Tag Archives: progressive metal

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand coverFor the best part of the last two decades Mastodon have carved a path through hard rock and heavy metal that is all their own. Often combining conceptual themes with crushingly heavy sounds they have gained a formidable reputation across six albums and have now release their seventh, Emperor of Sand.

From the off everything one would expect is here as the four-piece build from a clear influence from metal originators Black Sabbath to create a sound that marries thrash, doom, stoner and prog into a unique package.

Within all of this the band find a core that is remarkably accessible and this really comes to the fore on Show Yourself that has a sing along type streak and hook laden feel that almost takes it into pop metal territory.

Precious Stones meanwhile brings elements of the concept, based around time, to the fore in impressive style before Steambreather shows the band’s groovier tendencies excellently and that’s followed by several moments that I can’t help but think current Metallica is ironically striving (and largely failing) to emulate.

Mastodon

Mastodon

Across the record as a whole there’s a feeling that Mastodon are doing their best to fill every space  with a sound of some sort and, while in the hands of some this could be unbearable, they balance it out so nothing is overriding something else and, while it can be claustrophobic at times, it never feels like this isn’t the band’s intent.

That said there are moments where it feels like Brent Hinds might be heading slightly too far into guitar histrionic territory but it stays just the right side of being over the top and just feels like guys who can play and aren’t ashamed to hide it.

As the record goes on it builds in power and intensity with largely clean vocals giving way to more abrasive sounds and the soaring solos are matched by swirling riffs escalating it all into a maelstrom of sound that could easily derail things but comes with a smoothness often not present in more experimental metal (not that it always needs to be, but here it fits perfectly). This all reaches a bracing crescendo on Scorpion Breath.

Mastodon liveThis is all brought to a point on final track Jaguar God that seems to do everything the preceding 10 tracks have done in seven and a half minutes as it weaves its way from a piano and acoustic opening to an astral plane tripping climax that, like the rest of Emperor of Sand, continues to stake Mastodon’s claim as one of the most interesting heavy bands coming out of America this century.

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El Scar – Drowning In Information, Starved For Knowledge

Prolific solo instrumentalist El Scar broadens his horizons with acoustic ambient metal on new ‘double A side’.

Over the last couple of years Brighton based and Guernsey born musician Marc Le Cras has been putting out self-produced albums and EPs of his own music on a relatively regular basis under the name of El Scar.

Largely instrumental, save for a few guest vocal spots from Jack Fletcher on The Human Instrumentality Project album, his work falls into a strange place of instrumental, atmospheric metal.

All grown from and inspired by El Scar’s evident love of both ‘djent’ style progressive metal and anime (and specifically Neon Genesis Evangelion), the albums and EPs he has put out so far have been a surprisingly rich and varied batch of sound (though all still clearly rooted in their genre).

For his latest, the two track Drowning in Information, Starved for Knowledge, El Scar has put down the electric guitar and picked up the acoustic, along with the usual programmed drums and other backing instrumentation.

What this has done has expand El Scar’s palate of sounds in a way that I think was needed at this stage, while still keeping a similar style and sound to the production and composition.

Even more so than on his earlier work these two tracks have the feel of a soundtrack to a hyper-futuristic sci-fi or, appropriately, anime movie.

The one thing that really struck me, though, was how short the two tracks are, on both I was left wanting more.

Both tracks begin slow and quiet before building with additional instruments to add depth to the sound. However, just as they are really getting going, at around the three to four minute mark, they end, in both cases, it seemed to me, somewhat abruptly.

While three to four minutes is a fine length for a pop song or regular piece of music for casual listening, it felt like these two pieces both had further to go and more to do and really could have become deeply engrossing pieces if they had time to expand.

It’s not often I think songs need to be longer (as a Metallica fan, recent years have often had me wishing their songs would be shorter) but in the case of Drowning in Information, Starved for Knowledge, I wanted more!

You can get hold of all of El Scar’s singles, EPs and albums via his BandCamp page.

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