I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)

Album: Unto The Locust (2011)
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Songfacts®:

  • The opening track of American heavy metal band Machine Head's seventh full-length studio album Unto The Locust is a three-part sonata. It consists of:

    (I) Sangre Sani (Blood Saint)
    (II) I Am Hell
    (III) Ashes To The Sky
  • Speaking to Sonic Excess magazine, guitarist Phil Demmel discussed the lyrical themes that he and vocalist Robb Flynn came up with for the record. He explained: "The first thing I approached with Robb... I've always thought… Well, I come from a really descriptive writing style. Robb is more personal, more first and third person. I'm more descriptive. So, I thought of this, maybe taking the pages out of a pyromaniac's diary, as he's learning and the sickness is taking him over; how it kind of grows with him, and how he becomes a murderer and maniac. It's something we started researching a little bit. We found out that women are actually the most dangerous, because their crimes are, more often than not, crimes of passion. So, he took it from this female perspective."

    Demmel added that this three-parter is "the pyromaniac song that I was talking about."
  • Rob Flynn told the story of the song in an interview with I Heart Guitar Blog's Peter Hodgson: "We actually attempted writing in November of 2009 and nothing much came out of it. The actual beginning of 'I Am Hell' came out of it, but it was more just a symbolic moment for us, like, 'Wow, we're really moving on from The Blackening.'

    I wrote the end outro riff while I was in Norway, the tremolo picking (sings riff), again geeking out on classical. And then for a while that song just kinda hung around with those two parts connected with nothing in the middle. That intro had been on a few different versions and I had written that guitar melody probably around the same time as I'd written the very beginning, and I had always heard it as this a cappella thing with all these layers and all these different vocals, and I thought, 'Man, if I can ever get a goddamn song around this it's gonna be really cool!' But for about a year, a good year, it didn't materialize. I just kept those riffs because I liked them and they were really cool, but I didn't have anything else to go around it. We rarely played it at practice. At one point it was actually the beginning to 'Who We Are.' Then about three weeks before we went in to record the album I was demoing a bunch of songs because I was going to play stuff for the label back in New York, and the Pro Tools rig went down and I was like, 'F--k!' I was super-pissed. So I sat there and I was like, 'Y'know what? I'm just going to play guitar and see if I can write.' So I started messing around with ideas, and I stumbled on that trash riff, and then I thought, 'Maybe if I take that end part and use it as a chorus…' And just the whole thing, in 45 minutes I wrote the rest of the song. I brought it to the dudes and they were like, 'Holy s--t!'"

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