Cas One Vs Figure-Before Our Egos Kill Us Review



Cas One is a rapper, originally from Evansville, Indiana, who just made his debut on the legendary Sage Francis’ Strange Famous label. His last album The Monster and the Wishing Well was very well received and allowed him to smoothly slide into the section of the indie rap scene that holds people like B.Dolan, Sadistik and the aforementioned Sage Francis. This new album has slightly higher stakes though because of his signing to Strange Famous and the fact that he has teamed up with respectable EDM and Dubstep producer Figure on this album. It’s not the first time they’ve teamed up though, they’ve worked on and off over the past 10 years and Figure was even Cas One’s traveling DJ  for his first album Liberation, but this is the first full length collaboration between the two and although Figure is not a “hip hop producer”, it still works surprisingly well.

The first two songs set the tone for the album. Walking into the Cult and Staying Gold give you the dark and wobbly production that have some immensely dense bass. This album is like 75% bangers, by the way and these songs are perfect examples of it. They’re fast and punchy but if I had a gripe with the beats, it’s just that they all feel a little “samey”. There’s not a lot of variety and the perfect example of that is when the song The Devil and Jacob Snider came on and some horns emerged; I had to check I was listening to the same album. After that song the bangers are mostly gone and the beats start to feel a little bit fresher quite honestly. Too bad that accounts for a total of three songs on the album. And even the new mellow vibe is hit or miss with the final song Back Home being a good example. It has some piano in the background that have the chord progression of an EDM anthem from seven years ago except it’s quiet and buried underneath the rest of the production and I swear to god I was waiting for the beat to drop into some loud and grander version of itself that would require some light show and dudes in tank tops and flip flops jumping up and down.

What really makes these beats great is Cas One over them and he will make or break your experience with this album. His lyrics are often times very clever and the topics range from social commentary to the media to his own personal life. And I enjoyed the lyrics on the last three songs the most as it provided the most information and poetic insight into his home life and his relationship with his family.

A standout track is the song Razor Blade Mark that details the typical Scencester poser kid who brags about self harm and addiction as well as “only buys his records from urban outfitters“. It reminds me of a Cage song called Scenester that was off Hell’s Winter that dealt with the same topics in a similarly clever and cynical way.

Staying Gold is probably my favorite track with probably the best hook on the album, which isn’t saying much because unfortunately Cas One is not much of a hook writer. But in all fairness, this is not an album you want hooks on, especially when you have lyrics like:

When there’s no gold left, turn right, go left
A hole in that chest gets filled with an X
Marks the spot. Keep the spark on hold
Look a horse in its mouth, see if them teeth still gold

With the bass-heavy and bouncy beat, this line just fucking shakes you and I love it.

Now, Cas One is not the perfect MC though. I would say that he suffers from the same ailment most indie rappers suffer from in that he lacks a sort of distinct narrative voice. This is hard to explain but I’ll try my best. I’m not getting a clear sense of Cas One’s writing style in this album and who he is in particular. The best way to explain it is that you can tell when you’re reading Slug’s lyrics or Aesop Rock’s lyrics even without the instrumentals, you know for a fact that that’s them. Cas One only feels particularly distinctive when he’s talking about himself and his struggles but other than that he can sometimes be lost in the fray of other introspective independent rappers.

There is one more potential problem with Cas One and that is his voice. The best way to describe it is that he’s got a flow like a mid-paced Eyedea but has the graveled and scratchy voice of like a Buck 65 or Sadistik. And I’m not sure what to think of it. It’s a very melodramatic delivery at times that really puts me off and stops me from listening to dudes like Sadistik. And I really think that his voice will make you love him or apathetic towards him.

I’m a little on the fence about Cas One as an MC and the beats are good if at the same time they are very samey but I find myself coming back to the album time and time again and I’m not sure why. There’s a charm to the album that you can only find in this little niche in the independent hip hop game. Cas One also seems like a really cool dude and I’m down to buy this record once I can as I would like more of these type of musicians emerging from the underground. It’s not my favorite hip hop album and it’s not a perfect album but I got some nice bangers out of it and I’m interested in Cas One’s future.

7/10- Pretty good bruh


Cas One Vs Figure



Ho99o9- United States of Horror Review




Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror) is a Los Angeles noise rap duo that has been making some waves in the past few years through some significant mixtapes, the most recent being Dead Bodies in the Lake. I’ve my reservations about this crew when I first heard them as, my first impression was “Hey, another Death Grips rip off group except they seem to like Bad Brains a little more”. And perhaps I was being unfair with them but it’s hard to not hear the similarities in the vocals and productions, as well as all the other Death Grips rip offs that have sprouted since Exmilitary came out. But with this new album, Ho99o9 seem to have carved a nice little niche within the Noise Rap genre that feels a little more fresh than before. And with 46 minutes of material, compared to Dead Bodies in the lake which was just over twenty minutes, they’re giving themselves a lot more room to make a statement.

The album starts off with a short intro and then heads into a song that disappointed me at first, War is Hell, mostly because of how sludgy it is and it just didn’t feel like much of an intro to me. Not that it’s bad, as it isn’t at all, it’s actually kinda catchy. I just would’ve preferred the second song, Street Power, to have switched places with it, which is a much more high powered and varied song with an atmospheric and airy beat that switches quickly into this hardcore punk instrumental as the duo screams: STREET POWER. And this album has a much sharper punk edge than others ,although, I’m not sure if they combine punk instrumentals with industrial and noise in a very fluid way. There are the punk songs and then there are the noisy songs. Few songs like Street Power do have both sounds within the songs but they are utilized with sudden beat changes between both rather than a combination of the two.

This isn’t to say that songs don’t have variety as it very much does. Every song has a specific identity and sound that really impressed me. There are few songs that come and go that aren’t easy to remember. Whether it’s the manic and glitchy Face Tat or the creepy-as-fuck and ethereal Moneymachine or the Bad Brains worship of City Rejects. Although all songs feel fresh, some over stay their welcome and become drab rather quickly. Knuckle Up is a good example, even though it is one of my favorite songs, it could be thirty seconds shorter and it would only make it tighter. Moneymachine is an even better example as quite honestly, it should’ve been like two whole minutes shorter as it quickly becomes redundant and boring once the novelty of the song wears off.

Now I said that Ho99o9 has made a new niche with this album and I stand by that. Although it is still clear that Death Grips is still a principle influence with songs like War is Hell and Dekay, it seems that they are pulling from farther back now on most tracks. I’m getting strong hints of Dalek and Nine Inch Nails from this record, particularly the song Bleed War in relation to NIN. This combined with their evident worship of 80s hardcore punk, it presents a feeling unique that is difficult find elsewhere. There is even a very strong mainstream trap influence on some of these songs like Hydrolics or Splash that quite honestly, barring subject matter, aren’t too far away from radio-friendly in terms of sound.

This album does have a much more distinct identity than other recent noise rap albums but it still isn’t very tight or polished. In addition to the redundancy of some tracks, some end out of nowhere to play some pointless interlude that just kills the momentum of the album. Just as Bleed War is getting it’s most intense, it cuts off to a skit of Death receiving a wrong number call. Like what the fuck. It’s kinda funny but it is still irritating because it seems like this album is trying to be a more holistic experience with these interludes and skits but it ends up making the whole thing feel scattered and unfocused, with no momentum ever being built from song to song. Which is a shame, because the only songs that are blatantly bad are United States of Horror and Blaqq Hole, which just so happen to end the album off. United States of Horror has some incredibly lame and cliche lyrics and although I enjoy the chorus and I would love to see it live, it just kills the album for me when he’s screaming these somewhat triumphant lyrics about never giving up and being yourself when the rest of the album is so nihilistic and cynical. Blaqq Hole is just a very inconspicuous ending that just lets the album fizzle out like a burning fire instead of an explosion. Also the vocals are stupid. They sound like: BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB. And I just can’t help giggling when I hear it.

All in all, this album has consistently great songs on it that either get ruined by poor sequencing or abrupt endings. If I was to just judge the songs on the album, then this album is incredible, but as an ALBUM, it feels like it lollygags and wanders around aimlessly. I will undoubtedly return to my favorite songs on this album, like Knuckle Up, Bleed War, and Street Power, but I’m not really interested in listening to the whole album in its entirety.

6.5/10- Mostly good.

Willie Nelson- God’s Problem Child Review



Willie Nelson, the long running man with the braids is on the road, yet again. It’s pretty crazy to think about the idea that this man is still kicking and still making his iconic brand of country music, all the while many of his contemporaries are retired or, unfortunately, dead. And all of these ideas are explored within this album’s 44 minute parameters that will be some of the best country music released this year.

Country music is probably the closest genre to have the statement:”it was better in the early days” feel objectively correct. For whatever reason, some time around the 90s, country music fell into a massive hole, filled with generic arena ballads and awkward honky tonk party songs that spread like an infection that country music is just starting to cure itself of. It seemed like the only artists with worthwhile releases were older artists who had already made their name in the 70s and 80s. And Willie Nelson was one of the artists that helped give some flavor to the diluted pool of the gooey Keith Urban and Toby Keith rehashes that consumed a volume of the country music scene.

This is his 61st studio album which is absolutely mind boggling in my eyes. And through it all he has been playing his trademarked and simple brand of country music. Sometimes he flirts with reggae, sometimes he flirts with jazz, never for very long though and honestly I think that’s another reason country music is generally not taken seriously. There’s a blatant formula to a lot of country music that is undeniable. Whether it be motif-ridden sing-song ballads or a fucking mandolin finding it’s way into a mix for no reason; and I think this is because country music is a style so deeply ingrained in it’s own culture that straying away from it’s own formula is nearly a death sentence. That’s what you need to understand, this is a tried and true country album like Willie has ever written.

From the first song, Little House on the Hill, you’re getting the running instrumental and Willie’s nasally vocals and some tight finger picked guitar playing. One thing that is noticed immediately is that Willie’s voice sounds very old and weak. It doesn’t take very much from the album though because Willie is very subtle and understated with his delivery throughout anyway but his weak voice becomes incredibly apparent on the title track which features the late Leon Russel, Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, all make a much more considerable vocal attribution that Willie himself.

Despite the weary vocals, the album is very consistent throughout, and I would say that there isn’t much of a low-point throughout. If I had to pick one it’s Delete and Fast-forward which is one of the more bare-bones and bland in terms of the rhythm and melody but it’s not exactly skippable or anything.

The album even ends a good note in a song written by Gary Nicholson and dedicated to the late and great Merle Haggard which acts as a nice and triumphant goodbye to the audience and to Merle.

If there was any negative, it would be just that this album doesn’t do anything new in them Country genre. It just does it better than most. Some songs offer a little variety, like A Woman’s Love which has a slightly flamenco vibe to it and for some reason I even get a bit of a Lee Hazelwood vibe from it too but I’m not sure why. And the title track is a nocturnal and dusty cut that sounds like a motorcycle driving down an empty highway.

In short, if you like Willie, you will like this album. If you like old school country, you will like this album. And hell, even if you like some folk music you’ll probably like it too.

7/10-Pretty good bruh


Brother Ali- All the Beauty in this Whole Life



Brother Ali is a rapper on the Minnesota-based Rhymesayers Label that I’ve followed ever since I got into hip hop in high school. I found the Rhymesayers label and, more specifically, Atmosphere at one point and I fell in love with that sort of late 90s and early 2000s backpack rap through them. Whether it be Atmosphere, Eyedea and Abilities, Aesop Rock, or some of the Def Jux guys like Cage, and El-P; Rhymesayers sort of introduced me to this whole world that really appealed to an overly-angsty and angry teenager. But Brother Ali never connected to me in the same way. I always respected him and enjoyed his music passively but it just didn’t hit me in the same way Atmosphere’s Godlovesugly or Cage’s Hell’s Winter did. Over the years, as I’ve aged I’ve found myself sort of “getting” his music a little more and this new album, his first in five years, really tipped me over the edge and showed me the artist that Brother Ali is.

First thing’s first, you must know, this album is overwhelmingly and unabashedly positive and full  of love. Whether it be the song Own Light(What Hearts are For) or Special Effects Feat. Dem Atlas or It Ain’t Easy, this album doesn’t shy away from telling you about love and even how much Brother Ali loves you in particular. These songs are gooey and bright like a strawberry shortcake with Brother Ali’s jazzy and sincere voice sprinkled on top of it.

Now, it is to be noted, whether you wanna acknowledge it or not, Brother Ali is a fascinating character in his own right. An white albino Muslim man, born in Wisconsin who has had some of the most raucous and politically charged anthems of the passed 20 years to go with his constant political activism. It’s hard not find whatever perspective he holds to be fascinating and engaging.

And this album isn’t all hugs either, there is some deep anger and concern that foam from these songs. A strong example is the song Dear Black Son, which is a song dedicated to his son, who is black and his concerns for his future and his self esteem. I heard an acapella rendition of this song during the latest Atmosphere tour that Ali jumped on and I’m so happy that a full version was on this album.

Another conscious cut that should be mentioned is the song Uncle Usi Taught Me which details the controversy Brother Ali dealt with after his song Uncle Sam Goddamn released, which led to the FBI freezing his bank account. He also mentions his encounter with the TSA when he was heading home from a tour and he was pulled aside as the security checked all his luggage and went so far as to squeeze the teddy bears Brother Ali was bringing home for his kids.

Out of Here is a heartbreaking track that shows Ali dealing with the suicides of his Grandfather and Father as he tries to find an answer for it but of course he doesn’t find one. No resolutions are made and that’s what the track is about. The inability to understand the loss of life that might’ve been able to be reverted by something, anything.

If I could say is a negative of the album is that it might be the production. It is mostly great with Ant from Atmosphere at the helm but there is so much Atmosphere influence leaking onto the hooks and instrumentals that it is undeniable. It Ain’t Easy legitimately sounds like it could’ve been on Southsiders or Fishing Blues. Can’t Take That Away could also fit snuggly within The Family Sign as well. The production on Own Light(What Hearts are For) also leaves a little to be desired with some really awkward synths that really make it sound even more corny and melodramatic, than it needs to sound.

Also, this is an issue with most Rhymesayers’ releases quite honestly and it’s that the vocals are always turned way too high in the mixes. Now Rhymesayers are known for their lyrically focused artist, but come on! Ant has some great and beautiful beats here and I love Brother Ali’s voice but his voice overwhelms the tracks sometimes that it makes the songs feel more sparse than they actually are. It’s quite honestly a testament to how great Brother Ali’s voice and delivery it is that this gripe really doesn’t affect the album too much.

I can understand why someone might not enjoy this album quite honestly though. It is so positive and loving that is comes off very corny and overly fluffy. But it never feels like it’s naive or like it’s trying too hard. It all feels very natural and if you let yourself feel the positivity in this record, there is a lot to be gained from it whether they’re tears or a nice comforted smile.

8.75/10- Pretty amazing.

P.S. If you’re a record collector like me, check out the vinyl package this has. It is quite beautiful and nice.


Gorillaz- Humanz Review




I have a deep sentimentality for Gorillaz. It was the first music group that I became obsessed with and probably got me into music as an entertainment medium in the first place.  Demon Days was my bible in middle school and high school and I think their self titled album is one of the most underrated albums of the 2000s despite Damon Albarn sort of self-cannibalizing Blur in some instances.  Plastic Beach was more of a grower than the other two but it still turned out great with some of the best features of any of the albums. Gorillaz blended hip hop with electronic, soul, rock and piano ballads in some instances with undeniable oddity to the production. Gorillaz’s songs have a distinct flavor to them despite being so varied. With Gorillaz signature attitude towards collaboration and they being my most significant musical experience of my childhood, they led me to so many other groups as well. Because of Gorillaz I found MF Doom, Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automater(and along with him the entire genre of trip hop), Lou Reed and the list goes on and on. Gorillaz is responsible for my open mindedness towards music and although I’ve grown out of them quite a bit, I was so excited for Humanz, and it hurts to say that I’m sorely disappointed.

Humanz starts off with a useless intro, that is so benign it is meaningless to describe, that transitions into arguably the best song on the album: Ascension(feat. Vince Staples). This is such a great opener and Vince is fast and the beat is erratic. It is different than most Gorillaz but it’s different in an exciting way. But immediately afterwards the album starts a horrible trend that continues the rest of the album and is a cardinal sin for any album, it becomes unbearably boring. Strobelite with Pevan Everett singing is sort of catchy but by the time the chorus plays, the song has shown you all of it’s cards. There are no dynamics to this song, no change ups with the chord progression or structure. It’s just a generic soul piece that is irritating to listen to as Pevan makes another appearance with the song Halfway to the Halfway House which is another bland piece of soul that does not make me feel anything after the first minute.

The next song I enjoyed wasn’t until Momentz with De La Soul and is an amazing track. De La Soul takes control of the track in this manic and goofy instrumental that takes over my skul with that hook.


