Feist/Mastodon – Black Tongue/A Commotion 7"

‘Feistodon’: Black Tongue/A Commotion

Warner Bros.
I just thought I’d add my two pennies on this given that despite not attending Record Store Day (due to personal responsibilities, not lack of support for the cause), I have managed to listen to this limited release 7″ that caused quite a commotion (pun very much intended) building up to its release, not least because of the unlikely connection between Canadian songstress Feist and Atlanta, Georgia metal titans Mastodon, which developed following their respective appearances at the same recording of the Jools Holland Show last year.
Having pledged to work on a release together, the respective parties managed to squeeze in a split 7″ release into their extremely busy schedules, each artist cover one track from one another’s back catalogue – Feist choosing to cover ‘Black Tongue’ from Mastodon’s ‘The Hunter‘, and Mastodon selecting ‘A Commotion’ from Feist’s ‘Metals‘.
I wasn’t a great fan of Feist before ‘Feistodon’ came along and that won’t change with this release. That ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ song irked the hell out of me, no thanks to Apple, but she is undoubtedly a talented singer/songwriter who is worthy of the acclaim that comes her way. Some positive comments have come her way regarding her cover of ‘Black Tongue’, which I unfortunately must disagree with. Vocally she does a good job, creating something of a dark, haunting effect in the process. I fully expected her version of the song to not come crashing over the hills in the fashion that Mastodon do, but the arrangement of the song in this instance does nothing for me. It seems too disjointed if anything, a valiant attempt to turn the song into an electro-rock lurker, only to judder too much over its course.
By contrast, Mastodon, no stranger to covers and indeed to Record Store Day, do an incredible job of making ‘A Commotion’ their own. I can see why they chose it – out of the Feist material I’ve heard to date this one fits them the best – and the result is something that honestly wouldn’t sound amiss on one of their later records. It quietly builds up with just the chug of the guitar and quietly spoken vocals. When Brann Dailor pounds a thunderous roll, it begins to feel like a proper Mastodon song, bearing Mastodon’s signature power chords. The only grumble is that the chorus suddenly concludes the song – that works for Feist’s version but on this particular cover, it feels like there’s something missing, like it ends too soon.
Nonetheless, this was an interesting experiment and a welcome one at that from these two unlikely collaborators. My personal take is that it’s not the wholly amazing 7″ I perhaps expected. At the end of the day, it’s not something to judge the artist’s by’ more a show of fan appreciation, support for the record industry, and a display of risk taking. In a day and age where risk is rarely rewarded and uniformity is depressingly the norm, it’s a refreshing signal to see artists from two different walks step a little out of their comfort zone.

Peter Clegg

Visions: Mastodon – Dry Bone Valley

The last few ‘Visions’ posts, bar the Venom clip which was just buffoonery, seem to have focused on videos with some crazy ass scheme that simply has you asking what the directors of each were on when they made them. This next one is no different. I’m not even going to attempt to explain the meaning behind the numerous masks, symbols, colours and the Asian lady that fly out of the screen over the course of this song. All I know is that a) this would’ve been cool in 3D, and b) the YouTube haters are fools. Better this than a straightforward performance vid.

Whatever the meaning behind the imagery, Mastodon‘s ‘Dry Bone Valley’, taken from ‘The Hunter‘, is another incredible video from these guys and an impressive song all the same, from an album that continues to get better with every listen.

