Mastodon continues to add to their palette. This new 4-song EP is bluesy, moody and groovy, with gorgeous arrangements and stellar playing (of course). The tracks build, change, then change again…
Three of these tracks are from the Once More Around The Sun sessions, and one from The Emperor Of Sand.
Hell yes. \m/ \m/
Bias Disclaimer: I believe that Mastodon has never released a bad album. In fact, possibly never a bad track. You’re free to disagree (you probably will), but for me, they just can’t miss.
MASTODON! \m/ \m/
Knowledge Disclaimer: Yes, I own all of their albums. I’ve even seen them in concert… twice! This by no means makes me an expert, but given how often they get played around here, I’d say it all makes me a bit of a fan.
MASTODON! \m/ \m/
Emperor Of Sand Review:
Sprawling in scope, massive in its vision, and with absolutely crushing riffage and intricately technical playing throughout, Emperor Of Sand nails it.
Brendan O’Brien has produced this disc with great sound, giving the songs space to breathe and pulse and growl menacingly. And what songs! The energy, the lurking melodic hugeness of it all is here in glorious spades.
Reading up on it, this record is a concept album about time, and our own mortality (Wiki):
“The concept and story in Emperor of Sand follows a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. Themes of death and survival are woven into the song’s lyrics, which were inspired by experiences members of the band had when family and friends were recently diagnosed with cancer.
“At the end of the story, the person simultaneously dies and is saved,” (drummer Brann) Dailor said. “It’s about going through cancer, going through chemotherapy and all the things associated with that. I didn’t want to be literal about it. But it’s all in there. You can read between the lines.”
“We’re reflecting on mortality,” bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders said in a statement. “To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.”
If you’re at all conversant with the Mastodon discography, you’ll hear little bits of everything from the sounds of their previous albums in here. Parallels to their hugely successful (and stunningly awesome) Crack The Skye album are not unwarranted. That said, they are still moving forward too, relentlessly searching and trying and becoming.
It’s not gonna win over people who previously disliked them. In fact, detractors are saying this one is boring, like the band was doing a paint-by-numbers Mastodon sound thing, while also using warmed-over 90s alt-rock clichés. I read some saying the best Mastodon was ten years ago (or more) and this is crap their old selves would never have allowed on a record. But remember, these are the same gits who want bands to remake the same record (which they personally love) over and over again. Change, growth, exploration? BAD. Comfortable and predictable? GOOD. Silliness.
Fuck yes, this owns. Mastodon remains one of metal’s most interesting, talented and original bands. No one else sounds like them, nor should anyone even try.
This record was released last Friday, and I’ve been all the way through it all three times, now. I love it. GET YOU SOME!
MASTODON! \m/ \m/
James sent me this link, with the words “well, here’s a thing.” Is it ever!
It’s well-known in these parts that I am a huge Mastodon fan, right from seeing them live in 2011, and then I went back and got all of their back catalogue and have been rocking them ever since.
When I heard there was a new album coming out this year, I was ecstatic. And then brother Craig texted to say he had tickets to their Toronto show in May (with Gojira) and we were going. Of course we were!!
For some reason that seemed (at the time) to be cruel and unusual, the album’s release was delayed until after we saw them at that show, when it supposed to have been prior. Which meant, sadly, that they only played the one new song at the show, High Road, which had already been released as the single. I’m not complaining, mind you, we got another 17 other great tunes spanning their whole career, in that set. But it would have been awesome to have heard more of these gigantic new songs in a live setting. Ah well, next time!
Recently, I got a text from brother Craig, who was streaming the album on iTunes before its release. He loved it. He said the song The Motherload is one of the best rock songs he’d heard in ages, period. That, with High Road, was only adding to the excitement for me. Craig, of course, was waiting for the super-deluxe gorgeous vinyl edition, as is his wont. While that would be awesome, I would be happy with the CD. And when the CD release happened and I got my copy, I took a photo of it and texted Mike with the message “Ooooooooo!” Finally!
I was telling our ever-lovin’ HMO that, when I was trying to write-up a review for this new album, I was running out of enthusiastic adjectives to describe what I was hearing. I found I was writing THIS FUCKING ROCKS!! for every single song. Go figure.
I know there has been some consternation about the direction in which Mastodon has been going since The Hunter. It is far enough away from the older stuff to make fans wonder, hell, some of it’s almost rock radio-friendly! But to me, it all fits together as part of Mastodon’s master plan to rock your fucking ass off. Besides, a band has to grow. They can’t keep doing the same old tricks or people would tire of them anyway. To me, these new songs are perfectly Mastodon, built to destroy, melodic and gorgeous, and the sound production is absolutely perfect (crushingly huge). Mixed into a live set, these gems would fit perfectly with the old songs (as did the songs from The Hunter, in 2011). I see no cause for concern.
Here is all you need to know about the songs on this album:
Once More ‘Round The Sun
Chimes At Midnight
Alseep In The Deep
Feast Your Eyes
Diamond In The Witch House
Yes, all I did was list the song titles. And that’s because that’s all you need to read. Going in, you have to know that this album is gonna knock you backwards and have you shouting along and waving your metal horns with it from start to finish. This sounds like Mastodon, resplendent and huge and I LOVE IT.
This is THAT good. Well done, Mastodon, and THANK YOU.
I don’t get out too much. I get to a concert in the city (roughly) once a year. Last year, Wilf and I saw Bad Religion on Easter Sunday (awesome). This year, Craig and I got our metal on. We were pummeled.
We bombed down to Toronto, unsure of how it’d go (the Gardiner Expressway is a mess. Is it ever not?). We checked into the hotel, had a couple of beers in the lobby, then hit a restaurant on the Esplanade for a $25 wagyu beef burger and a dark chocolate stout. It was getting later (the web had said show’s start was 6:30pm) and I figured we’d missed the opening act, Kvelertak). We cabbed over to the Sound Academy and got ready to rock.
The line was long but moved quickly. Security said no one had played yet – they were running behind so we hadn’t missed anything! I had never been to the Sound Academy before. It’s a small, narrow hall with a balcony around top – we apparently had balcony ‘seats’ but we weren’t going up there – the floor is the place to be. Reviews of this show online (after the fact) seem to universally hate this venue. Myself, I didn’t find it too bad, but then again, I don’t get out too often. At the crushing volume with which we were hammered this night, it hardly mattered anyway.
The place was fairly jammed with people when we got in, and it only filled up more as the night went on. Everywhere we saw black t-shirts proclaiming the wearer’s favourite metal band. I rocked my button-down plaid old man’s shirt – ironically, of course. The bar service was quick and friendly. The line-up for merch precluded even trying to get near it to have a look-see.
[*click photo to enlarge*]
Kvelertak took stage and immediately began to try to destroy us. Their sound is big, with three guitars and bass lined across the stage like an army. The lead singer came onstage in a weird mask with wings for the intro, then discarded that and just went batshit for the whole set. He screamed, raised his arms, stomped menacingly… he did this thing where he’d spit straight up into the air and then catch it with his hand. Why? I dunno, it’s fucking metal! The music itself was really, really good. They had excellent energy, and they did exactly what an opening act on a three-band bill is supposed to do: work the crowd into a frenzy. They did just that, with aplomb. Having not heard a note of their music before the show, I was impressed. I wonder if the CD is as good!
*As of this posting, no setlist for Kvelertak could be found online.*
When they finished, I hit the head. This is not news, but it’s a truth of the Universal that beer goes right through me. Really, I only rent beer. And I only mention any of this because there was a dude in the john whose job, it seemed, was to be handing out towels, hoping for tips. He was shouting strangely hilarious things over and over, like “Once you touch your cock you wash your hands!” and “I love pussy!” I didn’t tip him. It was the strangest public washroom experience I’ve (maybe) ever had.
