More reviewing from the land of sensory anomalies, colors, and sequence oddities, or as I like to call it, "My Wide World of Weird".
So after binge listening all the Mastodon I own, which is quite a bit, but not as much as I would like, I decided it was time for a track review of Sultan's Curse. I. Can't. Wait. For. This. Album. Release. Yes!!!! Please excuse the fan girl outburst....
Emperor of Sand. Set to release March 31 via Reprise Records.
Mastodon has an knack for taking dark subject matter and making it beautiful. It's never formulaic and never cliche. Regarding this album, bassist Troy Sanders says "we're reflecting on mortality". That's a tense topic for the even the best, most balanced of us. Despite that, they're able to turn it into a work of art that you need to experience from start to finish. A Mastodon album is far more than something you just buy to listen to periodically.
When I hit the play button, I was immediately transported to the same visually rich world that Crack the Skye led me toward, which is interesting to me because I found out after the fact that they worked with Brendan O'Brien, the producer from....you guessed it....Crack the Skye.
The opening bars of Sultan's Curse take you immediately to a world of sand and blue sky. Then it hits you. There's that Mastodon riff that surrounds you and shakes you like a sandstorm. Lots of sand references here, I know. The curious thing is that even without seeing any associated artwork, that is where the music took me. I was transported to a land of fiery orange and red, and felt like I was floating on a black river. Don't take that last part too literally, though. When music makes you see colors, sometimes the best way to explain it is where the color appears in relation to what it would seem like in real 3D life. The black was below me and flowing like water. The orange and red surrounded me much like it would if you were walking through a crowded market place in Marrakesh. But I digress…..sort of…..
All the members of Mastodon contribute to vocals, but Brent, Troy, and Brann are credited as lead, Bill as backing. Three distinctly different vocal styles that transition seamlessly to create that sound that is uniquely them. This is the type of music that you hear and you know without mistake that it is Mastodon. It's a sound 17 years in the making that no one can replicate.
The guitar work in Sultan's Curse creates the atmosphere. That is the flowing river of black that I mentioned earlier. The vocals bring in the fiery colors. Then there's the solo. Brent Hinds = awesome guitar solo. Can't really summarize it better than that. Without throwing around technical terms, it's the sort of guitar work that makes you want to learn to play, but then you come to the realization that it's gonna take a long time to ever be that good. (Wait, how many arpeggios and scales do I need to learn to be like Brent? Wait, what? He started out on banjo? Okay, never mind.) The guy is gifted. Plain and simple. His guitar work stands out like a bonfire in the dark but blends in a very organic way into the music they create. I don't know, it's hard to put into words. Just take my word for it.
Sultan's Curse, in my mind's eye is a trip through the desert with sandstorms, market places, and blue sky above, but with an underlying sense of danger, like something is waiting in the shadows to change your life forever. It makes sense, considering the subject matter. The sensations it brings, and how naturally they fit into the narrative Mastodon has created with this album makes me look forward to this album release even more.
Insert fan girl scream here……..