Mastodon

Mastodon have never really done anything the “conventional” way. The Atlanta-based band formulated their own brand of highly-skilled hard rock over a decade ago when others were rehashing 80s metal, and went on to mastermind a string of complex concept albums while much of the music world was centered on making digestible singles. The fact that Mastodon has received an outpouring of critical kudos along with public praise from respected icons from Metallica to The Melvins, The Flaming Lips and CeeLo Green and back, they’ve been humbled by the magnitude of appreciation. But rather than taking time to revel, they prefer to focus their attention on pushing musical boundaries even deeper by exploring their own creative process to the fullest.

The Hunter is yet another universe bending, high energy masterpiece from the band that helped shape hard rock for the 21st century with their previous albums: Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye. Though each consecutive album has transcended the one before it in terms of expectations, musical innovation and sales, The Hunter is the band’s most ambitious to date. Guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor, bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and guitarist Bill Kelliher all continue to explore the outer limits of their own imaginations and as a result, deliver an album that stands apart -- even in Mastodon terms. While their last four CDs explored complex themes rooted in earth’s elements, The Hunter is more about following one’s free will than a particular storyline. “We’ve always had this umbrella or a theme that we’ve written everything under,” says Troy. “To us, it made sense as one cohesive story. This time, we freed ourselves up to try something new. It was really the next step for us, and I’m glad we took it.”

That new-found spontaneity can be felt throughout The Hunter, from the melodic yet pummeling “Blasteroid” to the frenetic, muscled single “Curl the Burl.” The album is full of surprises—from melodic, close harmonies to downright demonic growls—but predictably, the musicianship is leagues beyond what anyone would expect to find on such a hard-hitting album. The Hunter is also the band’s most emotionally charged record to date, largely due to the difficult events that surrounded its making. Tragically, Brent Hinds’ brother died of a heart attack in December of 2010 while on a hunting trip. Not long after, a friend of the bands died after a drawn out battle with cancer. “There were a lot of stressful things going on while we were making this record,” says Brann. “I wanted to ignore all the stress, which felt like it was threatening our band’s existence. We were kind of waiting to see where everything landed. But Brent didn’t want to sit and wallow in it. He wanted to do the exact opposite. So we started coming up with all these really triumphant moments for the record. It was like, fist up in the air. Like fuck that – here we go.” And they dedicated the album to Hinds brother, an avid hunter.

The material for the record was largely written on the road when the band was touring with Alice in Chains, and was recorded between Los Angeles and Atlanta over a 6 week period earlier this year. Continuing their tradition of breaking tradition, Mastodon decided to team up with Mike Elizondo, a highly respected producer more synonymous with hip hop than metal. “After meeting him and hearing his ideas and unique perspective on our band we thought ‘This could be really interesting,”” says Brent. “We’re all about doing things that other people don’t, so let’s do an album with the guy who just worked with 50 Cent and Eminem. How crazy is that? We always try and embrace the unexpected.” And again, Mastodons penchant for taking risks paid off.

The Hunter is at once space age yet earthy, aggressive but thoughtful, articulate and guttural. The guitar work here is, of course, masterful as always, as is the band’s ability to flip musical directions on a dime. All of Mastodon contributed to writing the album, and Sanders is now singing on considerably more than on previous recordings (“I never thought I’d be one of the main vocalists . . . on any record,” he laughs.) Following some fine vocal performances on the last album Dailor’s role also as a contributing vocalist has become more prominent on The Hunter as well, adding even greater freedom to the sonic textures and overall expansiveness inherent of the new album.

As an example of the themes behind some of the new songs? They’re best described first hand by Brent and Brann:

Brann on “Curl of the Burl”: It’s about meth heads in the woods of West Virginia who look for certain types of knots in a tree. That would be the curl of the burl. They cut it out of the tree, drive it into town, sell it to furniture makers then go buy more meth. It’s like crackheads who steal copper from Lowes and sell it. We really couldn’t think of a better subject matter. It fascinated us.

Brent on “Blasteroid”: It was the name of a video game that was in the studio where we recorded. We thought it was hilarious—asteroids mixed with hemorrhoids. It had this crazy star that crapped out these asteroid looking thingees. So we mixed that ridiculous name with this sugary melody, then pushed it all up against, uh, somewhat aggressive lyrics. [Sings] ‘I wanna break some fucking glass, I wanna drink some fucking blood . . .’ Fun stuff.

