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Archive for the ‘Mastodon’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MASTODON-“Fallen Torches” (2020).

Mastodon has a new collection of rarities and B-sides coming out soon.  I’m not sure if this single is a new song or an old one, but man is it good.

It features just about every aspect of Mastodon in one song.  There’s massive drums, heavy guitars, angry vocals, soaring clean vocals and many different parts.

The song opens with a heavy riff and vocals–a classic Mastodon sound.  After 45 second the guitars soar high and the second vocalist sings even higher, soaring the title before returning to the main verse riff.

A third part adds speed before a fourth part slows things down with a lot of sinister echo.  It’s a great breather that slowly rebuilds the song with some more great riffs and intense drums.  The end is suitably heavy.

I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.

[READ: August 1, 2020] “A Village After Dark”

This story shows the aftermath of something we never learn the details about.

A man, Fletcher, returns to a village in England.  He used to live there many years ago, but he is now older and easily disoriented. He didn’t recognize anything in the village.

But he needed to rest, so he stopped at door at random and knocked very hard on it.

While he was knocking, a young woman called out to him.  She asked if he was “one of that lot with David Maggis and all of them.”  He says he was, but that Maggis was hardly the most important one.

He realizes that he and his friends were all before her time.  Nevertheless, she was excited he was there, saying that all of the people her age looked up to him.  She invited him to her cottage. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 13, 2019] Babymetal

I first heard of BABYMETAL back in 2014 when they were a massive WTF in the music scene.

Here was a band that played heavy heavy music but the singers were teenage Japanese girls who were totally kawaii and who sang in a distinctly pop style.  The 17-year-old metal purist in me would have been infuriated by this abomination to metal.

But my adult self things this is an amazing amalgam of style and one that is designed to shake people out of their comfortable bubbles.   Even if you balk at the singing style (and the dancing), the music is really really heavy.  Like, impressively heavy.

But the juxtaposition doesn’t end there.  Between the heavy music comes occasional moments of synthy pop goodness.  It made my brain explode the first time I watched the video for “Gimme Chocolate.”  By the time I watched it a second time I was hooked and was determined to see them live.

Back in 2016, I somehow missed that they were playing the Electric Factory.  I was seeing Mastodon there two nights before their show but when I asked if there were any tickets left, they had sold out ages ago.  Boo!  [Looking at that setlist I see they played seven different songs last time!]

So, three and a half years later they finally came back into town and I bought a ticket right away.  Actually, I was supposed to be away for the weekend so I bought a ticket for Sunday in New York City.  This would have been so much work because I would have just come back from a camping trip, I would have had to drive into NYC to a place I’ve never been and it was a Sunday night.  So I was glad the trip was cancelled and I could go on Friday night after all!

I arrived and ran past the merch hoping to get a decent spot, but it was pretty packed.  I managed to get behind some short people and all was well for the opening band.  Then, when Avatar left, somehow 200 people pushed their way in front of all of us who felt like we were packed in pretty tight already.  I didn’t step back at all but somehow twice as many people were in front of me.  Woah. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 1, 2018] Mastodon

I saw Mastodon two years ago.  The band was great, but I left the show somewhat unsatisfied.  Was it the venue (Electric Factory, I think so); was it the crowd (a large and unceasing mosh pit, I think so).

I felt like I wanted to see them again.  But when they came back around a year later, I decided against it.  In part because it was the same venue and in part because it was an all day event with four bands (most of whom I liked, but that’s practically a festival).  A note on the setlist says that Brent Hinds was visibly upset with technical problems the whole show, so I’m glad I didn’t go.  Especially since this show’s setlist was very similar.

When this tour was announced co-headliners Primus and Mastodon, it seemed pretty ideal.  I have been wanting to see Primus and here was redemption for Mastodon–I’ve been pretty happy with the shows I’ve seen at Summer Stage.

Well, a thunderstorm was forecast for the entire day in Asbury Park, so they moved the show inside.  It wound up not raining at all, but you have to make a decision early when you have so much gear and they made the right choice–even if it may not have sounded as good.

But Mastodon sounded great.  The crowd wasn’t that large for them, I was surprised to see.  A largish pit started in the middle but it never really took off that much.  It was nicely contained and I was on the edge of it, where I like to be.

I like nearly everything Mastodon has released, although I don;t really know which album the songs come from.  So I didn’t even realize that so many songs came from their newest album Emperor of Sand (7 of 17).

The one good thing about it being inside is that it was still light out when they went on, but it was dark inside, which meant that their backgrounds and visuals worked well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 1, 2018] All Them Witches 

I didn’t know All Them Witches before this show.  And I don’t know them after this show.  Parking in Asbury Park was pretty rough and, it being after Memorial Day traffic was worse than when I had driven down there in the winter.

Because of the impending torrential thunderstorm (which never actually materialized), the show was moved from the Stone Pony Summer Stage to Conventional Hall.  It was the right decision given the forecast, but….well, whatever.

Anyhow, I missed them entirely.  I walked in as they were packing up their gear.

Sorry.

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SOUNDTRACKMASTODON-Cold Dark Place EP (2017).

The Cold Dark Place EP was apparently written to be a Brett Hinds solo project.  I don;t know how many songs he wrote for it, but he pulled his whole band together for these four tracks and they sound like the ever-evolving Mastodon–less heavy, more complex and with new, intriguing sounds.

“North Side Star” is a mellow song, with gentle guitars and rather delicate vocals.  The feature appears to be Brent Hinds’ 1954 Sho-Bud 13-string pedal steel guitar (which he acquired several years ago, fully outfitted with knee and foot-benders).  The slide doesn’t take over the song but adds really interesting soaring notes to the proceedings.  I love when both singers harmonize on their songs–their voices are quite distinctive and work together in a fascinating way.  Or as on the third verse when you can hear Hinds; voice and there’s a low harmony in the background.  Three minutes in there’s a cool guitar lick that leads to an almost (almost) funky break (it’s more heavy than funky) that leads to some cool guitar pyrotechnics.

“Blue Walsh” is sung by drummer Brann Dailor–his smooth crooning voice over the spiraling guitar line.  It has a cool bridge that leads to an aching chorus (with different lead vocals).  The end of the song turns into a blistering guitar solo that leads into a classic heavy Mastodon riff before returning to the chorus.

“Toe to Toes” opening with a very pretty acoustic guitar melody the song quietly shifts gears into a heavy circular riff and some rough but catchy singing.  The second vocal comes in on the second verse.  A pretty melody before a rather tough guitar solo.  It’s close to old Mastodon but still quite pretty.

“Cold Dark Place” opens with more of the Sho-Bud and Hinds’ singing.  This is a delicate ballad.  The keening slide guitar hovers over the pretty acoustic middle section (in which Hinds’s voice is too muffled).  Five minutes in, the song build into a screaming solo and a heavy prog-riffing end.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “Ghosts and Empties” (yes I read this almost two years ago)

This was a story in which I liked the heart of the story but I found the framing information to be less than satisfying.

The heart of the story is that a woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.

Although it was a bit navel gazing and not especially compelling, I did enjoy her observations about her neighborhood.  It was especially useful once she gave the context of the neighborhood and how it has ups and downs and had its share of good news and bad news.  (Having a baby swan eaten by an otter is simultaneously adorable and horrifying). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 5, 2016] Mastodon

2016-05-05 22.37.54I first heard Mastodon with their Moby Dick-inspired concept album Leviathan.  Since then, their albums have gotten bigger and better, with many more elements (they now have four singers in the band, and a great mix of really catchy stuff along with really heavy, kinda scary stuff).  Their latest album, 2013’s Once More Round the Sun has been a favorite of mine for the past three years.

I was supposed to see them at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville in November of 2014.  I even had my ticket purchased.  But through a terrible goof on my part, I couldn’t go.  I’ve been wanting to see them ever since.  They opened for Judas Priest in 2015, but I wanted to see them as a headliner.