[*click photo to enlarge*]
The room filled to the brim and Gojira took the stage. Folks, I have seen a lot of shows in my years on this planet, and I have seen many excellent acts, and I can say without question (in my humble opinion) that this band was fucking AWESOME. I’ll admit, I was here to see Mastodon (I love that band), and I was very excited to see Gojira. They’d come around with Slayer, well, half of Slayer, last fall but I’d balked at the $90 ticket price. My buddy Wilf said it was gonna be great. But holy fuck. They are HUGE. This band, I swear. The sound was just massive, the musicianship was stunning, the stage presence was incredible. I would see this band again anytime, anywhere. I was not just impressed, I was BLOWN AWAY. What a fucking show! Two metal horns all the way up for the mighty fucking Gojira!!
2.The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
6.Toxic Garbage Island
7.In the Forest
Honestly, if Mastodon wasn’t due next, I might have left, and happily. We’d already seen metal at its finest, it was already a complete concert. Gojira is truly a headlining act worthy of their own show. But I came for Mastodon, I would stay for Mastodon, and I was not disppointed. They were in fine, flying form indeed. Are they ever not? OF COURSE NOT.
[*click photo to enlarge*]
Craig and I saw Mastodon 2011-11-25 in Toronto, at the Kool Haus on The Hunter tour. I reviewed that show right here. The short version of the review at that link is that that concert was essentially my introduction to the band and they blew me away. I count myself lucky to have had their crushing live show be the first time I’d heard many of their songs. Since then, I’ve bought all their records and I spin them regularly. I love ‘em. The chance to see them again, on this tour, was a no-brainer.
If you’ve ever seen Mastodon live, you’ll know exactly what we witnessed. If not, just know that this was (yet again) a stellar set by a band playing at its prime and killing it for every track. They leave nothing out, their entire beings bleed onto the stage. Troy Saunders leans into his playing like a man possessed; Brent Hinds howls and rocks his guitar like a fiend; Bill Kelliher goes about his business with punishing professionalism and zero bullshit, and Brann Dailor… well, Brann Dailor on drums is a fucking monster. What a drummer!! Anyone in the room who has ever lifted a drum stick and tried making music on a kit just got taken to school by the performance of this guy. Holy shit, what a band!!
They played 18 songs overall, though it was very early on indeed that they’d proven they were worthy of our undying devotion. They played a couple of songs from their upcoming album, which fit into the setlist of older stuff seamlessly. They played a lot of heavy rockers. They played several slower, droning yet brutally heavy songs too. The light show was excellent. This show was a total trip. They left nothing to chance, they never once faltered, they rocked it fully. My first impression of this band way back when was bang-on – they deserve every accolade. I cannot wait for the new record.
MASTODON!!! FUCK YEAH!! \m/ \m/
14.Chimes at Midnight
When we stumbled out of the venue and into the warm May night, stealing a cab from a fare that never showed up, I knew we had been in the presence of greatness on this evening. Kvelertak proved more than worthy. Gojira fucking stomped us completely. And Mastodon was the heavy metal coup de grâce.
I have seen many great shows, but this one… it was one of the greatest. Both metal horns raised all the way!
Thank you Craig, for everything!
PS: Please note that I have included, for the purposes of this review, shitty and blurry photos of each band that I took with my crappy HTC cell phone. I was a paying customer at the show and I am a metal fan. These photos are not posted for any monetary gain or advertising purposes (or any other nefarious reason your litigious mind can envision). I just thought it would add to the experience to show everyone a little of what we saw. If, for any reason, it’s legitimately against some actual rule (of which I’m truly unaware) for me to post these (I doubt it, but one never knows), drop a comment or email me, prove you’re an authority who can enforce it, and I’ll take the photos down immediately. No harm or ill intent was intended in posting these photos. Much love and power to the bands. A.
Living where we do, I never get to participate in Record Store Day goodness. We just don’t have any shops that participate, in our sad little town. So Mike said he’d get me the exclusive Springsteen 7″ from this go-round (which he did, should be here soon). And then James told me about Feistodon. At first, I thought he was kidding. Feist and Mastodon, covering each others’ songs? No way! Stop pulling my leg! Well, there was no leg pulling. It exists!
