We made it! We’ve reached the end of our countdown of the Top Albums of 2017. As voted on by our global team of experienced editors, reviewers, photographers and tabulated by fearless Ghost Cult Associate Editor Steve Tovey: we give you our number 1 pick: Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (Reprise). Continue reading
Asleep In The Deep comes off of 2014’s Once More Around The Sun (Reprise) album. The band worked on the video with OMATS cover artist Skinner and Atlanta-area director Rahim and released this statement:
We teamed up once again with Once More ‘Round The Sun’s cover artist Skinner, who is the brain behind “Asleep in the Deep.” The video tells the psychedelic and epic journey of a house cat who unknowingly travels into a bizarre gypsy catacomb where it encounters a giant bullfrog, a three-headed evil rat king, cat gnomes, cheese slaves and a warrior squirrel. “Asleep in the Deep” is directed by Atlanta-based director, Video Rahim, and co-directed by Special FX guru, Shane Morton (Head of SPFX Make-Up on Adult Swim’s Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell) and Skinner. Hey Beautiful Jerk, a NYC-based design and visual effects boutique, provided creative direction and all post-production services.
Skinner, also released a statement about the video:
“This concept was birthed out of my curiosity about what a cat really does at night while we are asleep,” says Skinner. “Where do they go? Cats have a very mysterious myth to them and I thought it would be cool to explore that, as little nocturnal heroes. I decided to put a sort of Joseph Campbell hero myth spin on it and add some Jodorowsky psychedelia as well. I’m more than excited about the way it came out! I love it!”
Getting close! The Very Best of the The Very Best of 2014 as brought to you by Ghost Cult. Coming up are albums ranked 5, 4, 3, 2 in the Official Ghost Cult Albums of the Year… You’ll have to wait just a little longer for the unveiling of our number one!
5. SóLSTAFIR – Ótta (Season of Mist)
Shaking off any last vestige of Black Metal from their sound, Sólstafir somehow managed to take 2011’s incredible Svartir Sandar and improve on it. Vocalist Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason has stepped up to join the rest of the band at the level they’d previously set and, with elements of Wild West flirting in and out of their gorgeous Sigur Ros flecked post-rock, Ótta is simply a wondrous album. Taking beautiful emotive post-metal, folk, goth and intelligent indie-rock and telling the story of the changing moods and emotions of the different phases of the day, Sólstafir take their place as one of the modern day leaders of great music.
“Ótta, the latest album from Icelandic musical vagabonds Sólstafir is one of the most uncompromising and challenging records that you are likely to hear this year; it is also one of the most compelling. it sounds uniquely Sólstafir and Sólstafir don’t sound like anything else you have heard. Admittedly, you might be able to detect echoes of other bands, of other singers but not delivered with this verve, guile and eccentric charm. Second, Ótta is an aural experience like no other: this is an immersive, emotional and evocative album, multi-layered, nuanced and brimming with pulsating and invigorating ideas; it is music for the head as much as the heart.”
Read MAT DAVIES’ 10/10 review here
4. SLIPKNOT – .5 The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
The biggest band in our realm of Metal were up against it. The tragic loss of Paul Gray, the personal decision to part ways with key songwriter and distinctive drummer Joey Jordison, and a scene that had picked the carcass to the bone of everything Slipknot had left them in terms of influence and had moved on in their absence. Yet the Iowa giants didn’t just come back strong, they smashed it out the park with their strongest release since the seminal Iowa. Diverse yet unmistakeably Slipknot at every turn, The Gray Chapter paid tribute to their departed brother in a style he would only have been proud of.
“.5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance, a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best. All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since 2001’s Iowa. The Slipknot sound has long been established, their influence is inherent, but what .5: The Gray Chapter achieves is unity – a pulling together of all the relevant bits of Slipknot into one tribute to their past, and to those that passed. Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six. As I said before, .5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance.”
Read STEVE TOVEY’s 9/10 review here
3. MACHINE HEAD – Bloodstones & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
There’s something about Machine Head that it seems like every time every time they come to a new album, they have to prove themselves all over again. And every time they unequivocally deliver. From the moment Through The Ashes Of Empires repaired the damage of the misguided and substandard Supercharger, through The Blackening (all Roadrunner), perhaps the mainstream metal album of this century, this has been a decade long comeback of sensationally high quality, as a post-Adam Duce revitalized fighting machine led by The General, Robb Flynn laying down a marker. Machine Head bring the thrash, the groove, the blood, the sweat, the tears and above all, the songs.
“All the elements the band has been working with for most of the last ten years, as well as their classic sounds are all intact, with a few new twists and turns. Tons of grooves, chill-inducing dynamic shifts, and of course, those head-nodding riffs galore are heard. Many bands have started out hot and fizzled out badly or had trouble staying relevant over time. Machine Head is perhaps the greatest American metal band right now, because they have a sense of purpose about their writing that above all makes you care what they are saying lyrically, and where they can take you musically.”
Read KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES’ 9/10 review here
2. MASTODON – Once More ‘round The Sun (Reprise)
A theme of a number of the Ghost Cult Top 50 albums of the year is that of refinement on past excellence. Of a standard and a sound being set by a predecessor before the perfecting of the modus operandi in 2014, and it’s an approach that applies to Mastodon. The Hunter was a great album, a simplifying and a commercializing of the trademark quirk, groove and buffeting the ‘don had unleashed previously. Once More ‘Round The Sun takes The Hunter’s approach, and improves on it. For ‘Curl of the Burl’, read ‘The Motherload’, as anthem after anthem is spat out by the Atlanta quartet who, with this album, defiantly prove they belong at the top.