Peter Clegg

We Must Obey’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

2011. What an incredible year for rock and metal. This year has seen no end of fantastic, top-level releases, as well as a few disappointments and one or two downright stinkers too. It’s been a year where some of the biggest names have taken one or two risks and experimented on their whole sound. This came with varying results, displaying the occasional success and more often a jaw-dropping ‘what the hell?
Before I go into the main list, I’d just like to give ‘props’ to a few albums that didn’t make the list, because deciding on a top 10 was mighty difficult given how good a year its been. So take a bow:
Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl
Vektor – Outer Isolation (Heavy Artillery)
Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street (Metal Blade)
Bong – Beyond Ancient Space (Ritual)
KEN Mode – Venerable (Profound Lore)
Pyrrhon – An Excellent Slave but a Terrible Master (Selfmadegod)
All of which sit highly in our thoughts for simply being kick ass records. But without further ado, here’s the ten we settled on, ten records that reign supreme over the rest in 2011, ten records we’ll surely revisit again and again.
10. Mastodon – The Hunter (Roadrunner)
Mastodon have sat firmly atop my personal best of lists each year they’ve released a new studio album, always managing to blow me away with how each they seemed to make every slight transition. ‘The Hunter’, however, is their boldest move yet, shifting away from conceptual pieces and elemental themes, in favour of more straight-up rocking action. I personally found it to be a bit of a grower but eventually I fully embraced Mastodon’s latest effort – how can you not love the single of the year, ‘Curl of the Burl’, the bizarre ‘Creature Lives’ and the beautiful centrepieces of the title-track and ‘The Sparrow’, among many others? Mastodon is truly on course to become the next great heavy metal band, and with staggering ease too.
9. No Made Sense – New Season/New Blues (self-released)
I still can’t believe the No Made Sense story appears to be over. After their incredibly received debut ‘The Epilannic Choragi’, they probably disappeared under your radar; that reception should have guaranteed them a bigger audience. Alas, it feels as though they effectively said ‘fuck it’, shoved this album on Bandcamp as a freebie and announced their immediate split. A damn shame and yet another British metal band that will wind up as a footnote in British metal’s recent troubled history. But damn, what a parting gift. Recorded entirely live, it was a stormer from start to finish and monstrously powerful, particularly with an awesome final riff to close off their short career. What the three members will go on next is anyone’s guess – I just hope they have a rethink and give the album the love it deserves.
8. Black Spiders – Sons of the North (Dark Riders)
The UK rock sense seemed worryingly sparse in recent years, with a seemingly short supply of bands set to become the new Motorhead, Therapy?, The Wildhearts, etc. Enter the Black Spiders, who finally lumped their debut album ‘Sons of the North’ onto the wider world to rapturous applause. You won’t find a collection of songs harder rockin’ or arse-kicking as these. ‘Sons’ exudes raw attitude and a real fuck-you mentality, a premise long part of the ‘Spiders’ brand of rock. For the last few years, the notion of proper British rock ‘n’ roll has been sullied by fashion over real substance. Hopefully, this is the start of a renaissance and when the charge is sounded, the Black Spiders will be the ones carrying the flag into battle.
7. Evile – Five Serpent’s Teeth (Earache)
Evile’s career so far has arced in such a way that it’s encapsulated much success and indeed tragedy in the shape of bassist Mike Alexander’s death in 2009. Having regrouped with new bassist Joel Graham, Evile didn’t just recover but, holy balls, they returned with a vengeance. ‘Five Serpent’s Teeth’ represents a coming of age for Evile, without question their finest album to date. Whereas second album ‘Infected Nations’ saw Evile head down a less thrashy road, ‘FST’ found Evile embracing the thrash spirit of old; that being mostly no-nonsense battery and songs to die for. Their unstoppable rise continues – long may the finest UK thrash band since Sabbat reign.
6. Wormrot – Dirge (Earache)
The unstoppable rise of the biggest thing to come out of Singapore (eclipsing black metal compatriots Impiety by some margin) continues to astound and explode people’s heads. Wormrot certainly delivered a cracking grind album with ‘Abuse’ and further impressed on the split with I Abhor, but no one was prepared for this barrage – 25 songs, eighteen minutes, and fucking enjoyable all the way. In my review I described the album as a ‘meteor to the face’ (one of the songs on ‘Dirge’) and I still hold that opinion today. Don’t be too surprised to find if you walked into my house you’d find just a frazzled pair of shoes billowing smoke from the floor, such is the intensity of this record. Wormrot often proclaim on the social networks ‘in grind we rot’. Yes we do.
5. Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
The word floating in the ether is that this is to be the last Wolves In The Throne Room album, or at least as we know it…But in a year where black metal was seemingly dominated by the word ‘transcendental’ – no thanks to a Mr. Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy – ‘Celestial Lineage’ was the black metal album that transcended all others. Effortlessly seaming together traditional black elements with acoustic passages, harp sections, ghostly vocals from Jessica Kenney, ‘Celestial Lineage’ was a calling from the forests to the sky, an ascension ritual, and wow did it feel real. If this is the final WitTR album, the Weaver brothers, Nathan and Aaron, can be content with having created a timeless masterpiece that will echo for all eternity.
4. Revocation – Chaos of Forms (Relapse)
In a scene full of guitar geekery, polyrhythmic drumming and deriritive copycats popping up every two seconds, it’d take something exceptional for another straight up technical death metal band to come up with an eye-catching record. Revocation aren’t trying to reinvent death metal in the same way as, say, Ulcerate, but they do what they do exceptionally well, and after two barnstorming albums prior, ‘Chaos of Forms’ completes a stunning proverbial trifector for them. It’s loud, technical and by-Nigel heavy, but all phased through a melodic, care-free swagger and even a Hammond organ solo. Revocation are undoubtedly one of the best the scene has to offer – now, wider world, will you please wake up?
3. Batillus – Furnace (Seventh Rule)
One we didn’t get round to reviewing this year, but one thoroughly deserving of praise. Without doubt one of the heaviest records I’ve ever listened to. Bustling with atmosphere and vile intensity, Batillus knocked me sideways with their full debut album. I’ve been into the band since their inception as a dronier, instrumental doom trio, but the addition of Fade Keiner (ex-Jarboe of others) on vocals and on synths/effects has given them an atmospheric and venomous edge. It’s cold and unforgiving album, those effects showing their hand at numerous turns, and heavier thunders rains from the sky like ten ton anvils. Clearly there’s still room for development – that’s the exciting part. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, definitely a record to pick up.
2. Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand (E1 Entertainment)
For a while it seems we might never get another Crowbar record. After 2006’s ‘Lifesblood for the Downtrodden’, frontman Kirk Windstein’s involvement with NOLA-supergroup Down increased as the band’s mainstream popularity rocketed, and he even had more time to record two albums in Kingdom of Sorrow with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta. The news of a follow-up to ‘Lifesblood’ was greatly received, and ‘Sever the Wicked Hand’ was one hell of a return from one of the lords of sludge metal. Lyrically, Windstein dispels numerous demons and holy mother of pearl, it’s thunderously heavy, at times producing memorable skullcrushing breakdowns and wake-the-fuck-up shifts that make this possible the best Crowbar record since ‘Odd Fellows Rest’.
1. YOB – Atma (Profound Lore)
In a year in which a number of particularly high profile bounds have sought to alter their sound or dabble in experiments – gambles which haven’t always paid off – its relieving in a way that our number one album of 2011 is one from a band that’s not straying too far from its original template – instead, they refined it, like any master craftsmen, and proceeded to write quite simply the most mind-blowing album all year.
YOB’s ‘Atma’ is five tracks of unequivocally crushing traditional doom metal, which flourishes of psychedelia scattered throughout. Mike Schiedt delivers an incredible vocal performance, from his trademark nasal sounds to some truly guttural, terrifying roars. The trio masterfully build up riffs time and again, only to bring the hammer down with gargantuan might. Underpinning ‘Atma’ is its two longest tracks, both of which feature Neurosis’ Scott Kelly with stunning guest appearances. First, the centre track ‘Before We Dreamed of Two’. A whopping 16:10 in length, it combines Eastern mysticism within its guitar, laying down a cracking riff, before Scott Kelly comes along and damn near steals the show. His delivery of the lyric ‘distant silver shore/bring my body’ resonates far beyond this album, such is its impressive delivery. The second, ‘Adrift in the Ocean’, sees Kelly in a more understated but no less impressive vocal role, and serves as proof of YOB’s ability to produce killer riffs, jarring the senses on the slightly shorter tracks, and calling the great white waves on the two biggies, crushing all in its path. Five tracks in fifty-eight minutes; never does this feel like a slog, or an endurance test or any sort. Instead, it manages to be completely jaw dropping in its beauty and altar worshipping in its crushing dominance.
Put simply, 2011 would not have been the same without ‘Atma’. A classic in every sense of the word, and a deserving number one for 2011.
Peter Clegg

Mastodon – Jools Holland appearance tonight + UK tour news!

Tonight’s the night! Hot off their stellar new album ‘The Hunter’, Mastodon’s unstoppable rise hits new highs when they perform on BBC 2’s ‘Later Live with Jools Holland‘! Make sure you get your backside in front of the telly for 10pm, or at least SkyPlus, Tivo or whatever you use it. Failing that of course, there’ll be a couple of late night repeats and it’ll be available on the BBC iPlayer.

It’ll be interesting to see how they go on – the only other metal band to perform on the show previously is Metallica. Will any of the show’s usual viewers take to them? Probably mostly not. But I’d love to be proven wrong, and with Mastodon seemingly able to raise the bar at will, I wouldn’t be surprised if they absolutely destroyed it tonight.

In related news, the Atlanta quartet have also announced a fresh batch of UK dates for February 2012! The dates are as follows:

Sun 05 – Bristol O2 Academy
Mon 06 – Manchester Academy
Tue 07 – Glasgow Barrowlands
Thurs 09 – Norwich UEA
Fri 10 – Birmingham HMV Institute
Sat 11 – London Brixton O2 Academy

Tickets for that are on sale now!

Peter Clegg

Mastodon – The Hunter


The Hunter

When Mastodon announced that this album was to be free of concept and more of a straight-up rock album, one or two eyebrows may well have been raised, although given the band’s dabbling in ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy and Melvins worship it may not have been entirely surprising. Still, a Mastodon making a record not based on the elements is certainly an enterprising one, and for the band that Time magazine voted their number 3 album of the year (2009’s ‘Crack The Skye‘), this meeting the mainstream in the middle has come about at roughly the right time.

That said, their past sound has far from been forgotten – opener Black Tongue rips into life in much the same way as past Mastodon openers – but nor has their present sound been allowed to stagnate, as evident in ‘Curl of the Burl’, probably one of the best singles all year. Underpinned by a sweet bass-driven riff, you can feel every groove in the song, and the chorus is instantly recognizable. It should come with a warning sticker as it may make you shake in numerous ways! The new found melodicism continues on ‘Blasteroid’, a distincting different Mastodon continues to stamp its new found presence with dual-harmony verses from guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, albeit soon swiped away with the howl of ‘I wanna taste your fucking blood!‘ in the chorus.

The album continues to improve as it progresses, as songs such as the title-track and ‘The Octopus Has No Friends’ still retain elements of ‘Blood Mountain‘/’Crack The Skye‘-era despite the straight ahead nature of the album. ‘The Hunter’ in particular is a standout track. Composed as a tribute to guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother, who died whilst on a hunting trip, the sludgery takes a backseat, making way for spacier guitars, softer vocal harmonies and a journey of melancholia throughout.

Mastodon have always been capable of providing real WTF moments, on this occasion the brilliant ‘Creature Lives’, with an intro consisting of maniacal laughter before turning into perhaps Mastodon’s happiest sounding song yet. Entirely sung, written, composed etc. by drummer Brann Dailor, it’s a triumphant moment and perhaps one of the most uplifting songs you’ll hear all year, albeit slightly bonkers as well. They follow this up with ‘Spectrelight’, a punchier number and harks back to ‘Leviathan‘ territory. Its still got the accentuated melodicism present on the majority of the album, but rampages delightfully throughout its three minutes.

The album finishes with yet another incredible track, ‘The Sparrow’. Dedicated to the band’s accountant, who passed away to stomach cancer during the recording of the album, the song’s only line utters her motto: ‘pursue happiness, with diligence’. Its a sombre but beautiful way to end ‘The Hunter‘, and that line will echo out beyond this record.