Brann on “Stargasm”: It’s about having sex in space, or maybe not in space, just great sex where the orgasm brings you into space. When we sing ‘You’re on fire!,” I imagine swirling flames around these two people enjoying this sexual experience so good that they end up in outer space. Very Barbarella.

Brent on “The Sparrow”: It’s about Susie Polay our accountant’s wife, who passed away of stomach cancer when we were recording the album. Her motto was pursue happiness with diligence, and that motto became the lyrics to the song. It’s such a pretty song, and it’s so sorrowful as well. It’s in her memory and for her husband Robert, to pass on her inspiration to the listener.

One of the many ways in which Mastodon challenged itself on The Hunter was in simplifying their otherwise complex way of making music. In the past the band thrived on squeezing as much as possible in one space, and then making sense of it. With this record, they challenged themselves to pare back and let the songs breath on their own. The result is an album where sublime interludes prove just as powerful as dense layers of sound. “Our last album Crack The Skye, was such a deep, long record,” says Bill. “It was very heavy. We thought let’s make a spontaneous record based off music that comes off our fingertips in the moment. We didn’t over think it—like Hey, we gotta really dazzle the kids! It’s like let’s not over do it. Just let it fall naturally, and we did.”

By following their instincts, Mastodon has come up with the best record of their career. But then, should we really be all that surprised? Their slow-growing trajectory from flat-broke obscurity to the stages of Coachella, Europe’s Sonisphere and Bonnaroo which has presented Mastodon to an inordinately eclectic cross-section of music fans who have embraced the band as much as any audience who are more interested in the quality of the music rather then fall into the trappings of narrow-mined genre dwellers. This is the result of taking the road less traveled with nothing more than their instincts—and love of a good riff—to guide them. “We can never go in the studio saying we’re gonna make a heavy record because that’s what people expect,” says Brann. “Or a progressive record, because that’s what they want to hear. You can talk all day about what you’ll do artistically, but once you sit down and it starts coming out, you find out it’s not really in your control. Things move in the direction they move in -- much like life. It might not go the way you want, but that’s when great things come out that you had no idea were there. That’s when you tap the unexpected.”

MASTODON:
Troy Sanders — Bass guitar / vocals
Brent Hinds — Guitars / vocals
Bill Kelliher — Guitars
Brann Dailor — Drums / vocals

www.mastodonrocks.com

It has always been hard to put a tag on GOJIRA, one of France's most extreme bands the country's musical pallet has ever known. But then again, the band has never really sought out such a tag, instead letting the music do the talking, preferring introspection and intelligence over preconceived notions and preexisting tags. Ever since the 1996 formation in town of Bayonne in the southwest of France, GOJIRA has been an ever-evolving experiment in extreme metal ultimately built upon a worldly, ever-conscious outlook with roots firmly-planted both in the hippie movement and an environmentally-conscious, new age mentality. This time, with The Way of All Flesh, GOJIRA harnesses a spiritual consciousness as well, but still culminates in a sound wholly heavy.

Originally dubbed Godzilla, after the scaly, green film star with an equally huge reputation as the newfound band's sound, the brothers Duplantier – guitarist/vocalist Joe and drummer Mario – and fellow Frenchmen Jean Michel Labadie on bass and Christian Andreu on guitar, quickly released several demos, ultimately changing the band's name and independently releasing the first GOJIRA album, Terra Incognita, in 2001, offering up a brief glimpse into the giant GOJIRA would eventually become through persistent hard work and years of toiling in the metal underground.

After the 2003 release of the band's follow-up, The Link, throughout Europe and the subsequent live DVD release the next year, of the aptly-titled The Link Alive, 2005 brought the release of From Mars To Sirius, the band's breakthrough release, garnering high praise and a North American release through Prosthetic Records in 2006. Fans of not only heavy, extreme music took notice, but so did the intellectual world, thanks to Sirius' thoughtful and expansive inner examination of the world at hand and the consequences of humanity's struggle to coexist without harm. The metal world was amused and amazed: much of it hadn't yet seen an equally intelligent and pummelingly heavy release that was as expansive and open as it was dense and concise.

Following the immense praise of From Mars To Sirius and recurring trips across the Atlantic for North American touring alongside the likes of Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, and Behemoth among others, GOJIRA established its stranglehold on the extreme metal spectrum with a linguist's touch, a lyricist's finesse, and a crushingly heavy live show that left audiences astounded, establishing the band's live performance as a spot-on recreation of the band's increasingly adept and intelligent studio output.

