Full disclosure: since I started Stay Heavy, I’ve been wondering if giving an entry a “list”-type title would result in more views for that entry, seeing as how lists seem to be the only things that get shared and read these days. I’m sincerely sick and fucking tired of seeing headlines like “13 Things You Didn’t Know About Geraniums (#4 will change your life in the worst way possible)”, but to be perfectly honest, I understand why websites do that kind of shit, which is why I decided to go ahead and try it out myself. I feel more okay about utilizing this shady clickbait method because I have actually prepared a (very short) list of sorts.
With that out of the way, I’ll get down to the bare bones of this topic. Here are two undeniable thruths: 1.) I’ve been a Metalhead for 28 years now, and 2.) Metalheads are nothing if not highly opinionated. As such, I’ve developed a fair number of opinions about metal-related things. To put it another way: I’m passionate about heavy metal, and I’m an opinionated, curmudgeonly old fuck (my wife is much nicer about it; she says I’m a “purist”).
That said, there are some things in the realm of metal (and related heavy music) that I simply do not get…things that most other Metalheads seem to have raging boners for (or, for the ladies, raging lady-boners). I’ll get into two of those things presently, and you can bet your Sweet Aunt Fanny that there will be more posts like this in the future. For the most part, the items will be in no particular order, but these first two items are most certainly the top two items on the list of Heavy Things I Just Don’t Understand, so I’ma start with them.
1. Mastodon – I expect I might catch hell over this, but I do not fucking get the hype and praise that people slather all over Mastodon. I first became aware of them shortly after the release of their second album, 2004’s Leviathan, but I didn’t actually hear them until 2006’s Blood Mountain. I was excited to hear Leviathan, because I knew that Clutch frontman Neil Fallon had a guest spot on the album, and I was a salivating Clutch fanboy at the time. I heard both albums pretty regularly at work, where everyone in the kitchen was allowed to take a turn selecting music. None of the songs from either album ever really grabbed me, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and chalked it up to the fact that they were meant to be listened to – like, sit down, shut up, and listen to this motherfucker. So I borrowed Leviathan, took it home, and continued to be underwhelmed.
I understand that they are excellent musicians. Guitarist Bill Kelliher also played guitar on Primate’s ferocious 2012 album Draw Back a Stump, and I enjoy the hell out of that. Also, Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor played bass and drums, respectively, on Today Is the Day’s In the Eyes of God (1999), and that album is fucking amazing. I also appreciate the concept album leanings they bring/brought to the party, but when you strip Mastodon down to what really matters, which is the songs, I just find them to be b-o-r-i-n-g. I also heard Crack the Skye plenty of times at that same job, and it bored me, too. I haven’t listened their first album, Remission, or their most recent album, The Hunter, because I feel that I’ve given Mastodon enough chances, thank you very much, and my conclusion is that Mastodon is a goddamn boring band, and they come off like they’re trying too hard.
Also, Bill Kelliher’s stupid fucking haircut and fellow guitarist Brent Hinds’ stupid fucking face tattoo piss me off.
Exhibit A: Bill Kelliher’s stupid fucking haircut.
Exhibit B: Brent Hinds’ stupid fucking face tattoo.
2. The last two Clutch albums – As stated above, there was a time (roughly 1997-2013) when I was super into Clutch. I loved every single release from the band, from 1991’s Pitchfork EP up through 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion. Ask anybody who has known me for more than a few years, and they’ll be able to tell you about my love for Clutch. They started out as a very stripped down, metallic, industrial/hardcore-esque band, and slowly evolved into a grooving, jamming, bluesy, beastly juggernaut. I saw them live every chance I got (a total of 7 times between 1998 and 2008). I’ve owned 8 different Clutch shirts (five of which I still own). I own import-only CDs that cost me more than I care to admit.
And then, after years of nothing but love for the band, Clutch released an album that bored me so much, I’ve only been able to listen to it all the way through three times. I bought Strange Cousins From the West the day it was released (July 14, 2009), and I was fuckin stoked about it. The packaging is amazing (though it is a little frustrating and difficult to reassemble), and I’d heard some of the songs live, and they were pretty badass. I drove home from work, popped the disc in, pressed play, and proceeded to struggle to stay awake. Clutch albums prior to Strange Cousins… have a dynamic flow – highs and lows, fasts and slows. Strange Cousins… took the brilliant mid-tempo groove of songs like “Greenbuckets” (The Elephant Riders – 1998) and “Opossum Minister” (From Beale Street to Oblivion) and made an entire album out of that mid-tempo groove (with very few exceptions).
The dynamic course of Strange Cousins From the West could be plotted more or less like this:
(Tracks 1-2) (Tracks 3-4) (Tracks 5-whenever my alarm goes off)
Compare that to a simulation of a dynamic chart of, for example, 2004’s Blast Tyrant:
(Note: I was unable to prepare a chart, because I was busy getting my ass kicked by Blast Tyrant.)
I decided to just pretend like Strange Cousins From the West never happened, and instead wait patiently for a follow-up to From Beale Street to Oblivion. (I have tried to listen to Strange Cousins… a few times since, but I honestly can’t finish it – it’s just too boring.) Then when I started reading about the follow-up, I started to get exceptionally pumped – all signs/reviews pointed to a modern revisiting of the style/sound of Blast Tyrant, which is the band’s heaviest album. Redemption!
I had to wait a week to buy 2013’s Earth Rocker, because its release didn’t jive up with payday, but when I picked it up, drove home from work, popped the disc in, and pressed play, I pretty quickly began to wonder what the fuck has happened to what was once one of my All-Time Top Five Favorite Bands. Earth Rocker is heavier than anything since Blast Tyrant (and might even be heavier than Blast Tyrant), and it’s also faster than anything since Blast Tyrant, but like it’s predecessor, it almost completely lacks any kind of dynamic changes.
The dynamic course of Earth Rocker could be plotted more or less like this:
(Tracks 1-5) (Track 6) (Tracks 7-11)
Compare that to a simulation of a dynamic chart of, for example, 1995’s Clutch:
(Note: I was unable to prepare a chart, because I was busy getting my ass kicked by Clutch.)
What bothers me most about Earth Rocker, though, is the vast amounts of praise it has received, from seemingly every possible corner of music-related press – countless magazines and blogs placed it in at least their top 10 albums of 2013, and reviews go on and on about what a punishing return to form it is for the band, but it’s seriously nowhere near as good as anything the band released before 2009.
At any rate, now I pretend like both Strange Cousins… and Earth Rocker didn’t happen, and I continue to wait patiently for a follow-up to From Beale Street to Oblivion. When it finally comes, I will definitely listen to it before I spend any more money on Clutch. If it never comes (i.e., if they release another boring turd of an album), at least they have a pretty deep back catalog.
That’s all for today. What are some heavy things you just don’t understand?