Mastodon CD and LIVE review [Reprise]

Music Reviews
Mastodon CD and LIVE review [Reprise]
Nov 20, 2006, 17:58

MASTODON Blood Mountain CD Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL; September 14, 2006

I admit it—I came late to the Mastodon party. But about a year-and-a-half ago a friend gave me a copy of Leviathan with the following recommendation: “You have to love an album whose first lyrics are ‘I think that someone's trying to kill me.'”

This band can pretty much do anything it wants. Musically the members have the skill to pull off all sorts of complicated moves. Guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher are obviously inventive and nimble players, but what amazed me in the live show was the fluidity of their interchange. Solos that seemed obviously the work of one or the other were traded back and forth with a mind-bending rapidity. Brann Dailor's drumming was something I had to adjust to when I first sat down with Leviathan, but at a certain point a switch flipped inside my head and every roll and cymbal strike became completely appropriate and even necessary. The next cliché follows naturally, but Troy Sanders really does “hold it all together” with his bass playing and vocals and in his business-like way he provides a centering point for the band in performance.

Going out and playing to anyone that will have them (the punk rock basement circuit, metal shows and festivals) in the company of other intense bands (the show I saw in September featured a ripping warm-up set from Converge, for example) has not only made Mastodon a better band but has also set the stage for a move to a major that seems natural. Here's a band that really ought to be covered in the New York Times.

In the ever-changing landscape of popular music and its commercial environment, signing to the Warner Music Megaplex was an act of optimism and populism on the part of Mastodon. They came to the majors with a substantial audience, which allowed them to extract a good deal from the graying ponytails, and are obviously confident they can deliver the goods to a greater audience if given the distribution and a little tour support. That's a far more egalitarian philosophy than the hordes of “independent” artists who emit limited edition CDRs of their rehearsal sessions or acoustic plunkings along with the birds in the backyard. Exquisitely conceived and designed as they are, those precious jewels end up doing little more than feeding eBay trolls and getting a couple lines from Byron and Thurston in Arthur. Do I have to tell you about the warm fuzzy feelings an old timer like me got when I walked onto the packed main floor of the Metro and saw the kids go ape-shit for the band?

Every band needs a story to get attention these days and the “conceptual” basis of Blood Mountain fulfills a need for the haute bourgeois out there who need an intellectual motive in order to hold their noses and mingle amongst the lumpen proletariat of metal bands and their fans. They can write that the album is like Joseph Campbell for the Hessians. Or note that the audience contains discerning folks like themselves as well as “hipsters” (that all inclusive caste that by definition never includes one's self or one's friends and could never, ever be defined as the economic class music writers depend on for a living) in addition to the loathsome and slightly scary metal fans.

Of course, neither Mastodon nor their fans need or deserve that kind of condescension. Anyone who has to explain away the essential visceral appeal of loud rock music is obviously uninterested in music for its own sake. It's no secret by now that the commentariat is infused with Tin Hat Sociologists and English 101 TA's. Try to look past all of that. Let this review be proof that Mastodon are so great that their inherent goodness points out all the phoniness and insufficiency that the music scene spews out these days. Now that I am at the Mastodon party I plan to stay until they kick me out. [Reprise]

-Bruce Adams

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