Sat, August 19, 2023
Death is inevitable. Time is a precious, finite resource. Regret springs solely from our collective inability to square these two truths. A friend suddenly passes away and you’re left to think about all those times where you could have said how much you appreciate them and didn’t – because you figured there would always be a next time. A partnership collapses and you’re left to reflect on the moments you took for granted, the ways you could have been more present. A band lacks the foresight to predict that touring will cease to exist for two years and doesn’t leave it all on the stage that last night; or, think of the fan that doesn’t stick around for the encore because they wanted an extra half hour of sleep.
These concerns were not hypothetical for Mastodon. The core lineup has been in place for 21 years, an eternity in the highest echelons of metal, where even the most legendary band names eventually become brands staffed by a rotating cast of hired guns. And yet, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders experienced enough individual and collective tragedy to threaten their adamantine bond – the death of their longtime friend and manager Nick John after battling pancreatic cancer, a devastating global pandemic that put their faith, families, and livelihoods in jeopardy. Mastodon’s decades of success and the brotherhood between its four members had not made them any more immune to the possibility that it could all splinter tomorrow. Mastodon had a glimpse of the end and committed to a new beginning – and Hushed And Grim does not take a single moment for granted.
And there are more of these moments than on any previous Mastodon release. It initially feels reductive to simply describe Hushed And Grim as Mastodon’s ninth album – at 88 minutes, their first double LP boldly defies conventional assumptions about attention spans in the streaming era. With the expanse of a studio film, the texture of a novel and the breadth of a Greatest Hits, Hushed And Grim is Mastodon paying tribute to John by building an eternal monument. “He’s always been an influence when he was alive,” Hinds wistfully states. “And he’s even more of an influence now.”
Consider why double albums are frequently called “monumental.” Mastodon is very much aware of what this format says about their legacy in heavy music. Dailor recalls his formative teenage years absorbing every note of world-building epics like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Physical Graffiti, and The Wall, milestone works from bands whose inspiration and craft have simultaneously reached a zenith. “It takes some balls to put out a double album these days or takes some ovaries,” Dailor quips. “I’ve been trying to say ovaries because I think it’s more powerful.”
Mastodon fundamentally altered the course of 21st century metal on 2004’s classic Leviathan, and every album thereafter continued to shape the genre in their image. In 2018, five-time nominees Mastodon won their first GRAMMY®, with “Sultan’s Curse” earning Best Metal Performance. Arguably more impressive was Emperor of Sand being nominated for Best Rock Album, with lead single “Show Yourself” hitting the top five on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Without sacrificing an iota of their intensity and intelligence, Mastodon’s imprint on pop culture has spread from Adult Swim to late night network television, from the History Channel’s Counting Cars to HBO’s Game of Thrones, from DC Comics Dark Knight Metal to Bill and Ted Face the Music.
But as Sanders points out, “the most solid representation of us is when we get in our cycle and craft a wholesome, dynamic and beautiful record from top to bottom. That’s what we ultimately thrive on.” Hushed And Grim only emphasizes what the band’s many accomplishments has expressed to this point – Mastodon have transcended genre of any kind, animated by an unwillingness to compromise that results in their most expansive and accessible release yet. There are no interludes, no filler, none of the stereotypical bloat that accompanies even the most revered double albums. With the spirit of Nick John coursing throughout its entirety, “every song has a place in our hearts,” Kelliher stresses.
Throughout, Mastodon travel through time and space, through memory and imagination, drawing on their experience and formative influences to open new portals. On “Pushing the Tides,” they exist at the thrilling intersection of metal and post-hardcore, “The Beast”’s heaving Southern rock, replete with a countrified contribution from guitarist Marcus King, creates an alternate history of the Allman Brothers sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with Black Sabbath, “Had it All” features a guitar solo from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and some classical French Horn by Jody Sanders, Mother of Troy, reimagining Mastodon as a band intermingling with the monsters of Headbanger’s Ball. It’s all overseen by the legendary producer David Bottrill now including Hushed And Grim alongside his prior progressive pop landmarks from Peter Gabriel, Tool and King Crimson.
Yet for all of their technical mastery and ambitious musicianship, the most daring aspect of Hushed And Grim comes from the voices of Mastodon themselves. It’s not just in the tremendous growth all members have made as vocal performers, exemplified in the explosive shouts of “The Crux” and the aching refrain of “Skeleton of Splendor”; there’s an unmistakable expressive grit that cannot be coached, that takes years of endurance and pain to unlock.
As Mastodon’s music continues to expand outward, each member traveled inward, more deeply to unearth their most emotionally transparent lyrics yet. “One thing I’ve noticed about longevity is that you kind of eliminate layers of bullshit and become more honest,” Sanders muses. In the past, Mastodon albums were so memorable in their metaphorical heft that it threatened to swallow them whole – they’re the Moby Dick band, the Rasputin band, the guys who wrote about wolves and skulls. “We pull authentic emotion from our life experiences,” Sanders explains. “And we channel that through the art that we call Mastodon.” And the themes of heartbreak, of joy and hope that have always underpinned the band’s most referential work are pushed to the fore on Hushed And Grim.