They are planning a European Tour this summer, but for some reason, they decided to play one gig in the States, and they chose Philly.  I was pretty psyched to get my ticket!  I was even more psyched to learn that they played more or less the same set as they did at Starland Ballroom.  Honestly, I don’t really like when a band doesn’t mix up their setlists all that much. But in this case, it was fantastic.  I didn’t look at the songs before the shows, but I did check to see that most of the songs were from Once More, which was perfect. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 5, 2016] The Dillinger Escape Plan

2016-05-05 19.48.27I bought The Dillinger Escape Plan’s first album way back in 1999.  It is an abrasive, unpleasant, noisy, harsh record.  The band is known for playing “mathcore” which means their songs have lots of stops and starts and weird rhythms.  They are also really fast and the chords are more like screeches than actual guitar chords.

I didn’t listen to that album very much and I pretty much forgot about the band, but I saw their name pop up here and there.  And now, here they were opening for Mastodon.

I didn’t know that they had been making records for all this time–with many, many line up changes, including a new singer since that first album.  As I looked through their discography, I found out that Mike Patton, singer for Faith No More, Mr. Bungle and a dozen other even weirder bands, sang for them on an EP.

And then their new (and current singer) Greg Puciato took over.  On the songs that I’ve listened to from their later albums, Puciato sings in many styles.  There’s a lot of screaming, but there’s also some crooning and vocals that sound an awful lot like Patton’s (no mean feat).

Reviews said their newer albums were more melodic, so I was interested to hear what they’d do. (more…)

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withoutSOUNDTRACK: GOJIRA-L’Enfant Sauvage (2012).

gojiraGojira is a French heavy heavy metal band, and this album was highly recommended back in 2012 (I didn’t realize it wasn’t their debut–they have quite a few records out already).  This album is quite heavy, but it has a lot of diverse elements to keep it interesting.

At the same time, they do rely on a couple of guitar effects which make the album weirdly samey (no idea if they do it on other albums too).  The two biggest offenders in this “repeated” scenario are the seeming over-reliance on the open high e string to add contrast to the heavy chugging chords.  It’s a cool effect once or twice but they do it a lot (especially in the song “The Axe” where it happens way too much and which is then followed by “Liquid Fire” where they do it again).  The other thing they do is this weird scraping sound.  It happens in the first few notes as the disc opens (in “Explosia”).  It’s a really cool sound and quite distinctive.  When you do a weird sound like that a lot in one song, it feels like maybe too much, but then to do it in several other songs, it feels like a crutch.

Which is a shame because the rest of the album is really interesting–the vocals are growly but audible and there’s occasionally really cool backing harmony vocals (“Liquid Fire”) and some really unusual different parts to songs.

So “Explosia” opens really heavy with a crazy riff and pounding drums (and that weird scraping sound).  I love that at 2:30 it switches from bludgeoning to slower (but still heavy) and that as the song fades out with another heavy section there are slow guitar notes that remind me of a Western.  It’s really cool. “L’Enfant Sauvage” uses that open high E string in an interesting riff (by doing more than just letting the string ring out).  (The scraping sound appears here too, but in limited quantity). I like the way the song’s volume just drops for the last thirty seconds or so.

“The Axe” opens with a pummeling drum and guitar sound.  “Liquid Fire” alternates between heavy guitars and that open high E sound.  “The Wild Healer” is a simple, pretty instrumental.  It is 2 minutes long and the main riff is simple one (again all on one string).  There’s an interesting solo that plays along behind the main riff which is quite pretty–but it all ends very abruptly.

“Planned Obsolescence” jumps right in with some pummeling guitars (an a scrape sound).  It slows down a bit, but towards the end the pummeling double bass drums resume until the really slow sweet guitar section that comes in around 3:45.  “Mouth of Kala” has a heavy riff which is a cool change (even if the riff is fairly simple).  But there’s some nice melodies that alternate with the heavy stuff.  I also really like the way the song ends with a very different riff and sound than the beginning.  (And the backing vocals are really cool too).

“The Gift of Guilt” has an interesting open E string riff (which is similar to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” although they do something very different with it.  This song is just littered with odd effects, like a big heavy “bowh” sound and some high-pitched guitar pyrotechnics.  But I love the way it alternates parts (the growly vocals work really well here, too) and then ends so melodically.

