A major record label often has subsidiary labels that operate independently. It doesn't happen often but sometimes the parent label drops an act only to have a subsidiary ink a deal with the very same group.
Oakland's Heavy Metal/Nu Metal band Machine Head had just that experience. The group was founded in '91 by Robb Flynn and Adam Duce. Contrary to popular belief, the group's name did not come from the classic Deep Purple album (released in '72). Actually, Flynn thought "Machine Head" sounded "cool."
Signed by Roadrunner Records, Machine Head's '94 debut, "Burn My Eyes," did well in Europe, shipping 400,000 copies worldwide. That made it Roadrunner's best selling debut album.
"The More Things Change…" rolled out in '97. Two years later, "The Burning Red," a shot of Rap Metal, led to charges of selling out (for caving into the latest trend). Rap was still in the mix on '01's "Supercharger" which sold 250,000 copies worldwide - good but below expectations.
Despite career sales of over 1.3 million albums worldwide Machine Head and Roadrunner mutually decided to sever their worldwide distribution agreement. With the band in turmoil - guitarist Ahrue Luster had left - and without a label, there was talk of disbanding.
Rather, Machine Head recorded the Flynn produced "Through The Ashes Of Empires." The album was initially released in Europe while the band looked for a U.S. deal. A prior demo failed to generate interest and it looked as though "Through The Ashes Of Empires" would suffer a similar fate until Roadrunner USA entered the picture. Machine Head accepted Roadrunner's offer but stipulated that they would own all the rights to their music.
Featuring lengthy, Rush influenced tracks, "The Blackening," "Machine Head's sixth studio album, released in '07, entered the Billboard 200 at #53 (on first week sales of 15,000 copies). It was the first time they had an album debut in the Top 100.
Machine Head opened for Metallica in '08-'09 but initially cancelled an appearance at the Sonisphere Festival in the U.K. when they learned they were scheduled to perform before Limp Bizkit. They thought they should follow - like a headliner. In the end, Machine Head had a change of heart and played the festival in the slot before Limp Bizkit.
'11's "Unto The Locust," Machine Head's seventh effort, landed at #22 on the Billboard Album Chart.
Bands often have internal troubles that most fans are oblivious to until they explode in public. That happened in '13 when Duce was fired from Machine Head. The bassist and founding member was with the group for twenty-one years.
"Adam quit Machine Head well over a decade ago," wrote Flynn in a statement. "He just never bothered to tell anyone… but we all knew it."
Flynn, now the only original band member, continued his explanation of events while also providing a synopsis of the band's legacy.
"Adam hasn't been happy in this band for a long time. But how do you leave? To a guy like Adam everything is either winning or losing. A stunning victory or the ultimate failure. There was no in-between. And life certainly isn't like that for a band like Machine Head. A band who operate in the upper-middle-tier. For us, there are no stunning victories, only respectable wins. No ultimate failures, just better-luck-next-times. We carved a niche, we OWN that niche, but it's still just a niche. Nothing wrong with that."
Well, Duce thought differently. In '14, Machine Head and their former bassist settled a $1.8 lawsuit. The band was sued for breach fiduciary duty and interference with prospective economic advantage, while Flynn was hit with a defamation suit. Settlement terms were not disclosed.
The following November, Machine Head released their eighth album, "Bloodstone & Diamonds."
1994 Burn My Eyes
1997 The More Things Change...
1999 The Burning Red
2003 Through The Ashes Of Empires
2007 The Blackening
2011 Unto The Locust
2014 Bloodstone & Diamonds