Released on August 9th, 1994, via Roadrunner Records, Machine Head's debut album, Burn My Eyes, hit hard and left an indelible mark, much like the shotgun blast bandleader Robb Flynn roars about in the chorus to the LP's iconic opening cut "Davidian." Politically charged, groove-laden and crushing as all hell, the record laid the groundwork for nu-metal to come with its downtuned riffs and hip-hop-inflected beats and vocal delivery, all while never compromising its ten-ton-hammer-heavy vision.
25 years later, with the album now recognized as a modern classic, Flynn reunited with Burn My Eyes guitarist Logan Mader and drummer Chris Kontos for an anniversary tour. They've also looked back at the album in an in-depth roundtable discussion and a retrospective post on the Machine Head website. Below, culled from those pieces, are 10 things you likely didn't know about Machine Head's Burn My Eyes.
1. The first song Machine Head ever wrote was "Death Church"
Burn My Eyes sixth track was "ground zero for Machine Head," according to guitarist Logan Mader. Written by Robb Flynn while he was still in the thrash group Vio-lence, "Death Church" was heavily influenced by Godflesh's Streetcleaner album and, not surprisingly, Flynn's main band — who played speed metal with an emphasis on speed — passed on it when he brought the tune to them. "Yeah, this isn't gonna work," Flynn remembers them saying.
2. Robb Flynn learned how to play Machine Head's signature harmonics by jamming Celtic Frost and D.R.I. songs
Machine Head are very much identified with riffs heavy on squealing harmonics. It's a technique that Flynn cultivated inspired in part by Oakland heroes Neurosis, but also while playing Celtic Frost and D.R.I. songs as a young guitarist on a tiny practice amp. As he explained in the band's Burn My Eyes roundtable video earlier this year, he couldn't get feedback on the amp, and so he thought harmonics were feedback. "I just got good at it and started incorporating it in," Flynn said.
3. Before making Burn My Eyes, Flynn was asked to be a temporary guitarist for Ministry
It was after being asked to fill in with industrial godfathers Ministry that Flynn first demo'd three songs he'd written that would end up on Burn My Eyes. Needing to provide some reference material to Al Jourgensen and Co., the singer-guitarist recorded "Death Church," "Blood for Blood" and "Block" (then-called "Fuck It All") on a boombox. Flynn first asked future–Machine Head drummer Chris Kontos (Attitude Adjustment, Grinch, Verbal Abuse) if he'd lay down drums, but since he was too busy, Las Vegas' Tony Costanza ended up playing on the tracks.
4. Flynn wanted Burn My Eyes' songs to feature lots of key changes, inspired by a quote by Randy Rhoads
"I remember a Randy Rhoads quote that I read, that he always wanted all the Ozzy songs to be in different keys, and I thought that was really cool," Flynn recalled at the Burn My Eyes roundtable. It inspired him to write the first Machine Head songs with the same goal in mind. "It makes your life harder," he admitted, "but if you can pull it off, how much of a payoff you're gonna get."
5. Machine Head sometimes wrote and rehearsed Burn My Eye songs in front of an audience of homeless people
Machine Head's practice space was, in Flynn's words, "in the fucking hood" and it had a window with bars on it that opened out to the street. At the Burn My Eyes roundtable, the Machine Head bandleader remembered writing the riff to "Old" and the local homeless people lining up at the window to "listen to the jams that these fucking white boys were playing." This was not an isolated occurrence. Flynn added that sometimes, with their homeless audience assembled, Machine Head would jam on hip-hop songs that were popular — songs by artists like Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg — and then "the party would be started." All the band members were big fans of hip-hop at the time, but Flynn credits that whole experience as another subtle way that rap music crept into the Machine Head sound.
6. Burn My Eyes was recorded at the same studio and at the same time as Rancid's Let's Go, Green Day's Dookie and Tesla's Bust a Nut
In November 1993, Machine Head rolled into Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to record their debut album. Also, recording there were soon-to-be-huge punk outfit Rancid and Green Day, as well as Sacramento hard-rock group Tesla. According to the Machine Head website, the band "often hung out with Rancid and would periodically break into Tesla's recording studio and steal candy from the massive stash Tesla had."
7. The guest musician playing the marching drum snare line in "I'm Your God Now" is uncredited due an error
Kontos plays drums on Burn My Eyes, but it was his friend and drum tech Sean "Gagutz" Hill who performed the marching snare line on the verses of "I'm Your God Now." "Schooled in marching band, he was able to play the part effortlessly in two takes," Machine Head recall on their website, adding, "Unfortunately, Sean's efforts went un-credited as the band failed to inform the record label of his performance in time and the album artwork had already completed. Sadly Sean passed away in 2016. R.I.P. Gagutz!"
8. Burn My Eyes originally had a different title and cover art
Burn My Eyes' cover painting, by acclaimed visual artist Dave McKean (who also created covers for Fear Factory, Frontline Assembly and Skinny Puppy, as well as for Neil Gaiman's Sandman series), is an iconic piece of heavy-metal art. The album cover was almost very different, however. Burn My Eyes was actually originally titled Davidian and its proposed artwork featured the band's diamond logo on a static-filled television screen. As the band notes, "Thankfully saner minds prevailed."
9. The video shoot for Burn My Eyes' classic opener "Davidian" left a mark on the Deftones' debut album Adrenaline
The "Davidian" video — which notably features Flynn sporting cornrows and stalking the streets with a pitbull on a chain — was shot in Oakland and San Francisco, culminating with a show at the Rock on Broadway. A then-little-known Sacramento band named Deftones played in main support, and live photos of singer Chino Moreno performing at that show would later appear in the liner notes of the group's 1995 debut album, Adrenaline.
10. Machine Head opened for Slayer in support of Burn My Eyes and even joined the thrash pioneers onstage to cover Venom
Burn My Eyes was an immediate hit with the metal masses and, with its success, one of Machine Head's biggest dreams came true: touring with Slayer. Flynn and Co. were first invited to support the thrash OGS in Europe during the fall and winter of 1994, then they joined Slayer once again, opening the shows on the group's U.S. trek with Biohazard in early 1995. On the final night of that run, Flynn and Kontos even got to join Slayer onstage to play a cover of Venom's "Witching Hour."