The call went out. I NEEDED THAT 7″! No one found it in shops, but I managed to find a copy online, and for a whole lot less cost than most places were gouging people for it. Score!
It arrived yesterday. It is beautiful. Sadly, the tape on the cardboad packaging in which it was sent to me was a rushed job, and a corner of the sleeve was protruding when it arrived. There is a small scratch on the record, but it plays OK.
And the music? It’s pretty damn interesting.
Side A finds Mastodon roaring through Feist’s song A Commotion. Jeez, Brann, I don’t think you hit your drums often enough! So awesome. I played the original version off Metals first, and Feist’s version is a quirky, clunky little track of oddness (with her vocals pasted over the top of it all). Mastodon lets the bottom drop out, turning the song into this chugging thing that, quite frankly, gives it a whole lot more life. Nothing wrong with Feist’s song, but Mastodon proved it could easily be a metal song. Metals, indeed.
Side B is Feist covering Mastodon’s Black Tongue, the first track off The Hunter. We all know that the original track kicks all sorts of ass. Feist’s take on it strips away a lot of the hugeness of the track and gone are the thundering drums and full-on metal sound. In its place is a single phase-shifter guitar (did I get the terminology correct?), a slower tempo, and Feist singing the lyrics with her trademark sound. I liked it. It was hard to hear it this way, knowing the original as well as I do, but Feist’s stab at it makes it into something wholly other, and I like that.
Feistodon. Get you some. It’s all kinds of awesome.
So Craig said a buddy bailed on a ticket to a Mastodon show in Toronto on Friday, would I wanna go? Um, do fish swim? My only concerns were that I worked til six that night, and had to work again at 9:30 on Saturday morning. We live far enough away from the city to make it a good haul, so a trip to Toronto for a show would mean two+ hours down, the show (however late that goes), and two+ hours back. Late late late. Was I in? Of course I was in.
I should preface the rest of this by saying that I’d never been to a full-on metal show before, although some might consider my seeing Ministry in Saskatoon as such. Or maybe Tool… But somehow this felt like my first dedicated metal outing. I know, it’s shocking. I really don’t get out much. Pathetic, for a fan of the genre… watching my cred die painfully…
So I get out of work on Friday, we bomb down to the Kool Haus (with a quick stop at IKEA). Going in, we walked past the roadies (and/or band members) of concert openers Red Fang as they were loading out. Missed their set completely. Someday I will look them up to see what we missed. We passed the merch tables. Craig wanted a kid-sized Mastodon t-shirt for his son (no luck). Maybe metalheads don’t think of the toddlers? An oversight. Anyway.
As we walked into the venue, Dillinger Escape Plan was already at full steam and sandblasting the place with their efforts. I have no idea how many songs we missed, but we caught a good half dozen of them at least, and I can say with authority (having never heard an album of theirs) that they were very loud, very fast, very aggressive, and energetic to the nth degree. Greg Puciato strutted and screamed and flexed his big muscles, and the band members jumped off equipment and whipped their instruments around as though this were their last night on Earth and they wanted to make the most of it.
Firstly, I don’t know how anyone could scream like that for as long as he does, and still have a voice when it’s over. Maybe he doesn’t. But then he was off the stage and doing his thing from the crowd, or body-surfing on the crowd, or crouching down front and involving those in the first rows. Audience participation seemed big to him (including starting a chant-along of telling the band “You Fucking Suck”). I am also mystified as to how those musicians can make cohesive music while wildly jumping off amps and flinging themselves around with abandon as they did. But there they were, just going for it. Amazing.
I first learned of these guys on Metal Sucks prior to the show, so I looked them up on Wiki just now, and their brand of music is called mathcore, for those who make such distinctions. I also learned that there are no founding members remaining in the band at present. Whatever, they rocked, and they rocked HARD. I don’t know if I could listen to a lot of that type of thing all at once, and maybe the vocals would be more distinct (not just seemingly non-verbal primal screams) on their albums, but I sure appreciated them while they did their thing on this night. A powerful set.
