Cold Dark Place - Mastodon
Album: Cold Dark Place
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review by Steve Jenkins
Mastodon are a band that have kicked down doors of the progressive metal world and have won fans over with their accessible and sometimes experimental music. Becoming more and more mainstream, one can't help but feel a bit nervous when it comes to their new creative direction. Their latest LP, Emperor Of Sand, which was released earlier in 2017 received mixed reviews. It was pretty much more of the same from Mastodon, with classic rock inspired tracks laced with their own conceptual spacey-stoner vibe. Some fans loved it, others saw it as a lazy effort, still hoping for that 'out of this world' album that we all know they're capable of making.
Cold Dark Place is a pleasant surprise and it came as an unexpected release, and having new Mastodon songs to listen to is never something I'm going to complain about. Recorded during the Once More ‘Round the Sun and Emperor of Sand sessions, it stands amongst the band’s most uncreative period, but manages to outshine the band’s work as far back as 2011’s The Hunter. Cold Dark Place is one of Mastodon’s most experimental and curious releases, and a few lingering familiarities aside, it invigorates the band in ways that their most recent LP’s didn’t.
One of Mastodon's most popular releases among die-hard fans would have to be the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye, and this EP taps into that in terms of the experimental side of things. There'a a certain eerie nature about Cold Dark Place that delivers a particular mood that contains darkness and haunting elements. For example, the opener “North Side Star” repeatedly shifts tones and tempos, reaching the same dynamics of lengthier tracks like “The Czar”, which is impressive for a song that stands at only six minutes. “Blue Walsh” moves from mid-tempo jamming with drummer Brann Dailor’s subdued crooning before moving to more energized territory in the track’s later act. “Toe to Toes” is easily the most interesting track on the EP, opening with revving, uplifting guitars and infectious clapping hand rhythms. Bassist Troy Sanders’ vocals soar and drift atop the guitars, but once guitarist Brent Hinds takes the mic, the brilliantly toned instrumentation harkens back to acts like Rush. It’s such a strange mood for the band to explore, and while it admittedly takes some time to get used to, “Toe to Toes” is one of the most uniquely sounding tracks that Mastodon has ever composed.
There's no doubt that Mastodon take a number of unique directions on Cold Dark Place, and it does have a familiar vibe which is certainly not a bad thing in this case. You'll basically either love or hate the title track, as it draws the line of typical and standard Mastodon. It’s a pleasant-sounding track, but doesn’t reach the experimental heights of something like “Toe to Toes.” And ultimately, this isn’t a very heavy EP. If you’re looking for Mastodon kicking it to the curb with another “Blood and Thunder”, you won’t find it here. The closest we get to that is a brief passage in “Blue Walsh”, where Sanders goes back to his low, howling vocals as the tempo revs itself up.
So overall, Cold Dark Place is that neat little package that will keep those who didn't like Emperor Of Sand very much happy in the meantime. It isn't heavy, but it's got a bit more meat on it when you compare the tracks to their last couple of albums. Just when you think Mastodon have drifted off into another direction, they pull an ace like this EP out of their sleeve. There's a certain aura when listening to this, it's comforting, passionate and at times adventurous. I hope to see Mastodon continue in this direction on their next album, or even just make something completely different that we won't see coming.
7.5 out of 10
Listen to the track "Toe To Toes" below: