THE MASTODON CONSPIRACY

I read too much. It’s true, and believe it or not, it’s not all history or conspiracy related. Every month I go to the bookstores in Montgomery and grab a stack of magazines. Most, but not all, are music related magazines. There are the obvious ones you would probably expect me to read like Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles and Metal Hammer etc. that mostly cater to hard rock and heavy metal, but I also read the ones that hover more in the mainstream like Revolver, Uncut and Rolling Stone. Between these magazines and music websites from all over the world, I find myself reading hundreds, maybe even thousands, of reviews of new records every month. Reading record reviews is something I have enjoyed my entire life. Of course I don’t buy most of these records. No one could. But I do find the various opinions offered on a plethora of artists and musical styles amusing. It has always led to the discovery of new and interesting music.

There doesn’t appear to be any discernable patterns as to what constitutes a “good” record. All too often two records that are remarkably similar will get remarkably different opinions from the same reviewer. Likewise no two music critics see things the same way. You can always find someone who loathes what someone else loves. It is from this volumous reading of reviews that I have, in fact, discovered a disturbing conspiracy being perpetrated against fans of heavy metal all over the world. The evidence is unmistakeable and having unraveled this monstrosity I cannot avoid the inevitable conclusion: Mastodon is the worst heavy metal band EVER and their new CD “Blood Mountain” is the worst record ever made.

I know what you’re thinking. I am sure many of you have read a review somewhere of the new Mastodon CD and the reviewer fawned all over it as though it was gold. That, as it turns out, is the problem. They are ALL good reviews. I haven’t found anyone anywhere willing to say anything negative about it. That is entirely unnatural. I know I have been known to say that heavy metal as a genre and a culture has become entirely conformist but this is going too far. When I see this type of uniformity of opinion I immediately have to suspect that manipulation is at play.

Think of all the great rock albums of the past. The ones that are almost universally perceived to be the pillars that support the entire rock music culture. They all have one thing in common: At the time of their release there were plenty of people willing to slam them down and deride them as inferior works. Check it out. “Dark Side Of The Moon,” “Led Zeppelin 4,” “Back In Black,” “Master Of Puppets,” and more than can be listed. All records that, over time, have proven themselves to be landmark recordings that are the cornerstones of rock music. None ever received the kind of pandering praise that Mastodon is receiving for “Blood Mountain.” In fact most of these records at the time of their release received what could be called undo criticism for the very reasons that have come to have them regarded as landmark records. Universal praise of the kind currently pampering Mastodon has historically been a death sentence for an artist. Terence Trent D’Arby anyone?

So where does this leave Mastodon? Damned to a conformist hell that’s where. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is pandering to this Atlanta band. Expectations were high for them, this being their first release on a major label. Their previous release Leviathon,” received a healthy dose of adulation itself….but nothing like this. To an extent, you can expect this pandering praise from the rank and file media of the metal establishment like BW&BK, Unrestrained or Metal Hammer, but even the mainstream music media like Uncut, Revolver, and Rolling Stone are in on it. Rolling Stone having a history of being unfriendly to metal bands. That in and of itself should tell you something is awry.

It’s not limited to the print media either. There are hundreds (really thousands) of websites all over the world that do critical reviews of rock records. Lo and behold they are all towing the line, fawning all over this band. This type of critical fellatio does not happen by accident….but by design. It was almost certainly purchased by their enthusiastic new label who is apparently willing to do whatever is necessary to keep everyone in lockstep with their program. They are counting on the fact that most people only read a couple of reviews, if any at all. Hear me my friends for I am hear to warn you. You are being manipulated. Resist! Resist!

This won’t end well for Mastodon. It can’t. A metal band often takes pride in it’s resistance to the whims of music critics. Bad reviews are almost a necessity for a rock band to help create an us against them mentality. Now, poor Mastodon, IS THEM. To be pandered to, and pampered by the media will inevitably lead to a huge backlash. After all….pampering is so NOT metal.

Is Mastodon’s label reaping the financial rewards they desired by initiating this grand conspiracy against heavy metal? So far, at least, the answer is no. Divine Justice may ultimately prevail yet again. I read somewhere (I can’t remember who said this) that Mastodon would be the next Iron Maiden. Well I don’t know about that but since both their new records came out close together it does make for a nice comparison to see what commercial rewards this pact with the devil has brought Mastodon. Iron Maiden’s new CD debuted in the US top 10. Mastodon debuted significantly further down. As the two records ease their way off the charts, as heavy metal records tend to do, the Maiden record always stays well ahead of Mastodon’s. Since Iron Maiden is no longer on the roster of what is considered a major label anymore, and is therefore not squandering a bloated promotional budget, their record will be profitable and no one can deny that it is a commercial success. Mastodon’s budget was higher. The expectations were higher. Therefore the performance will be regarded as a disaster. I guess it turns out that the next Iron Maiden….is Iron Maiden.

Will Mastodon get a second bite at the major label apple or are they doomed to be a one shot deal like Cradle Of Filth? Does this mean that the major labels will look upon this as further proof that heavy metal is no longer a viable force in the music world and condemn us to still more investment in the hip hop culture? Worse, was this a planned failure by someone who wanted to prove that very point? Why were they put on this pedestal? To fail publicly? Time will tell.

The question may need to be asked: Is the record really just so good that it DESERVES all the critical praise it is receiving? Personally I don’t think it’s relevant to this writeup. It may be that good but the pampering will destroy them anyway. Universal praise ALWAYS precedes universal damnation. Especially in the world of rock music. Since everyone now has the foul aftertaste of fellating Mastodon’s commercial ambitions in their mouths, I can’t wait to read the reviews of their next record, no matter what label puts it out. It will be a bloodbath worse than the “St Anger” massacre……And deservedly so.

P.S. If you find a negative review of this record somewhere, tell me where it is. I would like to read it!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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