MACHINE HEAD Civil Unrest gets 7/10

Machine Head feat. Jesse Leach

Civil Unrest
Nuclear Blast


With the back-to-back deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery sparking a fire long in the making, a number of artists have thrown their hat into the arena. Metal legends Machine Head give their take with the release of the powerful Civil Unrest digital single.

The A-side, Stop the Bleeding, was written mere days after the events, with frontman Robb Flynn free-associating his feelings as he made an interstate drive through the protests and took it all in. On guest vocal duties is Jesse Leach, frontman for Killswitch Engage. The collaboration is one long in the making, with the two finally finding time to collaborate under COVID. It’s a suitable pairing, given the influence both bands had in their respective eras of metal. Their voices harmonise perfectly, with Leach’s clean tones providing a melodic backdrop to Flynn’s throat-shredding intensity.

Instrumentally and structurally the track is metal by the numbers, but it’s the energetic and heartfelt delivery by these metal veterans that really makes it. The chorus really hits home: “Beating after beating/ Throat choked under knee/ Help me please/ Because I can’t breathe/ Just stop the bleeding.” Not only does it describe George Floyd’s stark final moments, but also the plight of millions of second-tier citizens in a country whose broken system needs bandaging.

B-side Bulletproof is an even heavier slab of straight-ahead thrash that boasts some frenetic riffs with artificial harmonics thrown all around the place. Flynn’s vocals are great here, with a melodic pre-chorus giving way to a furious call to action: “We must be bulletproof/ Show no fear, speak the truth.” The song doesn’t balance its message quite as well, casting its net needlessly wide with references to COVID and anti-abortionists. This includes the choice non-sequitur of “These hooks peel back the lies/ Coronavirus eyes”, a slice of unintentional cheese for the ages.

Overall this is an anthemic release that doesn’t throw any huge surprises, but shows Machine Head still have the fire. Note that a significant portion of streaming proceeds are being donated by Machine Head to, the organisation representing George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.