Posts Tagged ‘Mastodon’

It was a bit of an interesting gig, in that I didn’t really want to go due to a mixture of recent bereavement and family visiting that evening and anxiety over finding a strange new venue in an unfamiliar city on a Saturday night when all the drunks and junkies would be roaming the streets, during the busy Office Christmas Party season where even more rowdy people would be out trying to look crazy to have something to talk about at work the next few weeks, as well as having to drive on some roads that have caused me much problems already this month and which have got me so stressed out I’ve actually said aloud ‘the next person to beep me, I’m getting out of the car and telling them, that I’m memorizing their face and if they ever beep me again I’ll follow them home and burn down their house with them in it.’

So, driving in the dark on a terrible road, negative emotions, better things to do with visiting family all already had me thinking I should just stay home and not attend.  Then, when I looked at the setlist of previous gigs in the tour I noticed a lack of a lot of my favourite songs (no Blood & Thunder!) and a too-high percentage of the new album (9 whole songs!). I also, when I bought the tickets initially, had noticed that they’d been doing a six song encore with all the songs they’d ever recorded with guests spots by Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, live, with Scott himself guesting. That seemed cool but I noticed on the previous show when I checked the setlist before going to my own gig that it now said ‘last show with Scott for 2017’ so one of the reasons that influenced me to buy the ticket in the first place was gone.

Mastodon are also a very hit and miss live band. Watch any outdoors show of them on youtube and you can see cracks appear. Watch their early DVD appearances and you can see Brent Hinds really struggle with vocals (that semi-famous version of ‘Capilarian Crest’ from that Slayer tour DVD for example). And while there are also amazing live moments from Mastodon, when I was thinking of reasons not to go and being a big wimp about the city streets and dodgy roads, I forgot about that.

I made a compromise and decided to not wimp out and still go, so I took my visiting guests to Cardiff for a night out, we had a nice meal in a restaurant, they went for drinks and saw the city and its Christmas market and temporary Ferris Wheel and got some drinks while I slipped off to see Mastodon after the food.

The support acts were Russian Circles, an instrumental Post-Metal band who my brother likes but I’ve never checked out, and Red Fang, the fun stoner metal band who have a Baroness and Mastodon sheen to them but also write Queens Of The Stone Age type stuff at times. I made it to the gig timed in such a way as to only see the last two Red Fang songs (and that’s ok, I only have two Red Fang CDs and only like one of em anyway) and I missed Russian Circles altogether (sorry guys… when I lived in Manchester I always walked to the venue early, got in as doors opened and watched all the support acts, but this is a new city, coming in by road, and bla bla bla…).

I’ve seen Mastodon three times before. Twice when their newest album was Blood Mountain, once with Tool where they leaned on their proggier side and played the full ‘Hearts Alive’ (hooray) and once supporting Slayer where they leaned on their more Metal side. I also caught them a few tours later when their latest album was Once More ‘Round The Sun, where they leaned on their more commercial and accessible material. Each version was great. In the Tool show the sound was bad and the vocals almost silent, but otherwise cool. With Slayer was probably the best. The headline ‘Sun show was pretty great but came at a period when I’d sort’ve fallen away from the band and it was actually what pulled me back in. The only downside was some stupid Scottish jerk screamed so loudly directly into my earhole that I had a ringing in my ears for three and a half days solid and I thought I was going to have to go to the doctor’s over it.

I have to admit, when it comes to Mastodon, my favourite albums are the three album stretch from Leviathan (I have a vinyl copy on my wall as decoration) until Crack The Skye. In this period, when it was happening, they were the most important, beloved, can-do-no-wrong band in the world and everything about them was cool and perfect. The next three albums are good too, and pay off really well when you first get them, but don’t quite live up to those previous three really, when you really look at them, in the cold light of day after the excitement has faded. They’re great, but they aren’t important and generation defining and tied up in all sorts of friendship memories and youthful anything-could-happen-next wide eyed wonderment. A lot of my friend group always say ‘they should’ve broken up after Crack The Skye and would’ve had a perfect untarnished legacy.’ (I’m much, much more forgiving of the next three albums than any of them, but even I can’t deny much preferring the previous three.)

So anyway, that’s the background.. On to the show…

So they came on after soundcheck to a warm applause, and launched into the rather odd song choice for an opener of the Crack The Skye late-album deep track ‘The Last Baron,’ (which is awesome in and of itself, but always feels like the second half of the title track and the third part of a suite of it, the title track and ‘Ghost Of Karelia’ and feels sort of unexpected and naked on its own). It was great though. It was a rather big statement of intent of what you could expect from the evening though, the trippier spacier stuff was definitely moved to the forefront.

There was some tasteful lighting and the stage turned from red to green to flashing depending on the tempo or time signature or some hidden logic I was having to much fun to study.

Then came the recent single from the new album, ‘Sultan’s Curse,’ which I didn’t think I liked all that much until I found myself singing along. They played the Crack The Skye single ‘Divinations complete with its surf guitar influenced solo, and then new-album deep cut ‘Ancient Kingdom’ and the lighting and previously not-much-used seven large thin screens surrounding the band started showing running water.

From then on the show started to get really good and I was warmed up and the showmanship started to come out more, the crowd started singing along more, and the screens started showing mental-ass psychedelic visions of evil octopuses, burning horses, snow, hell-scapes, deserts and all sorts.

The previous setlists on this tour had had a full 9 songs from Emperor Of Sand, but they trimmed that down to a more manageable 7 songs for my show, adding in the hits ‘Colony Of Birchmen’ ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Blood And Thunder’ to the set to balance it out. They also made the very nice decision to play crazy-ass Blood Mountain deep cut ‘Bladecatcher’ which I wasn’t expecting but gladly welcomed, air drumming along to all its twists and turns and teases.

There was an absence of a lot of their hits that night. No ‘Iron Tusk’ no ‘Capilarian Crest,’ no ‘March Of The Fire Ants,’ no ‘The Wolf Is Loose,’ no ‘Crystal Skull’ no ‘Curl Of The Burl’ and no ‘The Motherload.’ They certainly don’t always just play the same songs every tour that’s for sure!

They did a pretty great job without them though. When they initially chucked in the deep cut from ‘Round The Sun, ‘Emerald City’ I found myself thinking, “which one is that?” when they said the name in the introduction, but then quickly found myself singing the chorus loudly along with easily a thousand other people. I didn’t even know I loved that one, but apparently I do. Its never made it into any of my greatest hits playlists or friend recommendations before, but I guess it probably will in future.

They also played my favourite track off of Emperor Of Sand ‘Andromeda’ with its almost Remission-esque noisy barbaric riff. Some of the drums on tracks like ‘Steambreather’ and ‘Roots Remain’ were breathtaking. Brann Dailor is an absolute drum hero up there with Dany Carey and Neil Pert.

Now; Because Mastodon are such an important band to me, all their albums are major life events and are tied to specific periods in my memory forever. Leviathan was around my 16th birthday and was influential to my teenage band and one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had as a music fan (a lot of my early facebook photos are in a Leviathan shirt and I’ve got a vinyl copy on my wall, now and in my last three homes, as decoration). Blood Mountain was the big exciting release all my high school friends were talking about when I left town after high school and what I’d discuss with them when I got back in touch with them any time in the next few years. Crack The Skye was this amazing otherworldly transcendental masterpiece that defined much of my time when I moved to England. The Hunter was the soundtrack to when I worked in Blackpool while reading all the A Song Of Ice And Fire books and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Once More ‘Round The Sun always reminds me of walking my then girlfriend, now wife, to university in the snow and slipping and sliding along all the ice, and then waiting in the lecture halls I’d gotten to half an hour early for my own classes, just cranking out Mastodon, sitting in cold echoing halls bopping away to ‘Halloween’ and ‘Tread Lightly.’

Emperor Of Sand, however, reminds me of misery. I was listening to it heavily when we lost our first baby, and when I was working horrible soul destroying night shifts with an awful, passive aggressive, demanding and socially maladjusted manager in a horrific ungrateful job where you could work either 14 hours a day day shifts or 11 hours a night night shifts and still be harassed into coming in early so they’d pass inspections or going home every single damn day between 20 and 90 minutes late due to short staffing, and not be thanked for it, and have to come in on two hours notice, or on only five hours sleep, and work in awful dehydrating conditions and have the manager talk to you through the toilet door if you ever actually got the chance to actually go to the toilet and escape work for long enough to piss. That place broke so many labour laws and health and safety rules it was staggering and its a wonder the upper management weren’t all sacked, if not prosecute. But anyway… Nowadays when my life is so much happier and nicer and I’m in an awesome job that I love in a much better city in a much nicer home and everything is a lot better, listening to Emperor Of Sand just bums me out and reminds me of slaving away in such horrible conditions for such a dreadful uncaring company and their demanding, hateful, ungrateful clients and then coming home to bereavement and a lack of sleep.

Hearing those songs live with the cool video screens and all the joyous sing-alongs from the other fans sort of freed them from that association. I just got to listen to and enjoy them as songs, free from all the baggage. It was nice. Liberating.

Which is a good job, since so much of the setlist was from it. Going off Setlist FM, the breakdown was as follows: Emperor Of Sand -7 songs; Crack The Skye – 3 songs; Blood Mountain – 2 songs; Leviathan – 2 songs; Once More ’Round The Sun – 1 song; Remission – 1 song; The Hunter – 1 song.

Oh yeah, did I tell you they played bloody ‘Mother Puncher’ ?! SCORE! Its nice that even though they’re so late in their career they aren’t ignoring Remission (come to think of it, last time I saw them they very unexpectedly dropped ‘Ol Nessie’ into the middle of all the commercial stuff!). I hate fans who act all cool and say they only like Remission, sure, but it is a stunning monstrous album and I’d hate for it to be overlooked or forgotten. I’d love for them to drop a few more nuggets from it in nowadays. Nobody could argue with a bit of ‘Crusher Destroyer’ or ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’ nowadays, surely. Just slipped in nice and tidy among the proggier stuff to raise the energy levels and remind us of heavier times.

Speaking of ‘Mother Puncher’…. good God, the drums on that song! That and the breakdown in the middle of ‘Blood And Thunder’ have some of the most maddeningly-illogical yet crazily-satisfying drums ever.

Overall, I had a pretty great night and the band were great. A vastly different setlist than I’ve ever seen by ’em before, cool interesting visuals, a receptive audience, and I’ve not mentioned it yet but the sound was really clear and well balanced, the guitar solos were cool and Brent played them with a little bit of improvisation, and the vocals were really great. As I’ve said, I’ve went to Mastodon shows were you couldn’t even hear the vocals, I’ve seen Mastodon live footage online were the vocals weren’t so hot performance-wise, and I’ve seen ’em live before or recorded on their Brixton live video for example, with awesome vocals. Tonight was a good night for vocals, and indeed for crowd participation. The audience were dancing, singing, air drumming. I was sat behind the lighting/sound guys and they were dancing in unison at one stage. The whole vibe was very friendly and fun and like we were all in on the group secret.

I might have been skeptical and almost cancelled going to this show, but I’m glad I didn’t. I had a good time, I saw a good show and its given me a renewed appreciation for the new album and helped free it from bad memories.


emperor_of_sand_coverAtlanta Prog Metal legends Mastodon return in 2017 with their seventh proper full-length studio album, Emperor Of Sand. Speaking of returns; frequent collaborator Scott Kelly returns for yet another guest vocal performance and producer Brendan O’Brian returns as well, having last done their fourth album, the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye. Also returning is the concept-album format. Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye had all been story-driven concept albums that also served as a metaphor for the band’s lives and Emperor Of Sand continues that tradition after a break into more traditional territories with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun.

