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Blowin’ Up The Machine

Frontiers (2007)
Rating: 9/10

I will always harp on about how the mid to late 1990s were such a foul time for heavy music. The same could also be said for the last decade or so, which although has seen metal return in a big way, hasn’t produced the type of bands I was used to back in the 80s and early 90s. Mind you, amidst the junk there were a dozen or so albums that seemed out of time in their brilliance.

One such record was Blowin’ Up The Machine by Meldrum, the band put together by former Phantom Blue guitarist Michelle Meldrum, whose life was tragically cut short in 2008.

This was the band’s second album, and featured the talents of drum god Gene Hoglan (ex-Dark Angel), who appeared on four tracks, alongside ex-Phantom Blue drummer Linda McDonald. The band also featured Frida Ståhl on bass and Moa Holmsten on vocals.

When I first heard the opening track, ‘Purge’, I was reminded of the same feelings I felt when I first clamped ears upon Machine Head’s debut record Burn My Eyes (1994). ‘Purge’ is such a heavy track, made all the more concrete by Hoglan’s immense drum sound, Michelle’s monstrous riff and then initially contrasted by Holmsten’s seemingly whispered vocal which suddenly turns into some bestial growl that matches any male in the scene.

Within an instant, ‘Purge’ becomes a rarely heard classic metal anthem – a real battering ram of a creation featuring a killer bass and absolutely crushing dynamics. Not only are the trio of females within the band incredibly attractive, but they have bigger balls than most male musicians floating around, making Blowin’ Up The Machine one of the most impressive records I’ve ever heard.

Second track, ‘Down Your Throat’, has a slightly more raw approach, particularly in the angst-ridden chops of the enigmatic Holmsten, while Hoglan once again comes to the fore with those devilish dreams.

Meldrum are also able to create hooky melodies, easily matching early Machine Head for weight and worth. ‘Scar’ begins with an almost poppy rasp which caresses the industrialised sound, with Holmsten’s vocals soaring above the cacophony as Michelle strings the instrumentation together with her recognisable chug. ‘Scar’ is punky in its approach, before melting into the shuddering ‘Crème de la Crème’ with its doom-laden riffage and McDonald’s armour-plated beating. This is truly gargantuan metal that never exists beyond a demonic crawl.

‘Hang ’Em’ is far shorter and sweeter, following a more melodic path with Holmsten’s sultry rasp and a more classic sounding guitar hook. ‘Miss Me When I’m Gone’ and ‘Get Me Out Of Here’ were co-written by Motörhead’s warty war-god Lemmy. The latter is a more reflective five-minute rocker that breezes in on wistful guitar and steady drum tap before its casual ascent into power metal stratospheres.

‘Get Yours’ and ‘Exploited’ are sturdier numbers, with the former sounding like it was wrenched from the late 80s with a juddering bass and slithering guitar, whilst the latter is a formidable presence on the album with Hoglan’s ominous clatter.

It’s such a tragedy that Michelle died the following year, because I’m convinced that Meldrum could have carved an impressive career, as they were a sum of many parts, strengthened by that killer guitar sound and anarchic vocal sneer. Sadly, it was not to be, but Blowin’ Up The Machine remains the legacy of a band who never fulfilled their true potential, but as it stands, it is a formidable heavy metal album that pulls no punches and leaves you bruised and beaten.

Neil Arnold

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