Mastodon Celebrates 20 Years With Odds & Ends Collection ‘Medium Rarities’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

To celebrate their twentieth year, the metal behemoths Mastodon have released Medium Rarities, an odds and ends collection of covers, live tracks, instrumentals, and rarely heard originals.  

The opening song is an unreleased thundering maelstrom written and recorded in 2019 titled “Fallen Torches”. A pummeling low-end is augmented by expansive guitar work and guest vocals from Scott Kelly of Neurosis. The track uses the band’s restrained progressive influences to great effect while the selected live efforts “Capillarian Crest”, “Blood and Thunder” and “Circle of Cysquatch” continue that mix of mind-expanding freak-out while remaining tethered to the depths; rough and raw as hell.

Medium Rarities aggregates a few of the band’s soundtrack offerings displaying their range from the ominous folk-inspired “White Walker” from Game of Thrones to the speed thrash of “Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Movie. Their collaboration with Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers “Atlanta” is a track that fuses the two outfits’ styles excellently.  

The album is flushed out with four instrumentals from Mastodon back catalog and while they are fine, the songs “Asleep In The Deep”, “Toes to Toes”, “Jaguar God” and “Halloween” don’t add much to the collection, they just solidify the band’s strengths running the gamut of subgenres in metal. Where things really become interesting are the band’s choice of covers which prove the Atlanta based four-piece are inspired well beyond the metal genre. 

“Orion” from Metallica is an expected choice, “A Commotion” from Feist certainly isn’t. The chugging take on the song amplifies the lyrical anger and frustration expertly while their version of The Flaming Lips “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” is a pop twist while somewhat disappointingly staying too true to the original.  

Mastodon has become one of the most interesting and successful metal bands in the world during their twenty-year run and while Medium Rarities is just a placeholder during these turbulent times, it contains what makes the band a gift to metal fans. The group flashes its technical wizardry, an ear for the weird/experimental and crushingly powerful headbanging ways, cataloging their past while looking towards their future.

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