Spawned from unreleased tracks recorded between Once More ‘Round The Sun and Emperor Of Sand, Mastodon’s surprise EP is welcomed by fans who have only just recovered from the group’s latest riffing efforts. Cold Dark Place follows Mastodon’s winning recipe of high-fantasy, battling guitars and experimental tones. Although the recipe may be very similar to what we’re accustomed to, Brent Hinds’ presence is felt far more throughout the EP – this goes under the Mastodon name, but it does feel like a project with Hinds at its helm.
Opening with North Side Star is an interesting choice when compared to the opening track from Emperor Of Sand, Sultan’s Curse; while in Mastodon terms isn’t their heaviest work it does hit the ground running rather than in a wistful daze. This doesn’t mean it’s tame, it only needs a few verses to shift into what we know of Mastodon with a groovy mid-to-end section complete with signature riff-work. North Side Star isn’t their absolute best work – with a discography as brilliant as Mastodon it’s hard to be the best of the bunch; however, when considered among the overarching theme Cold Dark Place presents the track is a great opener.
Toe To Toes is the most ‘Don track in this EP and is a class act; possibly one of their best tracks to date, it has the style that has made them stand out as one of the best metal bands around: Hinds’ space-cowboy vocals, Bill Kelliher’s inventive guitar section, Troy Sanders’ powerful grooves and smooth vocal style thumping to the beat of Brann Dailor’s wild drums. The verses are set to a winding guitar track with an addictive and satisfying clap, giving space for Hinds to sing-shout his way to the chorus. Toe To Toes is a spectral experience, one which is essential to the EP overall.
The title track, Cold Dark Place, comes as the perfect end to a short Mastodon experience. This track feels new in a different way, however. Each of their seven albums are concept albums with a larger story being told about Czars, Sultans and demonic space-creatures, but this one wears its heart on its sleeve with unusual cracks in the typically impenetrable armour we’re used to. For the first time, the lyrics aren’t metaphorical, they say what they’re meant to. The track tells us how Hinds found it hard to reconnect to his girlfriend after being away for so long, and how frustrating it is to miss someone so much only to see them again without a spark – perhaps the saddest part of this song is when we’re told how the dog was taken away after an argument. Lyrically it’s a world above anything in the late 2017 release schedule, and even more so musically. Experimenting with new textures this song sees the heavy use of Brent’s Sho-Bud 13-String Pedal Guitar, an instrument straight out of the fantasies created by the band. His mastery of this instrument is matched only by the raw talent which the rest of the band use to tie the piece together. This track may mark the beginning of a change lyrically, a change which sees the band’s emotional experiences driving their song writing.
Cold Dark Place sets an easy pace throughout it short runtime. With no true typical conceptual story reaching its way into each track, the entire album does feel very much like unused work being given new life (which it is, after all). This doesn’t render it a bad EP, though. It’s actually a perfect taste of where the band are at in their career as each track shows a little more honesty in their lyrics – whereas before if any deeper personal meaning was the subject it would have been shrouded in cryptic metaphors as we seen in the ending of Emperor Of Sand. Toes To Toes stands out as the best without a doubt, with Cold Dark Place coming a very close second. Continuing an earlier point, if they can lace heartful lyrics with their well perfected style it’s possible that we’re about to see a whole new level of Mastodon in the future.
For fans of: Red Fang, Clutch, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Words by Conor Tollan
‘Cold Dark Place’ by Mastodon is out now on Reprise Records.