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Genius, Frustrated - 40%

FullMetalAttorney, November 17th, 2010

When I first saw the trailers for the movie Jonah Hex, I thought it looked like an expertly assembled trailer for an awful-looking movie. Turns out, it's a box office bomb. I seem to have kind of a good sense for that, as I thought the same about certain other Megan Fox movies with cool trailers that turned out to be awful. The woman has never been in a good movie.

I will probably get the movie on Netflix, though, and that's for one reason alone: Mastodon did the music.

But there's an awful story to go behind that one. Apparently, they had to do the music a second time, since the scenes they did it for ended up on the cutting floor. (I thought you weren't supposed to score a movie until after it was fully edited.) The Wikipedia article describes things well:

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The new soundtrack was taken in a "more restrained, subtle" musical direction—contrasting the original version which had been described as "pretty heavy" with "vigorous shredding."

While Mastodon had originally described the process of composing a soundtrack in October 2009 as "very pure, it was real creative and totally spur of the moment" and expected "nothing in return but satisfaction in being a part of something incredible," the band found it frustrating to have to rewrite a new score and start from scratch. According to guitarist Brent Hinds, who was disappointed about having to start over, "It was some of the best shit I've ever written in my life. Now I'm just trying to finish with as much patience as possible."

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So, what we are left with is the frustrated and pissed-off remnants of genius forced to start from scratch and do the same thing over again on a very limited timetable.

Given that backstory, the results are surprisingly listenable. As it is intended as a movie score, it comes off as atmospheric sludge metal (or maybe post-metal in the original meaning of that term). The EP opens rather poorly, with a nearly nine-minute, highly atmospheric track called "Death March". It's honestly pretty dull. (I'm sure it sounds good in the background of the movie, but to just listen to it isn't worthwhile.) After that, the next three tracks are much shorter and faster-paced, and get progressively better. A slightly longer alternate version of "Death March" follows, with some very interesting lead guitar work unlike anything I've heard. It ends with an alternate version of "Clayton Boys", the best thing on the album, which also has a lot of the strange lead guitar work.

The Verdict: It is a bit disappointing that they had to release something that wasn't what they wanted to release. I only hope the other stuff will see the light of day at some point, and I have a feeling it will end up on a boxed set.

Overall, I have to recommend this only to dedicated Mastodon fans (like myself). Despite that, the last two tracks alone (the alternate versions) make it worth the very cheap price tag--or, if nothing else, a download of just those two.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/