I hit the head between bands, and was amused by a guy in line behind me admitting to being flumoxed to find a long line-up for the men’s, while the women’s had no line at all. This, to him, was the reverse of the usual. A guy ahead of us said, “Dude, you’re at a Mastodon concert. Total sausage-fest.” He had a point. Granted, there were ladies in the house, and we all know how hot metal chicks can be, but it was true that most of this audience was comprised of young, white males. Hence the line-up. I also commended the room, while washing my hands. I said, to everyone, “I’m so impressed to see the metal kids washing their hands! With soap! Way to go, guys!” They all laughed. But I meant it. And actually, except for the one guy who was bobbing and weaving drunkenly near me for a while during Mastodon, the crowd where we were standing was utterly respectful of personal space. They were all just there to hear the music and thrust metal horns at the stage. Right on.
Anyway, we drank expensive cans of beer served to us by girls built like twelve-year-olds in tight black outfits while we waited for Mastodon to come on. The crowd grew in size and density. People cheered when roadies pulled the covering off the drum set and revealed the Hunter logo on the bass drum. You know, you can tell a crowd wants and loves the headlining band when they cheer for a drum set that no one is even playing yet.
And then Mastodon appeared and, without any hesitation, took control of the entire place as the crowd lost its shit.
Look, I’m new to this band. I knew of them, but hadn’t heard much of their music except what Craig plays whenever we were hanging at his place (he has all the vinyls), and the few tracks I caught on the youtubes on the day prior to the gig. I don’t own any of their albums (yet, but I will), and their song titles mean nothing to me. So, while all the fans in the house went nuts for each tune, I was approaching the show as a neophyte. Honestly, each note and move was a revelation to me. I can appreciate getting into this band via their albums. I’m sure they are incredible. But to have my true introduction to their talents be standing there in the crowd, agape, as they ripped out song after mind-blowing song was a treat, indeed. After three songs, I was convinced. Holy shit, they’re amazing. Fingers flying, heads banging, voices growling, the band plowed through each track almost without between-song banter (although I think Troy Sanders said thank you once, after a song). They were there to work, and brother, they worked hard.
Have you ever stood in the presence of greatness and just known it for it was? Have you ever envied people for stepping off the treadmill and just doing exactly what makes them happy while having a blast doing it? That’s Mastodon. The songs are insanely intricate, served up at high velocity and with maximum heaviness, and the band is locked tight from note one. They truly ROCK. Even based on minimal knowledge, anyone would acknowledge that these four musicians are consummate performers. Sanders full-on rocked out for his vocal and bass duties, Brent Hinds wailed away on his guitar and vocals with total accuracy and menace, Bill Kelliher stalked his side of the stage and whipped off riffs that would maim the unwary, and holy shit Brann Dailor absolutely pummelled the drums. His arms were a blur for the entire set. Just astounding – I couldn’t stop watching him. The songs themselves, while I couldn’t make out too many of the lyrics, sounded like the band is aiming for epic and hitting bullseye every time.
I walked out of the Kool Haus a convert. Mastodon was thrilling, surely one the best hard rock acts to hit the mainstream in a long, long, long time. I consider myself very fortunate to have been there for it. My huge thanks to Craig for the ticket, the drive there and back, and for listening to me babble ad nauseum after the show as I tried to find the right adjectives to describe how amazing it all was. Yes, I would see this band again anytime.
Also, I made it through work the next morning on adrenaline alone. It’s all good (what could possibly have gone wrong?). We only live once, so go for it, man.
Also, for those who care, here’s the setlist I found after three seconds’ searching online:
Dry Bone Valley
I Am Ahab
Colony of Birchmen
Ghost of Karelia
All the Heavy Lifting
Curl of the Burl
Circle of Cysquatch
Crack the Skye
Where Strides the Behemoth
March of the Fire Ants
Blood and Thunder