Release Date: 11/09/2020
Record Label: Warner Music Group
For Fans Of: Gojira, Metallica, Baroness
When you’ve been a band for twenty years you’re likely to have accumulated plenty of juicy extras which just don’t seem to fit anywhere else. To fix that problem for themselves Atlantan metal gods Mastodon have released Medium Rarities, bundling together covers, B-sides, instrumental versions and even soundtrack contributions from throughout their career. Making the deal even sweeter they have added in a previously unreleased track to whet our appetite as we await new material from the band.
As with any compilation or B-sides album, the offerings tend to vary in quality quite considerably. Live versions of ‘Capillarian Crest’ and ‘Circle of Cysquatch’ capture the band well and showcase the musicianship of every member but are nothing to get too excited over. However the recordings of ‘Blood and Thunder’ and ‘Iron Tusk’ seem to have caught every ounce of energy from the room and are well worth their place on the album. It’s a similar story when it comes to the instrumental versions here, however even for casual fans of the band ‘Jaguar God’ is well worth checking out. Already a standout track from 2017’s Emperor of Sand, sans vocals the song ends up being even more transportative than the original track as it allows you to focus on just how bonkers Mastodon can go and worship at their psychedelic altar.
The covers are where things get really interesting though. Aside from the well-known and brilliant take on ‘Orion’ which transforms the thrash-masterpiece into something completely different yet still recognisable, Medium Rarities includes songs from a few rather unexpected artists. ‘A Commotion’, originally by indie-pop singer songwriter Feist, shows the mellower side of Mastodon and the band’s ability to take absolutely anything and cast it into their own mould. Another curveball is thrown up with the cover of The Flaming Lips, ‘A Spoonful Weighs a Ton’, which does the exact opposite and initially sounds nothing like anything else the band have done as they retain the song’s ballad like opening before descending into the kaleidoscopic weirdness which follows in the original, albeit in a slightly heavier manner.
Finally the unreleased track ‘Fallen Torches’ seems to be very close to the material from Emperor of Sand as sludgy riffs and spacey leads give way to the strange, almost apparition-like vocals from long-time collaborator Scott Kelly (Neurosis). The song is another example of how good Mastodon are at evoking a specific atmosphere even on a ‘B-side’ such as this.
As we all wait with eager anticipation for new music from Mastodon, Medium Rarities acts as a brilliant display of the range which the band are capable of. From the obvious sprawling epics we know and love them for, to the more unexpectedly fun soundtrack work and even covers of pop songs, there aren’t many bands who could pull it all off. Of course with Mastodon, we already know they are capable of anything, and this collection of tracks proves it.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Fallen Torches’, ‘Jaguar God’, ‘Blood and Thunder (live)’