Machine Head play Wolverhampton Civic Hall 22 Apr; Glasgow Barrowlands 23 Apr; London Astoria, 24-25 Apr

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Machine Head are every inch the modern face of metal: they look mental but underneath it all they're harmless. Despite the warrior face piercings, the grimaces and their raging riff rock, back home in Oakland, California, Machine Head worship is a sensible teenage alternative to, say, joining a religious cult that believes the end of the world is nigh according to an astrological forecast.

Parents of American boys who adorn their walls with Machine Head posters (they are huge in the US) are probably also glad their offspring haven't instead opted for that other Californian export - gangsta rap. Metal figureheads aren't dying off in drive-by shootings.

Yup, Machine Head are safe. So safe in fact that, sadly, their new, second album The More Things Change is somewhat like lurid wallpaper - a bit extreme at first acquaintance, but like most wallpaper, you get used to it. This is despite some pretty desperate attempts to be confrontational; the album comes with graphic, foul pictures of war victims from Bosnia, World War Two and Vietnam (are they CNN for Beavis and Butthead fans?), and guitars pound with merciless, chest-crushing intensity on tracks like "The Frontlines". The optimism-defying lyrics merge into one long howl so brutish, vocalist Robb Flynn sounds like London's 50 top school bullies rolled into one.

But this hell and damnation rock and roll fails to quake with any new ideas. Not that the 1,500 or so fans who queued at HMV in Oxford Street recently to see them care that Machine Head's cataclysmic noisefest doesn't match up to that of debut album Burn My Eyes - the band do have the hippest snarls in the thrash business, no contest. And Flynn isn't the sort of man you'd dare quibble with. As a live performer he is a hostile hurricane, offering a hot expletive and a kick in the pants for any stage diver who crosses his path. But that is about as dangerous as the Machine Head roadshow gets.

EYE ON THE NEW A one-off date for the soulful US quartet Blackstreet, armed with their platinum album Another Level. They emphasise the link between rap and R & B communities in the US by borrowing 2 Pac's "I Ain't Mad Attcha" loop for their new single "Don't Leave Me", which follows their top 10 hit "No Diggity".

Royal Albert Hall, London, 21 Apr