The concept on this record is of a man being handed down a curse/death sentence and wandering the sands of the desert to his ultimate death and or salvation. The band haven’t been shy in interviews of describing the fact that story serves as a metaphor for cancer and especially guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother’s death from brain cancer. There’s even a dedication to her cleverly hidden in the artwork on one of the creature’s shields.

When you get told that information before hand, you immediately analyze the lyrics for clues. Is this about a biopsy? Is this about a scan? Does this represent the prognosis? Is this about the stages of grief? Does this represent the loss of cognitive function associated with illnesses of the brain? Is this line about a donation? Is this one about a family dispute? Does this character represent the doctor? Does this one represent cancer itself? …We do know for sure from the documentary that sand represents time. Sometimes it isn’t even so hidden at all; the album ends with the line ‘Its right in front of me, your malignancy.’ It all gives the album such a layer of depth, not unlike Crack The Skye had with Brann’s family tragedy. It feels a bit distasteful going into it so much, but then again if they didn’t want us to it wouldn’t have been released and promoted in such a way as to make it so possible.

Background aside, the main thing that sticks out about this album is the lead guitar. Now, Mastadon have always been musical virtuosos, innovators and masters of distilling broad and extreme influences into a cohesive singular whole, but still, even when we get used to excellence from the musicians, the guitars here are especially strong. There are some really stand up and take notice leads, some very crack a smile solos and some screw up your face and nod riffs on here.

It really is a guitar-centric record. Even with the story, Brann’s superhero drumming, all the bonus keyboards and studio touches, and the team approach to vocals… man those guitarists sure are on damn fine form here.

In terms of direction; this one seems to be an attempt to merge the Crack The Skye formula into the most mainstream moments of the most recent two albums. The first half of the album is all more sing-along, catchy, easily accessible stuff, and the second half drops down the prog. Tracks like ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Precious Stones’ have radio appeal, then tracks like the magnificent album closer ‘Jaguar God’ are a trippy journey through a dozen speeds, tones and moods with bonkers Robert Fripp-esque guitar noodling meeting metal meeting acoustic meeting big beautiful wailing solos. The middle of ‘Clandestiny’ sounds like it could be on a Yes or Genesis record, something they’ve always talked about but I’ve never heard so litterally before.

With Emperor Of Sand it feels like they’ve taken all the lessons they’ve learned with big vocal melodys, hit appeal and targeting a wider audience, and applied it to the slow-burn, grower, hear something new on every listen nature of Crack The Skye. It doesn’t sound anything like that record, but the second half has the same spirit, ethos or vibe as it did. Its all about the repeat listens, the new discoveries, the changing attitudes. I mean, it doesn’t sound like my favourite album, Leviathan, and that is always an adjustment, but when you get over it, like you do every new release you realize that the band can still be amazing even when they are doing a different style.

On first listen, I wasn’t keen on this album, the next time I wasn’t sure, I felt a bit negatively about this but I was sure one more listen would prove whether there was something good going on here and then from there it built and built for me until I was a bit positive to satisfied and now I’m very impressed. Its got big ideas, its got big ambitions, and its undeniably Mastodon. Some of these songs feel one way, then they hit the halfway mark and morph into something else. There’s all these neat subtle touches in the background (listen in depth to ‘Steam Breather’). There’s such badass little drum parts (hey there, Ancient Kingdom’s midsection!). There’s such sticky vocal parts. From all the singers. They’re working together even better than before, blending better. Its a team approach to vocals and it works really well. Then you get all the different takes on the album. Sit there with the lyric book in an empty room and the album feels one way, listen to it on a sunny walk and its very different again. Listen concentrating on one instrument and it feels like a different record than concentrating on another, or the vocals.

For me; my favourite tracks would have to be ‘Roots Remain,’ especially towards its end which has a Cysquatch feel to it, as well as aforementioned album highlight ‘Jaguar God’ and the most Remission-like track ‘Andromeda’ with its jagged caustic riffs and awesome guest vocals from Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp… but hey, if the weather improves I can see it being the singles ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Sultans Curse.’ Pretty great for an album I initially had a negative impression of, ey?

A grower. An exceeder of expectations. A Mastodon album.

Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – Mastodon

Posted: September 17, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Greatest Hits Series
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Inspired by the entertaining blogs of the excellent wordpress blogger Nick’s Album Reviews, I’ve decided to join in the fun, and copy his Greatest Hits blog formula and match the bands chosen with my own personal taste (select my personal favourite 10 tracks by the band that would feel like a good greatest hits cd).

This time around is all about Mastodon. Here we go:

10.
09.
08.
07.
06.
05.
04.
03.
02.
01.

I would’ve liked an extra track off Crack The Skye, but there’s only 10 tracks room/space to play with.

Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun

Mastodon – Once More Round The Sun

I’ve held off reviewing this for a while until I got used to it. I first heard the band just before their second full-length record Leviathan dropped, and got into Mastodon properly around the time The Workhorse Chronicles DVD was released. They’ve been a favourite band ever since, and each new album became a favourite that I’d listen to all year long. They always hold up. I saw them live a few times and it was always great fun.

Then when The Hunter came out, everyone started getting off the Mastodon train, at least it seemed. It used to be that this band could do no wrong in the court of public opinion and suddenly The Hunter was getting a lot of long-time fans feeling disappointed. I agree that it maybe doesn’t hold up so well as the others like Blood Mountain or Crack The Skye, but I really like half of it and like at least three quarters of it.

Still, the magical excitement phase was gone. Time went on, I got into other bands, Mastodon weren’t always on my mind all the time anymore. I wasn’t in a Mastodon mood when I first heard they had a new album coming out. The single “The High Road” didn’t win me over. The full stream of the album was released and with one quick listen it all seemed bland and samey and unexciting. I even started doubting The Hunter like everyone else. Then I saw the band live again and suddenly all these new songs came to life. It was like “Wow, hold on a second, the haven’t lost it at all!” I got given the new album as a gift soon after that and y’know what, I really fell in love with it.

