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Mastodon - Cold Dark Place (Album Review)

Monday, 02 October 2017 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Mastodon did something special earlier this year. ‘Emperor of Sand’, the Atlanta metallers’ seventh full-length, branded 2017’s haunches with a ferocious stamp of quality. It had spleen-splitting riffs, it had heartfelt melodies. There were progressive passages to sate the strokiest of beards. It was wonderful.

And now, six months later, we’re treated to an extra sack of odds ‘n’ sods in the form of ‘Cold Dark Place’. Originally mooted as a solo record by guitarist and vocalist Brent Hinds, the EP actually offers one unused track from the ‘Emperor of Sand’ sessions and three from those for 2014’s ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’.

As such, it’s not as coherent as either of those albums – especially the latter. Also, at 22 minutes, it’s not exactly ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, although Pink Floyd loom large on the disc’s bookends from an atmospheric point of view.

There’s little in terms of the hulking, underwear-decimating riffs Mastodon are primarily known for, either. Rather, this is the band’s approach to their 2009 prog epic ‘Crack the Skye’ coupled with the radio-bothering choruses and vocal interplay they’ve mastered over the past three albums.

North Side Star flips from elongated behemoth to shuffling boogie in an instant, while Blue Walsh switches between a laid-back vocal from drummer Brann Dailor and Troy Sanders bellowing over the band’s classic, spindly guitar just as quickly. These four men are genre cowboys, hopping into pockets of melody irrespective of convention, and Toe To Toes’ warped riffing and hand clapping is the EP’s most anthemic, bizarre example of the fact.

‘Cold Dark Place’ belongs to Hinds, though. Not just in respect of its title being nicked from his prospective solo work, but because the bulk of its greatest moments happen at his behest. Toe To Toes’ gorgeous chorus is him, as are the ludicrous solos wriggling from his optical illusion-inducing tattooed hands. And the melancholy ebb-and-flow of the title track boasts his haunting steel guitar clawing through the mix and into nightmares unformed.

Its notable highs acknowledged, 'Cold Dark Place' shouldn’t be viewed as a follow-up to ‘Emperor of Sand’. Its chord-based, mostly miserable meandering isn’t exactly the liveliest affair, rooting itself in the band’s sludgy past while climbing the progressive ladders properly established on ‘Crack the Skye’. It’s not instantaneous, with its choruses often trailing into dreamy, expansive passages. It needs work on the listener’s behalf, but if you put in the time, you’ll be rewarded.

Less sandblasted skin and more space oddity, ‘Cold Dark Place’ is testament to Mastodon’s chameleonic qualities and inimitable knack for crafting thought-provoking music, in the metal realm or otherwise.    

Mastodon Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat December 02 2017 - CARDIFF Cardiff University Students Union
Mon December 04 2017 - WOLVERHAMPTON Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Tue December 05 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed December 06 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Northumbria Institute
Thu December 07 2017 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Sat December 09 2017 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sun December 10 2017 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Click here to compare & buy Mastodon Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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