Before this track is one of the singles dropped called Saturn Barz with Popcaan. I’ve grown to enjoy it a little bit although I feel like it’s only catchy in a dirty and cheap way but I can’t help getting into it.

But then this album get’s back to being boring with almost no change in pace. By the way, if you’re a fan who loves 2D, you will be disappointed. He rarely shows up for any extended period of time. There is only one song with no features on it, excluding the interludes, and it’s a decent slow-burning track called Busted and Blue that is a pretty decent sad ballad but it feels so out of place among the rest of the album that it’s hard to understand its purpose.

Purpose is something in particular this album is lacking. It just doesn’t feel like there was any attention to detail to sequencing of the tracks. This lack of effort on this end starts off immediately with the transition from Ascension to Strobelite. Ascension is such a dynamic and intense beginning that becomes quickly underwhelming as you get dropped into one of the least dynamic and exciting tracks in the listing.  The interludes are all incredibly pointless with no discernible connection to any of the songs or any of the other interludes.

The few other highlights in the listing are Let Me Out, Hallelujah Money and one of the bonus tracks: Out of Body. But out of 26 tracks, including interludes, this is not a very solid average for any album, let alone a solid average for a band as consistent as Gorillaz. It feels like Albarn doesn’t even know it’s been seven years since the last album.

I’m gonna get into the visuals to much as that has never been a selling point for me but I’ve heard others complain about the somewhat lackluster visuals and I’ve gotta second that opinion quite honestly. I’m not a visual artist or even very knowledgable about the art but there definitely does seem to be something missing in the music videos that just isn’t clicking with me.

In the end, this album isn’t terrible. The production is great as usual and the performances are mostly great, but this album makes me want to sleep.


4/10- Not feeling great on this one.


Two more reviews should be coming in the next week.






Artist that deserves your pocket change and clean underwear: Sivyj Yar

The underground metal scene is something everyone needs to venture into at some point if you love GRIMY, DISGUSTING, BEAUTIFUL, LYRICAL, and GRAND metal music or even just “music” in general. It is a wide open field that still manages to be crowded with a bunch of guys in corpse paint and make up with a weird circle near the northwest of the field reserved for the hipster post metal folks. About a few hundred feet to the left of the dead center of the field, but not too far as to find all the dudes into noise and droney doom, you’ll find the football helmeted thrash metalers, then to the right, forming a crescent moon shape around the center in the southeast, all the zombified black metal enthusiasts throw pig heads at each other and there are many more communities polka dotted around the field. Although it is looked down upon some, wishing for pure blood, a beautiful thing about this community is that they all incestuously romance one another and create the best combinations of each member (or “all” members as these folks enjoy orgies quite a bit) all while the NSBM broskies curmudgeonly look from the outside of the field as they reaffirm their shitty opinions about the world among one another.

My point is is that the underground metal scene has a distinct flavor to it and one that I’m fascinated by. So many artists that hide in the shadows, with no want for attention. So many beautiful landscapes of sound and so many disgusting and murky horrorshows that some metalheads will never notice or feel. There is a lot of creativity and one band(one guy really) really stands out to me for whatever reason is Sivjy Yar.

Now, as far as I know, he is not NSBM or anything. From what I can gather, his lyrics are based more on pagan poems and personal struggles. But if it turns out that he is NSBM, let me know, I just don’t wanna support that sort of ideology is all.

Sivyj Yar is a Russian one man band by a guy named Vladimir. And his music is a nice mixture of black metal with some post rock elements, which isn’t an unfamiliar formula, but the energy this guy plays with is ridiculous. My favorite album of his is From the Dead Villages’ Darkness which is an immensely moving and cold record that just makes you put your head down by the end of it.

It is cold, dark, depressing; but still manages to sound triumphant in the most negative way you can think. It’s the music of the catharsis of a person accepting their fate, whatever it may be all while in beautiful agony. Vladimir has these shrill and yelping vocals that sound like someone is cutting off his arm and the drums… oh the drums. They’re so damn energetic and organic. You just feel the impact in every smash to the cymbals and snare. The bass is full of treble and even seems to be providing to the melodies in the tracks. This music just sounds like someone having a breakdown.

It’s interesting because the formula that is being used is not especially unique but it still feels so newborn and fresh. If you enjoy post-metal, black metal or blackened death metal, just give this one a listen. It made me shit my pants a bit.