Tracks like “Halloween,” as well as the single “The Motherload” and the Title Track are all joyous, uplifting and pure fun. Its not the crushing, pulverizing Mastodon of “Motherpuncher” or “We Built This Come Death” by a long shot, but the fun is undeniable. The record is a sort of feel-good sunshine album you’d never expect from these guys and yet it works absolutely perfectly.

Most of the album could still be described samey, but only in as much as it is consistent. The Hunter was perhaps too diverse, and as a result didn’t have the same lazer-beam focus that this does. This is a quick, easily digestible and smile-enducing journey through a new Mastodon who are in a good mood. That’s not to say its devoid of variety, just that its focused. Three songs stand out as being different for example; which are the aforementioned “High Road” as well as the Scott Kelly featuring album closer, and then the colourful “Aunt Lisa.” These moments contrast the speedy, light and happy fun of the rest of the record, and provide an essential change of pace that allows the whole thing to work and not feel too one-dimensional.

Elsewhere, the performances are great, the production job is crystal clear and the clean-vocals have never been more talented. Its brief, its focused and its fun.

Overall; Once More Around The Sun may not be to every Mastodon fan’s taste. It will never have the artistic depth of Crack The Skye or the crushing heaviness of Remission, but judged on its own merits its still damn good, even if its not what was expected. I personally like it a lot and I’d recommend people at least give it a shot, even if you’ve not been keeping up with the band recently.

I went to go see Mastodon live tonight at Manchester Academy (on Monday 24th of November, 2014).

This is the 3rd time I’ve seen the band live. I saw them with Trivium/Amon Amarth and Slayer in Wolverhampton, and I saw them with Tool in Dublin. Both were in support of Blood Mountain, but at the Tool gig they played mostly their proggier stuff, and with Slayer they went for the faster harder stuff (well, still not much off Remission or Lifesblood, but the harder side of Blood Mountain and Leviathan.)

As you can tell from all the pictures of me in Leviathan t-shirts, and the picture of a Leviathan vinyl mounted on my wall, and all the glowing Mastodon reviews in the reviews section… these guys were one of my favourite bands. I have to admit, my love affair is waning a bit in the last year or two. 2007-2011 they were unarguably in my top five bands ever, but I’ve kind of forgotten them (through no fault of their own… just me getting distracted by other musical adventure elsewhere), and if I’m honest I’ve fallen out of love with most of the deep cuts off of The Hunter… I just listened to it way too much and only about half of it stayed awesome. Oh, and I’ve also barely watched the Live At Brixton concert because they failed to put it out on Blu Ray and watching it on the computer isn’t an option for me.

All that, and I’ve not gotten Once More Around The Sun yet… I did stream it twice around the time of release and wasn’t blown away (but maybe it’s a grower?) but I do love the latest single “The Motherload” (or specifically, its chorus!), which I’ve heard a lot in music video form or live on tv shows. So going in, I didn’t know what to think. They used to be one of my absolute favourite bands ever, I can remember hearing them for the first time a decade ago, getting my first cd of theirs seven years ago… going nuts for Crack The Skye for a full year and barely listening to anything else… I remember the whole “nothing will ever be better than this… music is therefore officially finished” emotions, but… I dunno I’ve just not been in the mood for them lately. I’ve been off in other directions.

I have however been blown away live by bands I wasn’t in the mood for before. I was out of love with Trivium last time I saw them and they wrenched me violently back to them with an astounding show.

With that in mind, I headed out to the concert on this cold Manchester night.

The support band was called Krokodil, named after that horrible drug in all the documentaries at the moment, and most famous for providing Slipknot with their new bassist. I hadn’t heard their music before going in.

Turns out they’re a sludgy, harsh, abrasive band in the style of early Mastodon, early Baroness and early Black Tusk. Sometimes they went lighter, which was like the heavier side of Red Fang… sometimes it was a bit more Dillinger. It seemed like their bass was their main instrument. There’s also this noisy hardcore aspect to them and a lot of guttural death growls and stuff too. They had a pretty brilliant song that I assume was called “The Tide” and they seemed ok the rest of the time.

Unannounced extra support band Big Business followed. They were a two-man (bassist and drummer, both singers) group, who played more like the light side of Red Fang but very much in that same tent as everyone else I mentioned. The sound mix didn’t help them… it sounded like one big drum solo. I mean… there was a drum solo, but because of the sound, their normal songs were also pretty much a drum solo. Good job they have an incredible drummer. I think their slot was about 10 minutes too long… if I’m totally honest I did start to get bored (and I’m usually very into giving people a fair chance), but otherwise, I wouldn’t criticize them.

Then came Mastodon: One time “I’ll talk your ear off about them, I love them TOO MUCH” band… Current “barely listened to them in the last two years” band.

Would they reignite that passionate love affair with an explosive set of all my favourite songs, played furiously with intense energy and a great sound mix? Or would it be a drab trotting out of new material with lackluster performances and dodgy sound quality?

Well… first up, they seemed to play mostly music off their new album, Once More Around The Sun (it felt like 7 or 8 songs!), which as I’ve explained, I’m not overly familiar with yet, since I haven’t bought it yet.

Otherwise, the setlist was a mix of hits “Oblivion,” “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” “Black Tongue” and closing with the immense “Blood And Thunder” with some very surprising moments too, like… they played “Ole Nessie” off of Remission. Did not expect! – Also “Blade Catcher” off of Blood Mountain, which I sometimes think of more as an interlude than a real song (although I’m pretty sure they played that when I saw ‘em with Tool too, in all fairness). It was cool to see “Megalodon” and “Aqua Dementia.” – I saw them both before but I thought they were quiet deep tracks that would get lost once they put more albums out. Luckily not.

Disappointingly, there was no “Curl of the Burl” which I would’ve preferred over almost anything else off the two newest albums, but hey you can’t have everything. Oh; and they’ve returned to their old position of not playing “March of the Fire Ants” anymore, which I think is a mistake, but hey ho… I’m sure lots of people are sick of it. I could do with an Iron Maiden set without “Run To The Hills” and “Number Of The Beast” so I can see why Mastodon would make this choice. Now that I think of it there were quite a few hits missing… no “Iron Tusk,” no “Colony off Birchmen” no “Capillirian Crest.”

At the time I was kind of put off mentally by the whole “lets play a ton of tracks off of the new album” attitude, but really, I think it’s a good thing when bands do that most of the time, so long as the album is good. Me, not being a huge ‘Round The Sun fan yet might not have been best served, but its always a bit rubbish when you go and see someone like Megadeth or Slayer and don’t get to hear your favourite new songs because they kind of don’t let themselves change the setlist too much in case it wrecks a winning formula.

Oh yeah, and you know the most important bit… they absolutely slayed the new album live! It was killer. People went mad for it too. People sang every word to tracks like “Aunt Lisa” and “Halloween.” People ate that right up! (I felt a bit guilty for not knowing the words… was Troy looking into my blank face and feeling disappointed?)

The highlights of the night for me actually included the two new singles “High Road” (despite way too much ironic crowdsurfer action) and “The Motherload.” They just blew the place apart. The biggest, most explosive thing of all though was an absolutely ripping rendition of “Blasteroid” which I never considered an “evening-maker” until now… but boy did it jam! It put a huge grin on my face!

Oh yes, it was a very good show from Mastodon indeed. The cool hand-painted backdrop… all the fancy lazers, the good sound job, it all helped… but what really sold it was Mastodon themselves. They really cared!

Troy would look people in the eye all the time… he’d give people off at the sides a thumbs up, when he noticed someone taking his picture, he’d pull a cool dramatic pose… even in the middle of a song. Brann looked like he was having fun on his new non-Randy Rhodes drum kit… Bill and Brent tore it up like the rock stars they’ve truly become. You just got the sense that everyone was passionate about this… no phoning it in, no boredom… just pure showmanship.

Yeah… you’re damn right its reignited my Mastodon love and you’re damn right I’m getting that new album as soon as my next paycheck lands!

All in all, if you’re wondering whether or not to catch Mastodon on this tour, I strongly advise you do! Just… wear some ear plugs… because the fans bellowed and hollered in my earhole so much it give me really bad headaches afterward and a weird version of ringing-in-the-ears that’s more like an on-off guitar’s killswitch kind of thing… like I’m deaf for one second, normal the next. Not cool.

Yeah, worth it. But dude, earplugs… seriously!

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 52. 52 days without buying myself anything. I think that’s a new record. I don’t think, since getting my first job at 16, ten years ago, that I’ve ever went this long without buying something along the lines of a book, cd, dvd, videogame etc. for myself. I’m a big old spoiled Western consumer of the hardest core.

I’m also tempted to break my pledge not to buy anything because Batman Contagion is on eBay at the minute for only £4 and that’s been on my wishlist for a year now. Time will only tell if I break my resolve and buy it. Maybe someone else will buy it first and the problem will go away.

I’ve also saw in town a shop selling In The Court Of The Crimson King on Vinyl. Its £17 though, and for my use of it as merely a poster for my wall, that’s not worth it. Why is no one selling it used for £3? Anyway…

Its been an excellent few weeks. I’ve been eating super healthy (constant soups full of dozens of veg, and smoothies full of dozens of fruit and veg, adding spinach to normal meals, eating less meat, massively reducing my intake of junk food, almost giving up chocolate completely) and I’ve been exercising a lot (going for walks almost daily, lifting weights frequently). Most of this was in the sun and away from the city, but even this last week when I did return to the city, I’ve kept it up. I even kept it up yesterday on my first day back at Uni. Next week, with a return to work, and full-week Uni, will be the real challenge.

At any rate, everyone is telling me I’ve lost weight. To the point where I actually believe it. Take home message: get more vitamins and go for walks = Thin Jim. Hopefully I can keep it up.

During this time, I’ve been experiencing the delights of Manowar, the new Down EP, a whole heap of Accept, some early Savatage, and trying out Minor Threat.

I’ve also been gifted a butt-load of comics related stuff which I shall try tonight after weightlifting. Those two things, lifting and comics, (with a healthy dose of Hammerfall in the background), should help me stay off eBay and avoid breaking my pledge.

Also, my house mates got me the newest Judas Priest and Trivium albums, as well as Ozzy’s Tribute live album with Randy Rhodes, and Soundgarden’s recently reissued debut EP, Screaming For Life/Fopp. I’ll deny myself these goodies now, and open them in a month, so I have something to look forward to in a month, and hopefully that will stop me buying any new music between now and then. Even if buying Raven or Tank albums on iTunes is tempting….

Anyway; here’s what else I’ve been up to, in order to distract myself from my materialism.

First off, for my own entertainment, and your information, I’ve complied the following list:

Albums I Have Fallen Completely Obsessively In Love With, in roughly chronological order of it happening:

Protest The Hero – Kezia
Gallows – Grey Britain
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2
Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
Accept – Stalingrad
Rishloo – Feathergun
Chimaira – The Infection
Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Kiss – Alive
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick
Gentle Giant – Octopus
Pink Floyd – The Wall
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am’
Forbidden – Forbidden Evil
Megadeth – So Far So Good So What
Anthrax – Among The Living
Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power
Powerman 5000 – Tonight The Stars Revolt
Jetplane Landing – Once Like A Spark
The Libertines – S/T
Mudvayne – The End Of All Things To Come
Slipknot – S/T
Green Day – Warning

I also had huge Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Napalm Death and Monster Magnet periods, but no single album ended up getting the focus of that huge obsession. Zyklon, Carpathian Forest, Mars Volta, Riverside and Gamma Ray are all almost up there for an album each (Aeon, Defending The Throne Of Evil, Ochtahedron, ADHD and Land Of The Free) but I can’t bring myself to fully commit to writing them down for some reason. Motley Crue’s Theater Of Pain is kind of getting this way at the minute so we’ll see how it pans out, its probably the newest name on the list. Some that are up there have faded, but some are as strong as ever.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently, excluding the aforementioned birthday gifts (I’ve been absolutely hammering Manowar, and that new Fratellis album):









I really like the Alice In Chains demo “Social Parasite” …its quite good fun.

I’m thinking of digging into some really under-listened albums next, like the Napalm Death covers albums, Anathema’s Falling Deeper, Sodom’s debut, Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine and Forbidden’s Green. Then I think, maybe I listen to them so little because they aren’t good.

I remember going back and listening to all my Nu Metal albums like Static X and Spineshank and Ill Nino for a similar reason, but I never blogged about it because I was so snowed under with Uni essays at the time. I found that to be be a worthy exercise for surprise enjoyment (“Ostego Undead” is more fun than I remember), so maybe listening to records that I think of as duds may prove worthwhile too.

I’ll let you know what I chose. Right now I’m off to lift weights while watching the Justice League cartoon. See you soon…

Hello and welcome once again my friends to the show that never ends this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Its now eight days into the challenge and yup…didn’t cave last night and buy anything. I don’t think I’m all that tempted at the minute. Maybe I am though. Who knows, maybe I’d sneak in during the middle of the night and buy Girls Girls Girls on eBay? I listened to Accept’s Balls To The Wall yesterday, that made me pretty tempted to pick up Restless & Wild actually. Ok…so maybe there are temptations. Get off my back!

A lot of my blog viewing this week has featured Savatage…maybe I’ll just quickly get the albums of theirs I’m missing?

No. Stay strong!… Ok. So. You’ll be glad to read (unless you’re an Amazon employee) that I didn’t do any of that. I’ve still been listening to that Motely Crue album I mentioned yesterday. Also a lot of Pantera. Boy do I enjoy Pantera. Sometimes you take them for granted and ignore them, and then all of a sudden you are refreshed and hear them again and its all like “Wow…how good are Pantera guys? Seriously!” as if it’s the very first time again. Excellent, timeless, brilliant band.

In non-music realms, I’ve been reading Batman Cacophony, a title (written by Kevin Smith) that I picked up and read over half a year ago but haven’t blogged about yet, but I’ve kept that in a separate post, in the Amateur Batfan series. Temptations-wise? Maybe I might buy Kevin Smith’s work on Green Arrow or Daredevil? I am curious… but, no, not now. Its still just Batman time for me.

So, what else is new then?

I’ve been reading a lot online today about the best selling Metal albums of all time. I would like to see how Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot compare to Dokken and Quiet Riot…how Dream Theater did, if Anthrax or Exodus ever went platinum over time… things like that.

A few of the places to check out are: here and here, and also here. Furthermore, there’s here and here and here.

What I found out however is that there are massive, massive, massive differences in opinion/supposed facts/plain old lies about how well certain albums sold. Here are some examples of such disputed sales figures:

AC/DC – Back In Black: 49 x platinum (or 25/40 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon: 45 x platinum (or 22 as reported elsewhere)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV: 37 x platinum (or 29 as reported elsewhere)
Nirvana – Nevermind: 30 x platinum (or 26 as reported elsewhere)
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet: 28 x platinum (or 12 as reported elsewhere)
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: 28 x platinum (or 18/21/30 as reported elsewhere)
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory: 24 x platinum (or 10 as reported elsewhere)
Metallica – Metallica: 19 x platinum (or 16/30 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Wall: 17 x platinum (or 30 as reported elsewhere)

How can there be such discrepancies? Some of these are nearly double the amount! That’s not something you can mistake in your bank account, or shipping company traffic.

Here are other some surprises however:

Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause: 11 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other: 7 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water: 6 x platinum
Quiet Riot – Metal Health: 6 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits: 5 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies: 5 x platinum
Alice in Chains – Dirt: 4 x platinum
Black Sabbath – Paranoid: 4 x platinum
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: 4 x platinum
Linkin Park – Meteora: 4 x platinum
Disturbed – The Sickness: 4 x platinum
Godsmack – Godsmack: 4 x platinum
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All: 3 x platinum
System of a Down – Toxicity: 3 x platinum
Queensryche – Empire: 3 x platinum
Tool – Aenima 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Night Songs: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Long Cold Winter: 3 x platinum
Papa Roach – Infest: 3 x platinum
P.O.D. – Satellite: 3 x platinum
Audioslave – Audioslave 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman: 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon: 3 x platinum

P.O.D, Cinadrella, Papa Roach and Disturbed stand out to me as odd. These guys all sold more than Slipknot? My perspective is way off. They all sold equal to System Of A Down…really? Also, I never, ever thought Godsmack would be that successful… You just do not hear of those guys over here in the UK (Godsmack’s record here is MORE Successful than Black Sabbath, RATM and Ozzy Osbourne? Really?).

Tool sold so many despite being so proggy and weird? Good on them!

RATM sold so few relative to this list despite the enormous crossover appeal?

What’s with the large gap between Metallica albums? If you like Metallica enough to buy Ride The Lightning, why not buy Kill ‘Em All too?

Significant Other sold more than Chocolate Starfish? – It really didn’t feel that way at the time.

Audioslave?

Queensryche did that well? Why were they so unheard of two years ago?

An unwanted, cover-song-filled GNR compilation so, so late in their career outsold Toxicity and Meteora? They seemed sooooo famous at the time to me, while that compilation seems so throw-away.

But anyway, enough about sales.

DT – A

Here’s something to reevaluate. Dream Theater’s 1994 album, Awake. It’s their third album, it’s the third of theirs that I heard if memory serves. I heard Metropolis’ and didn’t like it (this has since changed), then I heard Images & Words and liked that, then I bought a boxset and listened to the other albums in that; which included Awake, Falling Into Infinity and Train Of Thought.

The album opens up with drums on their own, and kind of reminds me of Jethro Tull’s ‘No Lullabye’ in a very vague way. Opener “6.00” comes in and samples say “Six O Clock On A Christmas Morning” in a way that is sort of cool because they made it rhythmic and part of the song like Ministry might do, but also slightly annoying. Sometimes this part is offputting and sometimes I love it, depending on my mood. They pulled the whole samples and randomness thing off way better on the previous album during “Take The Time.”

I like the keys, this actually feels like there is a lot of 70s Prog in it. The drums are nice and flashy and awkward. Its kind of, with the exception of the pre-chorus though, its kind of cooler to appreciate than to actually enjoy. You sit with your minds eye, casting it over the different things going on, focusing for a second on each, like watching Slipknot on stage with your real eyes, and that process is fun. The song isn’t as good on the ears as that process is on the brain however.

I like it during the middle during the “Inside coming outside” bit where it goes a bit Misplaced Childhood. After this point the song is pretty bad-ass actually. The solo and the parts underneath are all excellent.

Much like Theater Of Pain I kind of think this album-opener is a bad choice. Its doesn’t set up a good first impression. I think you have to know you like the song before you hear it to trust it, otherwise its just gimmicky and overly bouncy without being memorable. Its not. But it seems that way until the half-way point if you are unfamiliar. It should be buried later in the album, where it would be the exact same song, but better, because you’re already warmed up. Do you follow?

Next up comes “Caught In A Web.” I didn’t know that at the time, because as a rule I think I hate “Caught In A Web.” I hear some Dream Theater song though… The first minute…awesome. (Well; awesome except the synth… a weird seering synth over the top that feels like its mocking me. I had problems with Camel’s fifth album in the past, when the toplines mocked me even when the bottom was cool. The bottom of this song during the first minute or two is awesome, but boy-o-boy do I dislike that top-part.)

Anyway, the first minute is more or less great. Nice, the same excellent sound from their previous record Images & Words, but maybe a little tiny bit slower and with a tiny bit more Pantera creeping into things. Then a really ugly, ugly, sheen-y chorus which just doesn’t fit. Oh, I guess its “Caught In A Web.” Damn, I don’t like it anymore…I think?

It then bounces into a cool Alternative Metal/Groove Metal riff that really reminds me of Pantera and Pissing Razors a lot. Then there’s bits when they prog out on that riff and it sounds like Death and Opeth because of the long winding, ever-shifting guitar lines aspects. The whole mid section is fabulous. The drum build-up is cool, the Eastern-tinged keys are cool, the guitars are rhythmic and interesting.

I often think I dislike this song, but this song is fabulous, its just got the wrong chorus for my tastes. I’d love to edit the chorus out of it, and then it would be one of my favourite Dream Theater tracks.

Next up comes “Innocence Faded,” which opens like some sort of Tennis Match montage music. Its clean and commercial and not unpleasant. It then goes down into a quiet, diamondy sort of sound like Donkey Kong Country levels in an Ice Cave. The next bit is cool, kind of Genesis-reminiscent. The chorus is a bit “nothing” …a sort of swing-and-a-miss, but there are many other cool parts. LaBrie is awesome around the 2.05 mark. The drums are nice and flashy between there and the chorus too. Very nice. After that there’s some very 80s Rush sounds. Rush albums later than Moving Pictures. I like it. Its not very Metal in any way, but in and of itself, its nice. It kind of reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” combined in some sort of The Fly situation.

The instrumental “Erotomania” is next. A lot of Van Der Graaf and King Crimson influence here. It opens sounding like a warning siren on a train track. Its quite nice to sit and concentrate on, but not really background music. Queensryche and Tool, and even Mastodon can make Prog that you can not even notice is all that complex if you don’t pay attention. This is more like The Mars Volta in that…no one’s mistaking that for simplistic. It gets really cool from 2 minute mark onwards, all these parts are way cooler than the start part. Its interesting the mix of 70s Prog, with 80s sounds and then also even a bit that sounds like its trying to be Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in there in the background. Its also cool when it goes Neoclassical a minute later. This is the sort of thing you listen to a hundred times and never truly hear the same thing twice. I think two fans can hear it and their brains will tell them two completely different things depending on how closely each guy is paying attention.

The brief Metal bit towards the end, but before the repetition of the bits from the start, is cool. Also, the actual end-end really, really reminds me of both “The Trees” by Rush, and the bit in “2112” by Rush where it transitions from the heavy bit to the soft bit where the character discovers the guitar.

The lengthy “Voices” follows up. It is thunderous and reminds me quite a lot of “Suite Sister Mary” by Queensryche during the opening, but its a lot more technical and multi-faceted. It builds up quite slowly over almost the first three minutes, there’s sort of a “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd vibe to that build.

The those same bright ugly keys from the “Caught In A Web” chorus come in. The Metal bit which follows is really rather neat. I hear bits that would influence Protest The Hero in there. The ugly chorus is ugly to me. There’s a touch of the “Caught In A Web” problem, where this one part is causing a false impression of a good song and lowering my overall impression of it accidentally. Even though the rest of it is deadly, like the following part with double-kicks. I like the talk-boxy solo a little while afterwards. That whole section is excellent. The only problem I have is that this song really feels like an album-closer. But its track 5 of 11. Well it makes me want to stop listening because the record is obviously finished, only it isn’t, is it?

This album has a problem of being in the wrong order. That’s my diagnosis.

Anyway, next comes the brief, perfect ballad, “The Silent Man.” It is excellent; succinct, tasteful, memorable and interesting. Its just right, not too cheesy. A few more tiny hints of Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in the mid-section. Deceptively varied and creative vocals. A neat little guitar lead. All good stuff.

