I have this one friend that I refer to as "my heterosexual life-mate," and he's the one guy I have jammed with the most for the last 20 years. However, when it comes to music we tend to differ a bit. There are some albums we both love equally that some people would call weird like Alice Cooper's DaDa. Metallica is one of the bands that our friendship was formed around, though we like different albums. He's always been a bigger Pink Floyd fan than I am, but I've always enjoyed playing that "hippy trippy shit" more than him.
Every once and a while he'll bring me an album and say "You need to review this one." So, I throw it the CD player and give it a go. If it catches my attention on that first go, it stays in and I get to hear it mixed on random with twenty-four other discs. If it continues to grab my attention I start digging on it, and then I explore the album with repeated full length album plays.
Drew has never brought me an album that I haven't ended up doing this with. The only down side is I end up keeping the album for months, until I finally get the review done and/or buy my own copy. However this album is really thunder stompingly heavy and amazingly arranged and composed.
As for Mastodon themselves I have had limited exposure, and what I did have wasn't all good. The first time I heard anything from them was a music video that I can't remember and I thought they were a bit cliche. Then I heard their cover of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid. I really liked it, and if you want to know more I have reviewed the ZZ Top tribute album that contains that track. So, sitting down to this album I was pretty fifty fifty on what to expect. I was very pleasently surprised.
For starters there isn't just one vocalist, that growls is that almostly animalistic sounding Metal way. There were also two other guys. And not every song was basic Heavy Metal. There were tracks that got Floydian, and most of the album is what I would classify as Modern Heavy. It would be like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, or possibly even Jimi Hendrix recording those classic songs with todays technology.
I'll now move on to why you are are really here. Let's get to the songs themselves.
The album opens with Black Tonue. Which is this thundering intro of Jazz based drums that swing in a manner befitting the band's name. The lead guitar is little quiet in the mix in a way that reminds me of Glen Buxton, or Mick Mashbir, or Steve Hunter, or Dick Wagner depening on the track on Billion Dollar Babies. While the rest of it's sound is solid and heavy.
The second track on the album is the first one to really grab me. Curl Of The Burl is where I see the ZZ Top influence and it is awesome. This song is total Blues Metal, for those that need some sort of complex definition. I call it some really good Modern Heavy. Also, the chorus, while simple and catchy and bit commercial in it's way, is only one part of a better picture "I killed a man 'cause he killed my goat / I put my hands around his throat / He tried to reason with the sky and the clouds / But it didn't matter, 'cause they can't hear a sound / Oh / Oh oh / Oh / Oh oh oh / It's just the curl of the burl / It's just the curl of the burl / That's just the way of the world / It's just the curl of the burl / Splinters in my skin, just like needles and pins / I cut through the pine, love the feeling it gives / Been out here for days running through these trees / I'm using my hands, cuttin' through the disease / Oh / Oh oh / Oh / Oh oh oh / It's just the curl of the burl / It's just the curl of the burl / That's just the way of the world / It's just the curl of the burl / I feed the powerless / Chewed it up, spit the rest / I feed the powerless / Chewed it up, spit out the rest / It's just the curl of the burl / It's just the curl of the burl / That's just the way of the world / It's just the curl of the burl / Oh / Oh oh / Oh / Oh oh oh / Oh / Oh oh / Oh Oh oh oh". Blasteroid is the type of song you would expect to find as an album track. I wouldn't call it filler, because it is well done, and I'm sure there are many people that would and totally dig it, I find it a bit of a filler. It's like raspberry filling on top of cheese cake. Sure it's good, but it's not cherry. (Sorry, I do the Holiday baking in my house and guess what I'll be making.)
Stargasm isn't a clever name, it's an accurate description of what I would imagine celestial copulation to sound like. This is a track for the musicians, or the true music fans. Sure there are vocals, and the way they are done on this track is astounding, but it's more in a music performance and less in a lyrical performance. Fuck the words, just let the whole composition blend and take you away.
I think I'm going to do a search and see how many songs reference Octopi, because other than The Beatles, the next track it the only other one I have ever heard of, and the title makes you do a little WTF. Octopus Has No Friends, is a track that reminds me of exactly the same thing I thought about Blasteroid.
I love the sound and vibe that opens up All The Heavy Lifting. The drums have this odd little shuffle to them that seems a bit out of place, until the chorus kicks in, and then the song just turns into something magical. This song sounds like a cluster fuck of aggression for the most part, but when you hit the chorus there is this magnificent sound that sounds so uplifting and perfect. It's really like a choir of angels. Then there's the bridge section and breakdown between the second and third chorus that just keeps it going beautifully.
The Hunter continues that magical ambience, but this song is so totally Pink Floyd inspired, and if they say it isn't then, there's some type of connection that will put it all together. Hell the solo is even totally Dave Gilmour like. Think Comfortably Numb. This is seriously some of the best Rock soloing I have heard in years.
After the last two songs it makes sense that we get a song like Dry Bone Valley. This one has Alice In Chains written all over it. Not that silly Grunge sound they got looped in with. I mean the real Heavy stuff. That being said, not my first choice in songs, but I'm sure many would dig it.
Thickening opens right off the bat with this great sexy swing. I mean this is some big band standard swing, with this ultra heavy rhythm and almost ballet like lead guitar dancing about. It's absolutely beautiful, then it moves what may be mistaken as a continuation of the last track. Not in a bad way. Sort of like how Another Brick In The Wall (part I) flows into The Happiest Days Of Our Lives and then into Another Brick In The Wall (part II).
Speaking of Pink Floyd, it's time for a totally tripped out tale of cinematic fanfair, that is totally inspired by Dark Side Of The Moon. Creature Lives might be just about one of the most deligthful tracks I have heard in years. It'd just this big heavy band telling a story and filling it with instrumentation that compliments and helpd move the story along. It's like early Syd Barrett Floyd, but even could be connected back to classic King's Court music from the days of Shakespeare or maybe earlier. "I saw the creature fall / Into the swamp from which he spawned / I heard them laugh and say / They never liked him anyway / I tried to talk to them / To help you on your feet again / They laughed and said to me / The swamp is right where I should be / The creature lives / The creature lives / The creature lives / The creature lives".
Spectrelight is a track much like Blasteroid and Octopus Has No Friends. Really cool name, but sort of a basic track. All the songs that I consider fillers on this album, would be strong fillers for this band, but to me they are just your run of the mill tracks. They help fill out a mix with sturdy music, but they are pretty basic for this band.
Bedazzled Fingernails is a little more than a filler for me. The lyrics are very simple, but the performce mixed with the music gives a more impressive vibe than just the more simple songs on this album. "Give and take / We are full of pride / All is proved in time / Lay me down / Stand my ground / Lay me down / Stand my ground / Taking a life / I see it flash before my eyes / Taking a life / I see it flash before my eyes / Rule by my head / Endure test of time / Plant the seed of mind / Lay me down / Stand my ground / Lay me down / Stand my ground / Taking a life / I see it flash before my eyes / Taking a life / I see it flash before my eyes".
One of the guitarists I've worked with over the years, has a habit of calling everything sexy. If he liked a song it was sexy, if he didn't it was either cool or it didn't do anything for him. The Sparrow, is one of those song where I will have to take a page out of his book and call this song sexy. Not because I like it, but because it's really honestly sexy. This is a song that a very talented and trained erotic dancer could use as stage music and give the pole spinning, twirling, dancing performance of a life time. Or if you want something cleaner sounding, this song as the Beauty of cirque du soleil. It is a genius album closer.
While this album has a few tracks that make me go "Meh," I do really love this album. After the second full listening I knew it was an album I was going to need to own. I also knew that I was going to need to dig into some more Mastodon. The Hunter is totally my type of album.
8/10 - content
8/10 - production
9/10 - personal bias