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It is impossible to collaborate with a musician under the age of 23 who hasn’t heard of Mastodon, they have been a media darling of sorts as a token metal band for the masses for a few years now. However, until 2 years ago I was happily ignorant of their existence, then my band was in search of a drummer and we ended up going with a kid who was fresh out of high school and looking for a challenge. Our collaboration with him lasted a meager 6 months and the only real fruit of our labor in trying to get him to keep a steady beat was me receiving this album as a birthday gift, which was quite elucidating as to why we had problems with him.
Mastodon plays a rather unique blend of Groove and Technical Metal, unique in the sense that no one else plays Groove Metal like this because the two concepts completely contradict each other. When music grooves, the drum beats are usually boring straight beats meant to induce the urge to nod your head to the music rather than bang it, but in the case of Mastodon you’d have to have 5 heads coming out of your shoulders nodding in a random overlapping manner in order to be in sync with the drums, which are so steeped with changes and fills that any sense of beat is completely gone.
The next symptom of this contradiction is the rather large collection of random riffs thrown together to make a distorted collage of misshapen sounds. In order to realize the groove aspect of the dichotomy, we obviously need simplistic riffs that stick to your cerebrum, mostly by boring the hell out of you and leaving an impression of painful drudgery. But if we are also to be technical, we must have rapid changes, so what we get is a massive collection of unrelated riffs all pasted together, guising as something that can be followed by the human ear. When you combine the ridiculous number of over-developed ideas (yes, it is possible to do this, although Mastodon is the only band I’ve heard that actually pulls it off) with the pretentious drum wankery, you are left with one simple question. Where the fuck is the song in this mess? The truth is, there aren’t any songs on here, there is only 11 tracks with varying time lengths containing noise, albeit noise that took a lot of effort to create.
While the instrumentalists are obviously in possession of technical ability, the vocalist exhibits the exact opposite extreme. At best, the vocals on here can be described as a non-Brazilian version of what you heard on Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D.”, which was probably a fairly big influence on this band. However, whereas on that album you could somewhat understand the lyrics (which were downright idiotic I might add), on here the vocals are so garbled that unless you read the lyric sheet you think your listening to gibberish being screamed by a Baboon with Tourette's Syndrome. When you actually read the lyric sheets, much of what you read is sheer nonsense, having a bit in common with the quasi-Dadaist style of System of a Down.
Naturally, there are some small areas of sound on here where you get something resembling music. Most of these are found on the closing track “Elephant Man”, where we get more groove than we do technical groove, resulting in a redundant though at least listenable ballad with some melodic guitar leads. The added bonus here is that the singer has decided to shut up and let the music go it's own way rather than add some stupid spoken part.
The remaining tracks on here are all interchangeable with each other and can be distinguished only by their time lengths. Whether it’s the short fit of pointless and meandering minimalist riffs surrounded by a 2 minute drum solo guising as “Crusher Destroyer” (what a dumb fucking name), or longer swamps of musical diarrhea such as “Trainwreck” (hence the name) and “March of the Fire ants”, none of it can be recalled by memory after being heard. The only thing you get is an impression, and it fades quickly when you seek out better music.
Now how does one explain the massive following that this band has? Why are they so damned popular? I struggled with this for a little while before remembering where this music came from. Throughout the early 90s there was a rather comical yet pathetic display of monkey see monkey do that resulted in the quick life and death of both Groove Metal and Grunge. Kurt Cobain’s and Sepultura’s success in the 90s was the result of what drives lemmings to commit mass suicide, you don’t question why something is either good or bad, you simply listen because that is what everyone else is doing. The initial impression that anyone is listening is provided by the industry which produces it, and then it snowballs from there.
So to all of my fellow metal heads out there whom are either contemplating buying any releases by this band or questioning why they are so big, let offer some advice, don’t bother with it. This rather massive swamp of decrepit excrement is not worth anyone’s time. Truth be told, I’d rather have my eyes plucked out and then be skull fucked by a T-Rex rather than listen to this again.