When people look back on 2017 in music, particularly metal, this will go down as one of the biggest surprises. As MASTODON prepared to release the stupendous Emperor of Sand back in March, there was confirmation from guitarist Brent Hinds that he was poised to release two solo albums over the rest of the year; one called Cold Dark Place, the other called Fiend Without a Face. There was no set date, but we knew they were coming.
Fast forward to last month then and the startling news that Cold Dark Place was, in fact, now a MASTODON EP. Oh, and that it was being released the following month. Comprising of three songs that were recorded during the recording sessions for 2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun and one from Emperor of Sand, the EP is out today, via Reprise Records.
When announced, there were plenty of rumours that Cold Dark Place would be the Yang to Emperor of Sand‘s Yin, given the title and the stark contrast in colours when comparing album artworks. While these claims don’t hold as much weight behind them as before given the context in which these songs were recorded, you’d be forgiven for thinking that when opening track North Side Star kicks in. Despite the lyrical content of Emperor of Sand (the album follows a desert wanderer who has been handed a death threat), the overall composition of the music still has an element of positivity and strength, possibly stemming from the members’ experiences of friends and family who had been diagnosed with cancer and their own personal fights against the disease. North Side Star, on the other hand, mixes acoustic guitars in with the usual downtrodden electrics and the mournful, choral vocals do brilliantly to set an overall tone of bleak acceptance; as the song progresses, elements of latter-day PINK FLOYD begin to creep in as well, which aids in the overriding melancholy.
Follow-up Blue Walsh is much cheerier by contrast, with a driving 70’s rock riff anchoring the track and the vocals adding a healthy dose of the ‘BEE GEES meets MASTODON‘ claim that Brent made when discussing the record, particularly during the chorus; futhermore, it’s incredibly catchy and wastes no time in getting the blood pumped.Toe to Toes, the one track from the Emperor of Sand recordings, doesn’t quite stand up to some of the numbers that made the final album like Steambreather and Jaguar God, but on any other cycle it would have been one of the first names on the track listing, rumbling along in a rather snappy four-and-a-half minutes and combining those killer guitar licks with a radio-friendly chorus that is made for singing to the heavens. It’s trumped by the title track though, which rounds off the foursome here and the definition of ‘saving the best for last’. Boasting a wonderful guitar solo, it floats along with consummate ease and before you know it, it’s all over and you’re brought back to reality with a judder.
To have two MASTODON releases in a year is extremely special; they’re a band who are consistently brilliant and never do anything by halves. Even this EP of supposed bonus tracks has clearly been crafted with care and precision, and will tie us all over nicely for the UK tour that comes here in December.
Cold Dark Place is out now via Reprise Records.
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