I don’t listen to much heavy metal music. I’m not a fan of the Cookie Monster screaming vocals of some lead singers, and the music is usually either too complicated for me to understand what’s happening or so simple that it sounds like someone just got a guitar that has a demo mode.
In fact, there are only two metal bands I enjoy: Tool and Mastodon. And Tool is more prog-rock than metal at this point (not a bad thing!). That leaves me with Mastodon, a band that is everything I enjoy about heavy metal rolled up into one crazy/scary/cool/loud/creative package. If you don’t like metal music, this band won’t change your mind. But, if you have even the slightest bit of interest in having your face melt off due to extreme rock power, I highly recommend you give them a chance.
Their latest album, Emperor of Sand, was released last week. I like it. I like it quite a bit. There’s a song on the album called “Scorpion Breath” and another called “Jaguar God” and those are perfect song titles. It’s a concept album about a guy lost in the desert and there are ancient evils in the barren landscape. The music is strange and diverse. Instruments pop up for a few seconds and fade away like ghosts. It sometimes sounds like there are monsters lurking behind the guitars and drums, with electronic growls and buzzes. And some of the songs are even catchy, which is rare for a metal band.
It’s not Mastodon’s best album. That would be 2009’s Crack the Skye, which featured 10-minute songs about Russian czars and out-of-body experiences. Since that album, Mastodon has gotten a bit more radio-friendly. (i.e. The songs have gotten shorter/less weird.) Thankfully, Emperor of Sand brings back the weird and wild…though the songs are still too short for my taste. (“Scorpion Breath” is only three minutes! Boo!)
My musical taste is…unusual. My “Recently Played” list on Spotify features jazz great Thelonious Monk alongside Cher, Bob Dylan, Lorde, TV on the Radio, Paul Simon, Chance the Rapper and Tom Waits. And today, after I re-listen to the Emperor of Sand album, there’s some Beauty and the Beast action…because that’s a tale as old as time.