup for the Album

  • Robb Flynn: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Phil Demmel: lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Adam Duce: bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Dave McClain: drums

Release Date

September 23, 2011

Record Label

Roadrunner Records

Recording Date

April - July 2011

Recording Studio

Jingletown Studios (Oakland, California)

Produced by

Robb Flynn

Album Themes/Concept

Struggle and Overcoming Adversity: One of the primary lyrical themes of “Unto the Locust” is the struggle against adversity and the resilience needed to overcome it. Songs like “Be Still and Know” emphasize inner strength and persistence, drawing inspiration from personal battles and biblical references. The track reflects the band’s encouragement to stay steadfast in the face of challenges, a theme many metalheads can relate to in their personal lives.

Personal and Emotional Turmoil: The album dives deep into personal and emotional turmoil, with tracks such as “Darkness Within” exploring themes of inner darkness and self-reflection. This song, in particular, addresses the cathartic power of music as a means of coping with pain and finding solace amid chaos. Its introspective nature resonates with listeners who use metal as an emotional outlet.

Deception and Betrayal: “Locust” uses the metaphor of a locust swarm to depict individuals who bring destruction into others’ lives through deceit and betrayal. This theme is a vivid portrayal of how toxic relationships can drain one’s resources and spirit, leaving devastation in their wake. The powerful imagery and aggressive tone make it a standout track for those who have faced similar experiences.

Addiction and Despair: “Pearls Before the Swine” deals with the harsh realities of addiction and the despair that accompanies it. The song offers a raw and unflinching look at the grip of substance abuse, painting a bleak picture of its effects. This theme is delivered with a mix of heaviness and melody, capturing the tragic struggle of addiction.

Pyromania and Destruction: “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” opens the album with a tale of pyromania and the fascination with fire and destruction. The multi-part composition tells a story of chaos and destruction, setting the tone for the album with its intense and brutal narrative. This theme appeals to metalheads who appreciate dark, dramatic storytelling.

Unity and Identity: “Who We Are” is an anthem of unity and self-identity, celebrating the strength found in community and shared experiences. The song’s lyrics convey a sense of solidarity and empowerment, making it a rallying cry for metal fans who see themselves as part of a larger, supportive community.

Album Mood

Dark and Intense: The mood of “Unto the Locust” is predominantly dark and intense, capturing the raw emotions and aggressive energy characteristic of Machine Head’s sound. The album opens with the epic “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#),” setting a fierce tone with its brutal riffs and dynamic composition. This intensity is maintained throughout the album, appealing to metalheads who thrive on heavy, unrelenting music.

Reflective and Emotional: Despite its aggression, the album also explores deeply reflective and emotional themes. Tracks like “Darkness Within” delve into the personal struggles and inner turmoil faced by the band members, offering a sense of vulnerability amid the heavy instrumentation. This duality creates a complex emotional landscape that resonates with listeners who appreciate both the cathartic and contemplative aspects of metal.

Aggressive and Empowering: The album’s aggressive sound is complemented by empowering lyrics that speak to overcoming adversity and finding strength in unity. Songs such as “Be Still and Know” and “Who We Are” provide anthems of resilience and solidarity, encouraging listeners to confront their challenges head-on. This empowering mood is a hallmark of the band’s ability to inspire and energize their audience.

Darkly Melodic: Machine Head incorporates melodic elements that add depth and contrast to the album’s heaviness. The use of strings and choir vocals in tracks like “Who We Are” and the acoustic elements in “Darkness Within” showcase the band’s versatility and add a hauntingly beautiful layer to the overall mood. This blend of melody and darkness creates a rich, textured listening experience.

Album Trivia

Robb Flynn’s Classical Guitar Lessons: Robb Flynn took classical guitar lessons during the production of Unto the Locust to challenge himself and bring new elements to the band’s music. His classical training is particularly evident in the intricate guitar work on tracks like “This Is the End” and “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#),” adding a neoclassical flair to the album’s heavy metal foundation.

Phil Demmel’s Solos and Tuning Challenges: Phil Demmel faced challenges with the new tunings Flynn introduced, which pushed him out of his comfort zone. Despite initial frustrations, this led to some of his most memorable solos, incorporating a song-within-a-song approach inspired by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

Children’s Choir in “Who We Are”: One of the standout features of the album is the inclusion of a children’s choir in the track “Who We Are.” This unconventional choice added an eerie yet powerful element to the song, enhancing its anthemic quality. The choir included the children of band members and the producer, making it a personal and distinctive addition to the album.

Addiction Theme in “Pearls Before the Swine”: “Pearls Before the Swine” explores the theme of addiction, inspired partly by the band’s conversations and viewing of the show “Breaking Bad.” The song delves into the struggles and destructive nature of addiction, capturing a raw and unfiltered perspective without offering a hopeful resolution, emphasizing the dark reality of substance abuse.

Touring and Fan Engagement: To promote Unto the Locust, Machine Head embarked on “The Eighth Plague” tour, which included performances across Europe with bands like Bring Me the Horizon, Devildriver, and Darkest Hour.


Listen or Pass

This album might be for you if you…

  • Enjoy Technical and Melodic Complexity: If you appreciate intricate guitar work, complex song structures, and a mix of heavy and melodic elements, Unto the Locust will appeal to you. Robb Flynn’s classical guitar influences and Phil Demmel’s dynamic solos offer a rich listening experience.
  • Relate to Deep, Personal Themes: Metalheads who connect with music on a personal level will find the lyrical themes of struggle, resilience, and introspection compelling. Tracks like “Darkness Within” and “Locust” delve into emotional and personal turmoil, providing a cathartic experience.
  • Love Aggressive and Empowering Music: If you’re drawn to aggressive, high-energy metal with empowering messages, this album is for you. Songs like “This Is the End” and “Who We Are” deliver a powerful punch with their intense riffs and uplifting themes of unity and strength.
  • Appreciate Theatrical and Experimental Elements: Fans who enjoy theatrical and experimental touches in their metal will appreciate the children’s choir in “Who We Are” and the neoclassical influences throughout the album. These elements add depth and variety to the traditional metal sound.

You might want to pass this one if you…

  • Prefer Simplistic, Straightforward Metal: If you lean towards more straightforward, simplistic metal without complex structures or technical solos, Unto the Locust might feel overwhelming. The intricate arrangements and varied song lengths may not suit your taste.
  • Dislike Emotional and Personal Lyrics: Listeners who prefer their metal to be more detached from personal or emotional themes might not resonate with the introspective and often dark lyrics present in this album. The heavy focus on personal struggles and inner turmoil is a key aspect of the album’s identity.
  • Are Looking for Consistently Brutal Tracks: If you seek an album with relentless brutality from start to finish, the melodic and reflective moments in Unto the Locust might not meet your expectations. Tracks like “Darkness Within” slow down the pace and introduce softer elements that contrast with the heavier songs.
  • Avoid Theatrical or Non-Traditional Elements: Those who prefer a purist approach to metal, without the addition of non-traditional elements like children’s choirs or classical guitar influences, might find these aspects off-putting. The experimental nature of some tracks could diverge from your preferred metal style.