Interview – Phil Demmel of Machine Head


Phil Demmel is a guitarist that I have looked up to for quite some time. Demmel is the lead guitarist of one of my favorite bands, Machine Head, and I has been a massive influence my my musical writing style.

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Demmel is also a massive inspiration to me for a very different reason. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called vasovagal syncope. Around this some I just happened to listen to Machine Head’s 2007 album, The Blackening, and found comfort in it. As I stewed in my own depression surrounding the difficulties of dealing with my heart condition, videos of Phil fainting on stage began to surface on YouTube. Machine Head would soon announce that Demmel’s condition was the same as mine.

Discovering that one of my musical heroes shared my condition made it much easier to deal with it. I had wanted to talk with Phil about it ever since.

On November 26, I got my chance to talk with him about the band’s recent tour difficulties, the band’s recent free agent status, and our heart condition.

Read and Listen to the full interview after the jump.

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New this week to KSSU Loud Rock – 10.10.2011


Machine Head
Since Machine Head became a good band again they’ve gotten into the habit of taking their sweet time in between albums and after another four-year wait the follow-up to my favorite MH album, The Blackening, has arrived. Unto The Locust picks up right where the 2007 masterpiece left off with seven more melodic and thrashy metal tunes. The album opens with the insanely heavy “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” which sets a tone for an enjoyable experience as it opens with a choir singing in Latin before erupting into a wall of sound. From here Locust features several tracks that could easily fit into The Blackening or provide some punch up to Through The Ashes of Empires. There are two issues I take with it though. The first being that the disc only has seven tracks and while they are long songs I am left wanting more. The second is the track “Darkness Within” which seems like Robb Flynn struggling to recreate the greatness of the Ashes track “Descend The Shades of Night” and not quite hitting the mark BUT the special edition of the CD contains a haunting acoustic version that would have made a fantastic closer. In closing, if you’re a fan of Machine head’s early work or anything since 2003, you’ll dig this one and if you’re a fan of 1997-2001 MH, you’re wrong.

Pick up Unto The Locust by Machine head via Roadrunner Records. 

Insomnium
It is rather difficult to distinguish yourself from all the other European Melodic Death Metal bands but Finland’s Insomnium manages to do so with their own brand of melancholic yet epic metal goodness. One For Sorrow takes what the band did on their last gem, Across The Dark, and tweaks it just enough to create a superior but not radically different album. Vocals this round are almost entirely done by growler/bassist Niilo Sevanen which adds a more appealing contrast to the beauty of the music. It’s kind of like the overdone “Beauty and the Beast” vocal style of numerous operatic metal bands without a human playing the part of the beauty. This one does not disappoint.

Pick up One For Sorrow by Insomnium via Century Media Records.

Skeletonwitch
In the past year or so the band Skeletonwitch has been getting a lot of hype. In fact, as I am doing my short burst of research for this entry the most recent article on Metalsucks.net is devoted to the band. Prior to this release hitting my inbox, I had never given the band a chance and I regret not doing so. The energy of the band is unrelenting and it is really impressive that they manage to put out nothing by aggressive songs that are not very catchy that totally stick in your head like a pop chorus which keeps me coming back. For those unfamiliar with Skeletonwitch, they kind of sound like an angry 3 Inches Of Blood if they decided to go the route of the genre jumping Kvelertak. It is a very cool album consisting of short, to the point, blackened death/thrash songs.

Pick up Forever Abomination by Skeletonwitch via Prosthetic Records.

Threat Signal
The band Threat Signal is another one of those names I’ve heard on and off for several years but never actually heard but unlike Skeletonwitch, I could have not heard them and been just as fulfilled with my musical life. The band sounds like a group of fans of swedish melodic death metal copycats Soilwork who just can’t get over their teenage fascination with Linkin Park. The verses are heavy featuring impressive fretwork that usually culminate into a melodic chorus that sounds as if it is being led by Chester Benington after someone claimed he wasn’t metal enough. Where the album does excel is in some of the lyrical content as it lashes out against the current state of the world in tracks, “Uncensored,” “New World Order,” and “Death Before Dishonor.” Fans of political radio metal infused melodic death metal should check this one out.

Pick up the self-titled releases of Threat Signal via Nuclear Blast Records.