“The Mirror.” Opens up in a huge and obvious Pantera tribute. Parts seems practically lifted whole-sale from “Domination” and “Walk.” Then it speeds up and some Phantom of the Opera chase keys come it, its all very intriguing. Then a fun guitar line that I’m sure inspired Avenged Sevenfold follows, the drums are fast and Metal. Back to Pantera.

I think this is my favourite song from the album. Maybe that’s just because I like Pantera so much? Interestingly though, its all the bits that don’t sound like Pantera which really make it cool though. I think I’ll change my iTunes tracklist of this album so that this and “6.00” switch places. This would be a much better opener.

It seamlessly transitions into “Lie.” That means “Lie” and “Caught In A Web” will have to switch places too, oh well.

“Lie” is really strong. Apparently it was a single. Its catchy enough. I love the Mary/Contrary/Promise/Doubting Thomas bit. That was always the one bit of the record that stuck out in my mind. I’ll have to remember that this song is the one with that in it.

Hey! A bit that sounds like Tool! That riff underneath the bit about leashes is reminiscent of Undertow-era Adam Jones. This is a nice song. Also the groove at 3.30 and the subsequent complex bit with the solo are possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater moments that I’ve heard which aren’t on Images And Words. Skip to the 5-minute mark and yeah! That’s what I want to hear. This song is top notch! Yes, these two songs would make a much better album opener, get the blood pumped, the enthusiasm up, and then I’m ready to accept “6.00” because I’m in the mood now.

“Lifting Shadows Off A Dream” comes next, all broody, and seems as if its going to be Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love” for a few seconds, until it reveals its true intentions. Its almost a ballad, its almost a big build up. Its almost Hogarth-era Marillion. Its none of these things, its its’ own tasteful pop song with a lot on small toms and splash cymbals. Its kind of sprawling…its like King Crimson’s “Starless” in structure, but much, much, much, much more clean and bright and commercial. It sounds like a basket ball team in a movie winning its first victory whilst the dad shows up to see his son for the first time because he’s finally learned what’s important in life.

“Scarred” follows that. Also sprawling. Slightly jazzy flavoured but without any actual jazz. Full of mischief. Threateningly full of potential. Which way will it go? – Lots of ways it would seem. Groove parts. Staccato Metal parts (various ones in fact). Clean syrupy pop parts. Numerous time-sig changes. It’s a real “Hey, we can do a lot of stuff and we’re good at our instruments” piece. The clean chorus is a lot less lame than in either “Caught In A Web” or “Voices” though.

Then there’s another kind of chorus which feels like its got a sort of grunge influence. A touch of the “Evenflow”s about it, ey?

Do you know when bands say that their heavier stuff is heavier and their lighter stuff is lighter…this actually is. There’s not much on Images And Words that’s overly syrupy. Anyway… There’s also nothing as heavy as the part between the guitar solo in the 7-8 minute bracket.

Also, why does nothing Dream Theater ever play sound like Yes? I was promise Metallica meets Yes. Whoever promised me that (Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine) doesn’t listen to much Yes… or Metallica for that matter.

This song could benefit from lots and lots of repeat listens, because there’s tons of cool parts to enjoy, but its lack of purpose or structure make first-impressions a bit confused.

Finally comes depressing album closer “Space Dye Vest” which I already know that I enjoy, but will listen to here anyway. Its moody, its tasteful, its got samples that are mechanical sounding instead of dialogue. Ok, actually it does have diagloue samples too… something Anathema do a lot actually… this reminds me of the whole Anathema rant about “Death is not the opposite of life, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal.” I guess a woman is not a possession then, sample guy. Anyway, the end of the song is fantastic.

Ok. That was the album.

What do I think? Four awesome songs in “The Mirror,” “Lie,” “The Silent Man” and “Space Dye Vest.” The rest… good bits, but not good songs, or maybe good songs with bits that aren’t to my taste. Except maybe “Erotomania” which is good but just has an intro that makes me think I won’t like it.

Meh… Its worth owning. I think a lot more listens are required before it hits me properly. Or maybe, its just a case of I should listen to half of it a lot and ignore the other half because I could listen to better music instead? Who knows…

Hope that was entertaining. Now, continuing the theme established yesterday, and based on this article’s inclusion of the Prog Metal band Dream Theater… here are some Top 5s from some Progressive Metal bands in my collection:

Coheed & Cambria :
1. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
2. Far
3. No World For Tomorrow
4. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
5. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant

Dream Theater:
1. Take The Time
2. Metropolis Prt 1 The Miracle And The Sleeper
3. Strange Deja Vu
4. Honour Thy Father
5. The Silent Man

The Mars Volta :
1. Cotapaxi
2. Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus
3. Vedamalady
4. Goliath
5. Day Of The Baphomets

Mastodon :
1. Blood And Thunder
2. The Czar
3. This Mortal Soil
4. I Am Ahab
5. Crusher Destroyer

Porcupine Tree :
1. Anesthetize
2. Drawing The Line
3. Normal
4. The Sound Of Musak
5. Deadwing

Protest The Hero :
1. Turn Soonest To The Sea
2. Sex Tapes
3. Skies
4. Mist
5. Dunsel

Queensryche :
1. Revolution Calling
2. Roads To Madness
3. Where Dreams Go To Die
4. Murder?
5. My Global Mind

Rishloo :
1. Downhill
2. Weevil Bride
3. Alchemy Alice
4. Scissorlips
5. El Empe

Riverside :
1. Hyperactive
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Second Life Syndrome
4. Rainbow Box
5. Egotist Hedonist

Savatage :
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Castles Burning
3. Believe
4. Edge Of Thorns
5. Of Rage And War

Tool :
1. 10,000 Days
2. Jambi
3. Eulogy
4. Ticks And Leeches
5. Vicarious

There’s dozens of others in my library, but for one reason or another I don’t feel comfortable choosing a Top 5 for them.