Go onto his Bandcamp and send him money, car keys, expensive vases, goats to sacrifice, whistles or mostly clean underwear. This guy deserves what you can give him.

Check out if you want to get into the underground metal scene as that guy goes over some of the most obscure music I’ve ever found. As well as Caligari Records on Bandcamp, they hold some impressively disgusting and ambitious music.

Joey Bada$$ All Amerikkkan Badass Review




Joey Badass is becoming more substantial of an artist with every release. With a few mixtapes and his recently release first studio album B4 DA $$, he has only gotten better and better. This new album is the great example of the sort of potential this guy has.

He has a got a an aggressive but still just so buttery smooth delivery with some very clever and consciously written lyrics all over some of the best 90s revival production of the past few years. But if I had a gripe with anything with Joey, it’s that I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt like I got a great complete package. B4DA$$ was a good album but I felt like it was good while on the foundations of just a few amazing songs. There were quite honestly a lot of forgettable tracks that I just couldn’t go back and listen to as much as songs like NO.99, Hazeus View or Big Dusty. But this new project is here and it’s leaner and angrier than before.

From the start the album with the song Good Morning Amerikkka gives you Joey spitting with the viscosity and smoothness of water over an understated and equally as smooth beat. One thing that surprised me was that there was very strong mainstream R&B influence over a few of these tracks with Joey actually singing and doing it well. I’m not saying he’s never sung before but never at this extent and it’s impressive. This new influence is a bit hit or miss unfortunately. There is a song like Temptation with an incredibly infectious hook and the whole song just makes you wriggle in all the right ways.

But than there’s Devastated which is one of the most obnoxious songs Joey has made. I liked it at first as it had another infectious hook but it was infectious in the wrong way. It just gave me a headache and it’s honestly the only song I hate on this album.

This album also has Joey’s best bangers yet in Ring the Alarm and Rockabye Baby. These songs have a wide and bouncy production that just increases the intensity in the lyrics and aggressive delivery of Joey and his guests: with The Flatbush Zombies on Ring the Alarm and Schoolboy Q on Rockabye Baby.

The features on this album are mostly solid. Chronix is here again with his Jamaican inflected singing that only helps the song Babylon. The Flatbush Zombies rip apart and take over the song Ring the Alarm and Schoolboy Q even provides one his more concise and cohesive bars I’ve heard from him. J.Cole has the most underwhelming feature on the song Legendary. He just feels so insignificant in the track, I almost forget he’s on the song until he comes on.

Lyrically this album has the hefty responsibility of acknowledging and responding to the topsy turvy racial politics within the U.S right now. And it’s all very emotional and affecting. Hearing the sample of the little girl’s speech on Temptation gives me goosebumps every time. And the chorus on Land of the Free just makes my head nod too damn much.

In the land of the free, it’s full of free loaders
Leave us dead in the street to be their organ donors
They disorganized my people, made us all loners

Still got the last names of our slave owners
In the land of the free, it’s full of free loaders
Leave us dead in the street to be their organ donors
They disorganized my people, made us all loners, yeah

The last song on the album is sort of a final statement and its a 7 minute epic. It’s a bit drawn out and sort of preachy but there is a lot of truth inside of what he says. It just gets a little hazy when he starts accusing the government of plotting against “us” whatever that means? He has had a reputation of speaking of “third eyes” and “illuminati” shit. It’s whatever you want to think about it, I just find it absurd.

This album is a great addition to Joey’s discography and if the next one is even better that this one, he will go down as one of the greats of the passed 10 years. He has so much more room to evolve and I’m so so excited for more of Joey. Just learn how to fucking spell please.


Hit me up if you wanna talk my man. Buh bye.


Mastodon- Emperor of Sand Review




Mastodon is a Georgia-based Sludge/Progressive metal act that have been releasing records since the late nineties. They’ve remained prominent for the last 20 years maintaining an impressive balance of interesting experimentation and accessibility that allow it to stretch their hands in multiple places at once. Their first 2 albums Remission and Leviathan were more traditional Heavy Metal albums (while including Kelliher’s only prominent vocal talents with his guttural growls) which borrowed heavily from bands such as Neurosis, Melvins, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. They were aggressive and fast, as well, in the case of Leviathan, started their streak of concept albums.