“Pain is a Master” opens with a slow guitar riff and whispered voices, it’s a great change of pace for the disc.  Once the slow part ends, the guitars and drums pound furiously and we get some more odd effects–a siren sound (from the guitar) alternating with the ubiquitous scrape.  But the middle parts are really quite different, slower, slightly more menacing.  “Born in Winter” opens and closes with a slow and atmospheric section (delicate vocals even).  In the middle it gets heavier (and has some really fast drumming).

“The Fall” has an Alice in Chains vibe in one section and then a more cookie monster type vocal on another.  The scraping sound returns for a final showing. I really like the way the album just sort of disintegrated into random sounds as it ends.

So overall I really enjoyed this album. It’s probably nitpicky to complain about the overuse of certain sounds, especially since they are cool.  But they have so much creativity on the disc, that to hear the same things a few times just seems redundant.  Nevertheless the album rocks and is a really enjoyable metal album.  I was supposed to see them open for Mastadon earlier in the month but something came up and I had to eat the tickets (who knew you couldn’t even give away Mastadon/Gojira tickets, come on!).

[READ: November 21, 2014] Without Blood

I’ve been enjoying Baricco so much that I decided to grab this book while I was in the library too. I had already read this book a couple of years ago, or actually, I had read the version that appeared in the New Yorker.  The Wikipedia entry says that the New Yorker version is a”revised form” of the novel.  I didn’t know what that meant exactly.  But basically I gather it means that Ann Goldstein (who translated the New Yorker version) has re-translated the story (or that they edited it for the magazine the first time).

The New Yorker version is really long for a New Yorker story (it is practically the whole novel), so it’s understandable why things were a little shorter for the magazine.  But she hasn’t changed very much for the book.  There’s a lot of little modifications–tenses of verbs (in flashback situations), word phrases are altered, additional details seems to have been added and there is at least one small section in this novel that was not in the New Yorker version.

This “new” section is about a woman who is sitting in the cafe with them.  She asks the waiter about the two main characters and we learn a little about her past as well (it’s not relevant to the story and I can see why it was omitted, but it does flesh out the scene).  I am not willing to do a page by page comparison of the two (even though that is something I tend to do). But suffice it to say that the stories are virtually identical, although I found it more satisfying reading the novel version.

Since my original recap is basically how I would summarize it this time as well, I am including it here almost verbatim.  But in the spirit of the updated version of the novel, I am modifying this post from the original in small details–see if you can spot the differences. (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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[WATCHED October-November 2012] Metal Evolution

metal evolutionVH1 aired this series last year and I was intrigued by it but figured I had no time to watch an 11 hour series on the history of heavy metal.  Of course, this being VH1, they have since re-aired the series on an almost continual loop.  So, if you’re interested, you can always catch it.

This series was created by Sam Dunn, the documentary filmmaker who made the movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.  I had heard good things about the movie, but never saw it.  After watching the series, I’m definitely interested in the movie.  Dunn is a keener–A Canadian heavy metal fan who is really into his subject.  He knows his stuff and he knows what he likes (heavy metal) and what he doesn’t like (glam metal, nu metal).

The sheer number of people he interviews is impressive (as are the number of locations he travels to).  Part of me says “wow, I can’t believe he was able to interview X,” and then I remember, “X is really old and is nowhere near the level of fame that he once had.”  Given that, the few hold-outs seem surprising–did they not want to have anything to do with VH1?  Are they embarrassed at how uncool they are now?  Just watch the show guys, you can’t be as low as some.

The only mild criticism I have is that the show relies a lot on the same talking heads over and over.  Scott Ian from Anthrax, whom I love, is in every episode.  Indeed, he may be a paid VH1 spokesman at this point.  There are a few other dudes who show up a little more than they warrant, but hey, you use what you got, right?

What is impressive is the volume of music he includes with the show.  I assume that he couldn’t  get the rights to any studio recordings because every clip is live.  This is good for fans in that we get to see some cool unfamiliar live footage, but some of it is current live footage which often doesn’t compare to the heyday.  Having said that, there’s a lot of live footage from the early 80s–of bands that I never saw live anywhere.  And that’s pretty awesome.

With an 11-part documentary there’s the possibility of exhaustion and overkill, but Dunn is an excellent craftsman  he jumps around from old to new, talks about how the history impacts the current and, because of his own interests, he makes it personal rather than just informative. (more…)

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