I was worried Mastodon may have dropped the ball when they said they were making a straight-up rock record as opposed to a concept album – they always excelled at befitting the story they’d mapped out and really didn’t feel confident in ‘The Hunter‘ meeting the lofty standards of their previous body of work. I’m glad to be proven wrong, although the goal has been achieved much differently this time. Having shunned the multi-part, ten-minute plus epics in favour of a more streamlined approach, it proves they’ve managed to switch over with the greatest of ease, even occasionally becoming dancable without sacrificing quality. And still, they managed to squeeze in plenty of elements of progression. Viewers of Later with Jools Holland – are you ready?

Peter Clegg

New stuff: Opeth/Mastodon

The spate of quality albums coming out lately is nothing short of stupendous, and anticipation is high for two of metal’s biggest hitters, Opeth and Mastodon, both of whom have released songs from their new albums this week to tease fans for what’s to come.

‘The Devil’s Orchard’ is the first single to be released from Opeth’s tenth album, ‘Heritage’, and in my opinion, it’s quality stuff. While there’s no guttural vocals from Åkerfeldt it’s classic Opeth, punctuated now and again with the refrain ‘God is dead’. About halfway through, the progressive influences really kick in, and you can definitely feel the likes of King Crimson and Yes being called and conjured in there. It’s Opeth, but not as we know it, and I’m digging it!

I see there’s been a lot of nay-saying about Opeth’s planned direction with this album. Åkerfeldt has spoken openly about Opeth embracing their progressive influences and was pretty clear about ‘Heritage’ not including any death metal vocals. You can’t say you weren’t warned. If you don’t like it for what it is musically, then fair enough, that I can accept. But just because the Cookie Monster doesn’t make an appearance doesn’t suddenly make it bad. Kids, get off your high horse. Kudos to Opeth for not giving a damn and actually making a record they want to make, instead of satisfying what everybody else wants. Check it out below.
Opeth – The Devil’s Orchard

Additionally, Mastodon have released the first cut from their new album ‘The Hunter’, in the shape of ‘Black Tongue’. Mastodon have somehow managed to put out killer album after killer album – just when you think they can’t get any better, they seem to defy expectation.
The metal community seems to be going nuts for this track, and I couldn’t resist checking it out either, being a huge Mastodon fan. I’m not sure if my expectations got the better of me on this one though. ‘Black Tongue’ is a good song, without question. There’s a few interesting riffs in there, and it has that ‘Blood Mountain’ vibe about it, which isn’t a bad thing at all. That said, I’m not sure it’s all its cracked up to be. I’ve listened to it a few times and there’s nothing sticking in my head yet. That said, there’s still plenty time. ‘The Hunter’ isn’t out for another few weeks yet. That’s another few weeks for ‘Black Tongue’ to attempt to grow on me, and Mastodon have yet to disappoint. I just hope the decision to ditch another concept album in favour of ‘having more fun’ (as evidenced in the promo shot above) doesn’t mean a less-than-excellent album.
Mastodon – Black Tongue
Opeth’s ‘Heritage’ is released through Roadrunner on September 19th in the UK. Mastodon release ‘The Hunter’ through Reprise on September 26th.
Peter Clegg

Visions: Mastodon – Deathbound

Mastodon have been hard at work on new album ‘The Hunter’, the follow-up to 2009’s critically-acclaimed ‘Crack The Skye’. Yesterday, however, Mastodon released a video for ‘Deathbound’, a leftover cut from the ‘Crack the Skye’ sessions. Put together by the geniuses at Adult Swim.
And genius it is, casting Brann Dailor as Mister Rogers at the beginning before going into the song and leaving behind a trail of puppet destruction. You read that right. Puppets destroying puppets. It’s so bloody entertaining!
And as for the song itself? Can I just say it harks back to the days of Leviathan in its intensity? Oh yes.
Peter Clegg