We have been blessed with a lot of great Mastodon news of late, from celebrating their 20th anniversary, their new song on the Bill And Ted Face The Music soundtrack – “Rufus Lives”, to the band hitting the studio to work on full-length number eight. So 2020 seems like a good time for a good old odds and sods release, the cleverly titled Medium Rarities (Reprise).
The lead track “Fallen Torches” is the first legit new Mastodon since the Cold Dark Place EP in late 2017. That EP came out heels the brilliant and dark Emperor of Sand, but we know our heroes are hard;y the doom and gloom brigade. They always find a way through their heaviest moments to uplift you musically and this track just the trick. Like an all-in-one greatest hits: heavy, progressive melodic like Once More Around The Sun, with just a touch of that old-school Remission/ Blood Mountain flair.
A lot of these tracks were fruit born from the bands’ many collabs with the Adult Swim singles series, often being a Record Store Dayreleases, and thus being tracks that only a die-hard will know very well. Some of these are choices are slick originals to begin with, and Mastodon is genius at an interpretive take on covers. They usually put a little of their own flavor on an old favorite, but they are equally skilled at keeping the essence of an interpretive rendition. Tracks like ‘A Commotion’ (Feist), “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” (The Flaming Lips), and Orion” (Metallica) are all spot on and amazing. The Feist track is the least well known of those three bands, but might be the best. “A Spoonful…” with Brann Dailor taking over lead vocals in his best Wayne Coyne cements the fact that this dude needs to do a solo band where he sings full time already. Holy shit! While Metallica covers are everywhere, the proggiest of Tallica instrumentals just feels right in their capable hands. RIP Cliff Burton!
The other originals are notable ones. “Atlanta” featuring Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers is tight. A great track. Aqua Teen Hunger Force fans will know “Cut You Up With A Linoleum Life” as the opening track to their movie. It’s short, but a total rager. Fastidious Game of Thrones watchers from the HBO series know the band featured in the series many times as Wildlings, and the band got to create their own song “White Walker” which is solid. These songs are going to be surprising and enjoyable, especially for a first-time listener.
The rest of the album has some choice live cuts from the early era “Capillarian Crest (Live)”, “Crystal Skull (Live)”, “Iron Tusk (Live)”, and some cool instrumental takes from the last decade complete the set. Medium Rarities is the finest in Masto-buffet-style dining and the perfect approach to this in-between release. The one unearthed track by them I wish was here was their Harry Nillsson cover of “One is the Loneliest Number”. Google that after you spin this and you’ll know why.
8 / 10