Now these aren’t my favorite records of theirs but they did set the ground work for their (arguably) two magnum opuses Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye. These albums were very much more accessible but in turn, allowed themselves to experiment with song structure and riffs that culminated into, plainly, 2 great Metal albums.

The concepts behind these albums are a little too convoluted and absurd to have a proper discussion in this review quite honestly. I view them as just a method in keeping the records cohesive and fluid but maybe you’ll get more out of them than I did.

All albums have remained consistent in the personnel compartment, with Brent Hinds on Lead Guitar/Vocals, Bill Kelliher on Rhythm Guitar/Vocals, Troy Sanders on Bass/Vocals and Brann Dailor on Drums/Vocals. As can be seen, all of the members provide vocals which has been one of my favorite aspects of the band since their inception. The variety of voices being thrown at you gives the music a sense of scale and unpredictability that few other bands have done. Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders have been the primary lead vocalists for the most part but for the last few albums(including Crack the Skye), Brann Dailor has been leading a lot of the band’s work surprisingly as he does on this new album Emperor of Sands.

Unfortunately the offerings from Mastodon, two non-conceptual pieces: The Hunter and Once More ‘Round the Sun have been utter disappointments. There was no ambition in either of these albums, instead deferring to painfully “catchy” songs and boring three and a half minute metal songs that just sounded like a band trying to imitate Mastodon. They went for pop appeal and I would say that they failed in that as well. So coming up to this new album, I wasn’t sure what to expect quite honestly. And I’m not sure what I got either.

Now, I must say that this album is very much an improvement over the last two albums. There is again a concept, of a man wandering through a desert and from what I’ve read its an album connected with the band member’s connection with cancer. Mastodon has never been very emotionally engaging despite often taking on grand themes and tributes. Examples being Crack the Skye’s connection to drummer Brann Dailor’s sister who committed suicide at age 14 or The Hunter’s connection to Brent Hind’s brother who died during a hunting trip. Neither of these albums really gave me too big of an emotional response quite honestly. And that is mostly the same case for Emperor of Sands. Mostly due in part to the instrumentals being at best, emotionally distant and cut and dry.

Don’t get me wrong these instrumentals are much more exciting and dynamic than anything in the past two albums. But at the same time, they don’t sound all that original or inspired. You could never tell that these songs were on a NEW album. They just quite simply, sound like a band imitating Mastodon.

And when they do something different its usually underwhelming. The song Show Yourself is a great example of a band that let’s another musical style shit into it’s mouth instead of actually incorporating it in a meaningful way. Brann Dailor’s wimpy vocals are placed over an instrumental that should be on some Foo Fighter’s album. Quite honestly Dailor’s vocals are incredibly weak throughout the whole album. In fact, everyone’s vocals are lacking. Troy Sanders literally sings in the same tone and pitch for nearly the half of the whole album and Dailor just sounds like a small child placed over these songs.

But in all honesty, I never listened to Mastodon for emotional intensity.  I’ve never really listened to them for aggression either, or even the technical ability(which they do have a fair bit of). So that begs the question, what is there to listen to in a metal band without emotion, technicality and aggression? Mastodon is a metal band that stands on the flimsy board of songwriting as their main tool. The songwriting was what really made Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye the classics that they are and it now is the principle reason that Mastodon has fallen off. Instead of songs like Oblivion or Colony of Birchmen, we get songs like Curl of the Burl, The Motherload and Show Yourself.

I have done a lot of panning of Mastodon but  like I said, this album has more to show than the past two albums. I would even say that the second half is incredibly solid. Songs like Roots Remain and Andromeda are great and effective metal songs. The ending track is a little underwhelming but it does conclude the sad narrative of the album. Which is another point to make, the lyrics are very well written and though I wish the vocal performances interpreted the lyrics more effectively, I enjoy listening to the words they are putting out there. It gives the album SOME sort of emotional quality that does the theme of the album justice.

But in the end the album is at most, solid. I could see this album being seen as a “return to form” for fans disenchanted with the last albums. But it quite simply doesn’t give me much to think about other than that is sounds like a Mastodon album and the album art looks like a Baldur’s Gate character portrait. Right?

6/10-It’s okay





Okay, so the first review is a mostly negative one. Good start. Hopefully there will somewhere around a review a week or every other week as well anything else I feel like writing. And I hope I upset you enough to wanna come back or shoot over an email. Have a great day.