While 2007 wrapped with GOJIRA again touring North America on the Radio Rebellion Tour alongside Behemoth to the best reaction yet, the dawn of 2008 saw a nearly 10 month wait for while the band assembled The Way of All Flesh, one of the year's most anticipated records. This time revolving around the undeniable dilemma of a mortal demise, GOJIRA's soundtrack to the situation seems fitting. Shifting ever-so-slightly from the eco-friendly orchestra of impending doom on From Mars To Sirius to the band's new message of the equally uncontrollable inevitability of death, The Way of All Flesh melds the open and airy progressive passages GOJIRA has become famous for with the sonically dense sounds and bludgeoningly heavy rhythms that makes the band an equally intelligent force as it is unmatchably heavy.

Featuring a guest vocal spot on "Adoration For None" from Lamb of God's Randy Blythe – one of GOJIRA's most vocal supporters from their first moment making an impression in the Americas – and the now familiar Morbid Angel-isms of The Way Of All Flesh's title track join the angular riffing more akin to Meshuggah on "Esoteric Surgery" and the epic, artful plodding of the nearly 10-minute "The Art of Dying," showing that GOJIRA have indeed opened a new bag of tricks for The Way Of All Flesh, while not abandoning the sound that first showed a massive promise of potential on Sirius.

"It's more inventive than From Mars To Sirius and at the same time more straight to the point," GOJIRA frontman Joe Duplantier says of The Way of All Flesh. "The whole album is about death, death is like a step on the path of the soul. The mystery surrounding this phenomenon is just so inspiring, and death is the most common thing on earth."

"This album is also a 'requiem' for our planet," Duplantier continues. "We don't want to be negative or cynical about the fate of humanity, but the situation on Earth is growing critical, and the way humans behave is so catastrophic that we really need to express our exasperation about it. It's not fear, but anger. But we still believe that consciousness can make a difference and that we can change things as human beings."

They're called punk and metal, but at their hearts Norwegian berserkers Kvelertak are the living, firebreathing embodiment of rock and roll. Since their formation in 2006, they've built a die-hard fan-base hungry for their utterly ferocious live shows that have already burned two flaming tire-tracks across the globe.

"Buzzworthy" doesn't even begin to describe Kvelertak, and their roll-call of achievements reads like a legend waiting to happen. Their rapturously-received self-titled 2011 debut – produced by none other than Converge's Kurt Ballou – was termed "the best Norwegian debut of all time" by Norwegian rock authority Asbjørn Slettemark, "Best Debut Album" by Metal Hammer Germany, "Best New Artist" and "Best Rock Album" at the Spellemannprisen (Norway's Grammy equivalent), and iTunes US's Metal Breakthrough Artist of The Year in 2011. Along with unanimous praise from Metal Hammer UK, Terrorizer, Rock Hard, and Kerrang! who called them "the most exciting new band on the planet," Kvelertak – or "chokehold" in English– are showing no signs of slowing down.

From storming 2011's SXSW festival to being personally invited by Mastodon to support them in Bergen, Norway, to Dave Grohl presenting them with their first gold discs at a sold-out Foo Fighter's show, this Scandinavian sextet have already circled the globe, hitting every fest from the UK to Australia, including a gig in Singapore that finished out on the street, stopping traffic and ending up as a viral hit on YouTube.

At the core of it, though, is the music – a brew of rock, punk and metal so infectious it should carry a warning label. Look out, world, because their second album, Meir, is on its way.

"It's like the first one, but way more in every way," says six-stringer Bjarte Lund Rolland. "The big songs are bigger, the harder songs are harder, the poppy songs are poppier, and…"

"This is going to blow your brains out," adds singer Erlend Hjelvik, whose riot-inducing vocals may be in Norwegian, but they speak a language of badass bravado like no other. "The first one was pretty much all party; this time around it's the hangover where you go round two and start drinking again the day after. You get drunk real quick and you're generally in a weird fuck-you-all-mood. It's known as the shampoo-effect."

Call it the shampoo-effect, or one of the most uproarious displays of recorded lunacy of the 21st century, but these Stavanger natives are set to take on the world. Think stunning guitar-leads that recall the heady days of Guns N' Roses tempered with the down-stroked muscularity of Metallica, with the party-vibes of a rockabilly hoedown, Kvelertak are nothing short of a fjord fiesta.

"The most important thing is that it's just as fucking shameless as the first one," says Bjarte. If not more. "I'm really excited about it."

We are too, Bjarte. We are, too.

$25.00 - $28.00

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Show begins at 7:30pm

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Mastodon with GOJIRA, Kvelertak

Friday, May 16 · Doors 6:30 PM at Palladium