Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Music Mondays!

Mastodon. The first time I heard this band, I felt like the giant, woolly elephant-like creature that gave the band its' name had just ran me down. It was heavy, it was huge, it was slow and it was BRUTAL. It sounded like you'd imagine a mastodon would sound if it happened to be a metal band. Does that make sense? Oh well. It's true.

This band proved to me that you didn't have to be fast to be intense, that you could be melodic and still be brutal, that you could be heavy and still be trippy. What more can one ask for?

Based out of the ATL (Georgia), Mastodon came together in 1999. The line-up consists of bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, guitarist Bill Kellliher and drummer Brann Dailor.
With their sludgey riffs, psychedelic sound-scapes and insane drumming, Mastodon started to create an almost-instant buzz in the world of metal.

Dailor furiously assaults the skins in what sounds like constant fills. Even without watching him play, you know that his hands and feet are a constant blur. Actually watching him play will confirm this. The guitar work is top notch, showcasing not only Hinds impressive chops and Kelliher's deliciously understated style, but this guitar duo-ship's pure synergy, the ebb & flow as they pummel your aural sense is truly amazing. From juxta-posing a clean, mellow guitar melody with something chunky, ungainly and damn near primitive, to their shred-tastic guitarmony's, these fuckers can PLAY. Sanders' bass technique is generally very subdued. Very much "in the pocket" that a lot of bass players try to settle into. Filling in the low-end with out detracting from the guitar work... But that doesn't mean that he can't pound that bass with the big boys. Troy is a wholly impressive bass man, going from low-end background rumble to in your face, blowing your mind with technique and back again, before you've had a chance to understand what just happened to your ears. Mastodon's vocals are unique in that, though Hinds and Sanders are the primary vocalists, doesn't mean that Kelliher and Dailor don't join in on the microphone fun. The vocals are generally layered one over another, creating what sounds like a cognizant roar, a primordial sound that makes you want to run for cover because your inner Neanderthal thinks a Sabretooth is getting ready to have you for lunch.

After hearing "March of the Fire Ants" for the first time, I immediately ran to the closest music store to purchase the album, Remissions. I was slightly disappointed (though not wholly surprised, thanks Best Buy) to discover that the only Mastodon record they had was their latest, Leviathan. Though the album I really wanted was Remissions, I bought Leviathan nonetheless. Generally, I'm very conservative about spending my hard earned dough on music (due to an extreme case of Music Snobbery), but something told me that I was still going to be happy. And fuck me, I was. This album wrecked me for a whole summer (2004). To this day, Leviathan still impresses and moves me. Wow. Trying to put it into words is fruitless, so I'll just add some song clips. But a neat little piece of trivia for ya, Leviathan is loosely based upon and inspired by Herman Melville's classic literary masterpiece Moby Dick. You'll find references throughout the album, from the cover art to the song titles and lyrics.

Here's some of my favorites from Remissions and Leviathan:

Album opener, Crusher Destroyer:

March of the Fire Ants:

Burning Man:


Blood and Thunder:

I am Ahab:


Iron Tusk:


These 2 albums single handedly re-directed my taste in music, especially in the type of music that I like to write and perform. For me, Mastodon was the game-changer. It seemed to me that they had found the perfect blend of brutality, melody, intensity and psychedelic groove. They permeated my very existence for 2 years (and still do).

In the summer of 2006, several major events happened in my life. Two of which were the much anticipated release of Tool's 10,000 Days and the just as eagerly awaited Mastodon record, Blood Mountain. Holy SHIT. These 2 albums were my summer of 2006.

On Blood Mountain, it felt as much as it sounded like Mastodon were pushing their own boundaries out into undiscovered country. Getting groovier, trippier and altogether more progressive while maintaining the same level (and balance) of brutal melody. Having had Matt Bayles produce their two previous albums, the band figured "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and had Bayles behind the board on this one as well (coincidentally, around this time Bayles also produced 2 other terriffic and completely different albums that are on my list of must-owns: The Fall of Troy's Manipulator and Minus the Bear's Planet of Ice).

The Wolf is Loose:

Sleeping Giant:

This Mortal Soil:

Siberian Divide:

So now I had 3 Mastodon albums that were hands down, some of the best fucking music I had ever heard. I was already salivating for the next one...

In 2009, the Skye came falling down and hit me in a way that, I hate to admit, was saddeningly boring. While well written and executed, with excellent production value, it seemed that on Crack the Skye, Mastodon had lost some of their fire, their intensity that had me so infatuated with them in the first place. Progressive? Definitely. Trippy? You betcha. Brutal? Nope. You can hear them trying to be heavy, but that's just it: Mastodon never had to try to be heavy. they just-fucking-WERE. It was like the fight had gone out of them. Now, this is (as I like to say) just one asshole's opinion. But... I wasn't the only asshole expressing the same disinterest in Skye. While the album may have attracted new fans to the fold (and more power to em), but it felt as if we, the "o.g." Mastodon fans had been left out in the cold. "Well, wait a minute... This shit is supposed to be heavy. Why are there girls DANCING TO THIS SHIT???" I'm sorry, I don't care how fucking groovy and melodic metal music might get, you do not EVER dance to metal. PERIOD. You might bang your head, swing and sway with the groove, jump up and down and pit with the other long-hair's, but you don't FUCKING DANCE TO IT.

And that's what I saw when I FINALLY saw Mastodon live for the first time, shortly after Crack the Skye hit the shelves. It took me 5 years to finally get the chance to see one of my favorite bands in person and not only was it boring (they played Skye start to finish, followed haphazardly by 4 lazy renditions of some of the "classics"), but I saw teenage girls dancing to it. Heavy-fucking-sigh. Hang head. O' how the Mighty have fallen... I was definitely disappointed.



I know that me bashing the album is disrespectful to the band and that is not my intention. This is more of a love letter than it is a critique, I'm just ranting at this point.

With that said, Mastodon is set to release their newest effort The Hunter, later this month. From what I've heard so far, it's definitely got my hopes up. I dunno, what do you think?

Black Tongue:

And while I'm not sure it's going to be on the album, they released this track exclusively through Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. At the very least, this video is a lot of fun.


C'mon guys. Give me something to bang my head to. Show me there's still some life in this old beasty after all.

P.S. I love you, Mastodon ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ventura Nationals 2011

Flatbroke Alex from South Carolina is not only one hell of a dude, but he also put together this killer video! Check it out: