Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Complex, musical Metal from Mastodon

I have a lot of friends who are into Metal and have been for years and years. I was a little late to that game. I really only started to appreciate Metal a few years ago. Now my Metal mix is perhaps the fastest growing category in my collection. I have a good friend who is always talking up Mastodon. Mastodon formed in Atlanta, GA in 1999 and have been on a steadily upward trajectory since then. In 2007, they were nominated for a Grammy (Best Metal Performance) and their last release entered the Billboard 200 at #11.

"Dude, what's heavier than an elephant?"

"Dude, what's heavier than an elephant?"

I think I caught a few minutes of their show at Bonnaroo 2008, but I didn’t get to hear much. The first half of their show was up against Ozomatli and there were other competing bands as always. I enjoyed the bit that I saw then and I’ve always kind of liked what I hear in my friends’ cars when I catch any Mastodon.

I stumbled upon Mastodon’s last release, “Crack the Skye,” a few days ago and I’m pleasantly surprised. This stuff is more complex and melodic than I was expecting from what I’ve heard in the past. Maybe I wasn’t playing close enough attention. The musicianship is accomplished and the songwriting is good. Vocals are throaty and heavy most of the time, but they can throw out smooth harmony vocals at need. The release is only 7 songs long but I liked 4 of them.

  • Oblivion – Mastodon sounds like a cross between Alice in Chains and Tool on this track. It’s almost 6 minutes long with sections of moaned vocals, crunching power chords, and Prog Rock solos.
  • Quintessence – Most of this track is built around a twisted minor chord riff, but there are moments of melodic harmony vocals and a hard-driving chorus. It all builds to a powerful finish. This is my favorite track on this release.
  • Ghost Of Karelia – They give us a bit of Math Rock on this one with the hard to count verses and then the pounding 4/4 chorus. It’s a head banger.
  • Crack the Skye – When this song started, I thought it was going to be a throw away track.  Then after about a minute it got going and I changed my mind about it. The main riff during the verses is a minor key arpeggio, but the bridge features growling vocals and heavy guitars before the chorus just crushes the sun.

There are a couple tracks on this album that are positively epic. One is ‘The Czar: I. Usurper II. Escape III. Martyr IV. Spiral.’ It earns that name, coming in at nearly 11 minutes. Parts of it are brilliant, but enough of it misses me that I didn’t want to have this saga pop up on my iPod. The other is ‘The Last Baron,’ which clocks in at fully 13 minutes long (this YouTube clip is just 6 minutes worth). I guess I feel the same way about this one. The song has several movements and parts of it are compelling, but if this thing comes up on your iPod, boy you are along for a long ride. Fans of the band — or of long, heavy tracks you won’t hear on the radio — will like them.

I have not been able to decipher all the lyrics, but apparently this is a concept album about a quadriplegic who learns astral projection, is burned by the sun, meets Rasputin… I guess I need to bust out my headphones.

http://www.mastodonrocks.com/

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October 26, 2009 - Posted by | Hard Rock, Metal

5 Comments »

  1. My understanding is above and beyond the astral travel, rasputin and wormhole stuff, much of it is actually related to the suicide of drummer Brann’s sister when she was 14 and him finally coming to grips with it.

    Comment by uncle rockie | October 28, 2009 | Reply

    • Yeah, I haven’t been able to dig in and listen to the lyrics closely enough to pull much meaning out of them. Like I said, I need to get out my headphones. I’ll listen for that, though.

      Comment by missedmusic | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. long tracks…..how about “lonesome crow” by the scorpions.Great album and the title track is 13 or 14 minutes……..I have never owned the vinyl but i believe its mostly gapless between some tracks…..no real proof.the title track will blow you away….no one believes its them. check it out

    Comment by scott | December 4, 2009 | Reply

    • I have been known to enjoy some Scorps. My brother had “Blackout” (on vinyl) when we were kids and I loved some of it. I’ll definitely check it out.

      Comment by missedmusic | December 4, 2009 | Reply

    • Found ‘Lonesome Crow’ and that tune is epic. The slow movement in the middle lost me a bit, but I kept it. And no, no one would ever guess it’s the Scorps. Thanks for recommending it.

      Comment by missedmusic | December 10, 2009 | Reply


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