“When the band said earlier in the year that this album was a continuation of 2012’s The Hunter, they weren’t kidding and there are a ton of catchy prog and stoner grooves on this album to satisfy. The evolution that Mastodon began almost fifteen years ago, continues in 2014 as they prepare to drop their newest album. Along the way there have been few easy roads taken, and any battles won were well-earned on their climb to success. Certainly no one who started out with the band in their early days would have predicted where they would be today as a major international headliner, but this is where they are. As the band has grown they have picked up some new fans along the way who seemed to click with the newer, psychedelic rock vibes of their last few albums. If you have followed their entire oeuvre from the start and stayed, or came in as of late, this album has your name all over it.”
Read KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 8.5/10 review here
Compiled and additional words by Steve Tovey
The evolution that Mastodon began almost fifteen years ago, continues in 2014 as they prepare to drop their newest album. Along the way there have been few easy roads taken, and any battles won were well-earned on their climb to success. Certainly no one who started out with the band in their early days would have predicted where they would be today as a major international headliner, but this is where they are. As the band has grown they have picked up some new fans along the way who seemed to click with the newer, psychedelic rock vibes of their last few albums, while some die-hard lovers of their sludgy early forays have abandoned ship. That was bound to happen. If you stopped liking this band around the time of Crack The Skye, Once More Around The Sun (Reprise) will likely not see you make a return. However, if you have followed their entire oeuvre from the start and stayed, or came in as of late, this album has your name all over it.
Feeling like an erstwhile greatest hits album of tracks you have never heard before, there is a familiarity to the songs on Once More…. that calls to mind the best moments of the bands’ career. Even if it wasn’t intended, it has an odd effect on the listener. On one hand there is a comfort to this, like “Oh hey! I remember when they did that before!” The other effect is when the band goes back outside of the box yet again, it seems even a little more way out than before. Not every band can pull this off mind you, but the guys in Mastodon learned from their idols (mainly Neurosis and The Melvins) how to break down the machine of creativity, and build it back up again like few other modern bands do. For better or worse they always reinvent themselves slightly with each new outing and they do it selfishly, not the fans or their label. Take that for what it’s worth, this is what they do best.
And now for the music. When the band said earlier in the year that this album was a continuation of 2012’s The Hunter, they weren’t kidding. Although this album is a little less fuzzy and bright sounding than its forerunner, there is a ton of catchy prog and stoner grooves on this album to satisfy. The middle eastern-tinged guitars that open ‘Tread Lightly’ actually remind me of the opening of the Jonah Hex movie soundtrack Mastodon did a few years ago. This brief intro gives way to a driving rock anthem with some urgency. Bassist Troy Sanders and his dusky vocals dominate the track. So slick changes in the pre-chorus and bridge are typical of most Mastodon’s better releases. As usual, about ¾ of the way through the track Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher just go to town with layers of neat guitar parts. With almost no let up, ‘The Motherload’, also rocks. Drummer Brann Dailor’s lead vocals are stunning, the way they were in ‘Oblivion’. They knocked me out of my seat, as does his entire performance here. Impossibly, he continues to get better and better all around, every time. The first single ‘High Road’ comes next and in the context of the first two tracks, its welcome grooves bring us back down to earth a little bit. Totally obtuse and weird, the title track will leave your jaw agape. It definitely calls to mind Remission and Leviathan (both Relapse), but also has the prog factor of their recent work too. I was also surprised by the track’s brevity too, but for once the band of high-minded idealists gives you the Cliff’s Notes. And if it hasn’t set in by now, the concept of this album is time, life, and loss, and acceptance; as these are the things marking the lives of the Mastodonians for the last few years.
‘Chimes At Midnight’ has a touch of the old Mastodon in its DNA too. Fabulous string skipping guitar riffs, tribal beats and stellar vocals comprise the track. By now, the three-headed King Ghidorah monster vocals of Sanders, Hinds, and Dailor can rival any band for their ability to bring a variety of chops to the table. ‘Chimes…’ also has a musical and lyrical call-out to fan favorite ‘Hearts Alive’, which may explain why that song returned to the set list on their last US tour. Meanwhile ‘Asleep In the Deep’ mines some new ground melodically, while going with some staple song structures: call and response like vocals, and a nautical beat. Hinds just glows on this one, with his soulful crooning in full effect.
‘Feast Your Eyes’ is a raucous feeling song with a lot of twists and turns, but left me a bit flat as a trying-too-hard progressive/psychedelic rock tune. ‘Aunt Lisa’ was shaping up to be one of the best tracks on the album until the clunky ending gang vocals just made me cold. The Coathangers do the cheerleader-esque chant, but I feel this is better left to Faith No More and even Marilyn Manson; and adds some unnecessary schlock value to an otherwise good song. These represent the only less than par moments of the record for me.
Returning to form, ‘Ember City’ is transcendent, and a special song in the band’s history. When they do everything right, this band can give you chills. This is a great song on every level and I hope they add it to the set list when they tour behind this album. ‘Halloween’ follows quickly with yet another, killer fast song with great signing, baddass solos and basically a lot of head-banging material. ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ is another collaboration with Scott Kelly of Neurosis, once again it’s a marriage made in hell. Troy and Scott trade vocals in a way that just contrasts the other so perfectly, you wonder why Scott doesn’t just join this band already too, until you remember he has two other bands. The song itself is excellent and almost would be a more fitting title track for OMATS.
While still lacking the fierceness of their earlier rage-fests, the new Mastodon album is definitely worth a listen if you can forgive them their emotive, proggy trespasses.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES