Mastodon is one of my top favorite metal bands of all time. I have listened to every album and I love them all very much. They have released a new single, and naturally I’m excited. I listen to it, and I think it’s awesome and love it very much. Here, listen for yourselves:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/145055304″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
There’s a catch though, it sounds very different from what they’ve been doing during their career, and that upset many fans.
The band realizes this. The guitarist of the band Bill Kelliher said in an interview with Loudwire:
I think us screaming and yelling is kind of a thing of the past. But also, our music back then lends itself to more of that style of screaming because the music was really in that direction. We just kind of wrote in any old fashion, just kind of let it fly, let the shit fly.
We didn’t really know how to write songs, we just kind of threw riffs together and screamed over it and people liked it. I guess we just kind of matured and maybe we lost some fans who liked that about us, but we can’t continue to write like that on purpose. Every record to me is a snapshot of the frame of mind our band was in, who we were as people when we wrote those riffs.
I think it gets harder and harder as you get older to keep screaming and screaming and screaming about shit, you know? I think the songs we write are getting a little more rock, a little bit of rock going on and little more thought behind the groove. We’re constantly evolving and are more about the groove and feel rather than just playing as fast as we can or sounding as complicated as possible.
So, as you can see, their attitude changed, their mentality changed, and as a result, their approach to music and making it also changed. This is a good thing, and it should be lauded and encouraged, not condemned.
Another favorite metal band of mine, Metallica, has faced the most negative criticism for this admirable quality. Metallica has proven to be a very versatile band, moving from soft to hard and from hard to soft, making masterpieces in every shade, from violent thrash like Ride the Lightning to softer ballads like “Nothing Else Matters”, and the fans, instead of lauding them for this versatile and exploratory attitude, have condemned them and has asked them to remain rigid.
I think ultimately Metallica is a much superior band to Megadeth, simply because Megadeth is Metallica that never changed – Metallica that never moved beyond Kill ’em All, the same way that Mustaine has never emotionally moved beyond the feud that caused him to be kicked out of Metallica.
I love Metallica not in spite of the fact that they are a band with a fluid style, I love them because of it. I have no interest in purity, purity leads to cliches and repetition, and takes out what is most interesting about arts, and that is experimentation, treading new grounds, moving into unfamiliar places.
And ultimately, these fans do not have anything to say against the sounds, they only have a reactionary attitude and a resistance to change, and it is simply wrong, and bands who do the easier thing and cave to these bands, become irrelevant and repetitive. Metallica has always gained new fans as they have lost them, and those who decry great albums such as Load and ReLoad were the same fans who came after the Black album was decried by fans who were rigidly loyal to the previous purely thrash sound of the band. Metallica has remained at the top and has gained an impressive range in spite of them.
Artists like Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson have also displayed the same flexibility. Manson’s albums like High End of the Low are filled with masterpieces, but fans decry them for no better reason that a lack of loyalty to the previous style of the band.
On the other hand, you have bands like AC/DC and Motorhead. I love these bands, but ultimately they sound exactly the same throughout their career, and because of that they are already part of a bygone era.
Genres are not religions or cults, there is no need to remain loyal to them. Every new song is a new entity and independent in itself, and deserves to be judged by its own merit and on its own ground and meaning.
I love the past Mastodon, and I love the new one. This evolution is awesome, and I welcome it.