Look, they’re still called Mastodon – the metal is here, Kelliher and Hinds’ riffs are still massive, Sanders’ bass can level a mountain and Dailor’s drumming is every bit as dazzling in its intricacies. Yet, the towering “Had It All” was originally built from Sanders’ simple acoustic strum, Kelliher and Hinds’ interplay impresses with a newfound, nimble sense of melody and Dailor’s restraint is as thrilling as his blinding fills as “The Beast” brings a slow Southern shuffle to their repertoire. But Hushed And Grim dares you to see Mastodon as what they’ve always been – four friends from Atlanta who are subject to the same struggles as you and I. “I’ve turned the grief to medicine,” “I feel the pressure,” “death comes and brings with him sickle and peace,” “leaving you behind is the hardest thing I’ve done,” these are their refrains, to be shared between Mastodon and the listener as equals. “My love, so strong/The mountains we made in the distance/Those will stay with us” – these are Mastodon’s parting words on the closing “Gigantium,” and we is all-inclusive, to themselves, to the fans that have stuck with them throughout the years, and the new ones to come. And to Nick Johns’. Our time together can’t possibly last forever and, inevitably, Mastodon may one day be no more. Hushed And Grim will remain.
Gojira Meet & Greet Experience
• One P1/GA Floor Ticket
• Meet & Greet with Gojira
• Individual Photo with Gojira
• One VIP-Exclusive Merchandise Item
• One Autographed Concert Setlist
• One Commemorative VIP Laminate
• Early Entry
• Early-Access Merchandise Shopping
VIP Early Entry Package
• One P1/GA Floor Ticket
• One VIP-Exclusive Merchandise Item
• One Concert Setlist
• One Commemorative VIP Laminate
• Early Entry
• Early-Access Merchandise Shopping
*Details of the VIP Experience will be emailed to buyers about 3-5 days before the show.
Gojira tends to operate in polar extremes. “I can’t help but see humanity as a parasite,” Gojira’s co-founding guitarist and principal songwriter Joe Duplantier explains, “and yet the most beautiful things come out of humans.” To that end, the French quartet—Duplantier and his brother Mario [drums], Christian Andreu [guitar], and Jean-Michel Labadie [bass]—have spent the past 15 years translating this duality into a distinctive sound: dark, crushing metal brightened by triumphant arena-rock melodies, contrast-heavy and emotionally charged.
Enter 2016’s Magma, whereupon Gojira found strength—and crossover success—through a singular commitment to self-reflection. The intensely personal record, penned in memory of the Duplantier brothers’ late mother, was a painful significant turning point for the French group. It debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, topped the Billboard “Hard Rock Albums” chart (a first for a French band), and netted nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Metal Performance (for “Silvera”) at the 59th annual Grammy Awards. Numerous global headlining tours, including a stint with Metallica, followed. Coming out of Magma, Gojira weren’t just one of the biggest metal bands on the scene—they were one of biggest rock bands in the world, unified and self-emboldened.
Humbled and honored as he was by Magma’s success, Duplantier came out of that victory lap feeling exhausted—and eager to move on. “Magma marked a sad moment in our lives,” Joe says of the record. “We were expressing grief, so it was a bit heavy: not only to the process of making that album, but also talking about it, and playing the songs, and doing all of these interviews around a difficult time in our lives.”
And so, Gojira made a group decision: for album number seven, Fortitude, they’d have some damn fun. In late 2019, the brothers Duplantier returned to Silver Cord Studio, their Ridgewood, Queens, headquarters, to begin work on new, self-produced Gojira material, culled from ideas they’d developed over the past two years. “With this album, we wanted to come back with more joy, more power, and more positivity about life in general,” Joe explains. “We’re so lucky to do what we love; it’s not like we were depressed or anything, but we had something in our system to express—Magma—and we felt like it was time for something else—something that is all about strength.”
“The writing process was very thrilling and exciting,” Mario adds. “Joe and I really dug deep into every song, paying particular attention to the structures and arrangements. Every idea, every single riff, was analyzed with a fine-tooth comb: everything from the tonality of each instrument and scales used, to the dynamics, interpretation, and tempo. We left nothing to chance.”
Of course, 2020 had other plans. Just as Fortitude was nearing completion—halfway through the mixing process, to be exact—COVID-19 hit, bringing Gojira, along with the rest of the world—to an abrupt halt. While waiting out the lockdown back home in France with his family,
Joe re-examined the songs from a post-pandemic perspective; not only did they fit the turmoil of the time, in hindsight, they were downright prophetic. “In a way, I saw these songs being born again with a new meaning,” he says. “Every single song ever written resonates differently these days, but it’s almost like we felt like this was going to happen.”
To be clear, Fortitude isn’t intended as a musical escape hatch from all this unending global misery. Actually, it’s the opposite: a series of searing motivational speeches urging humanity to imagine a new world—and then make it happen. “Come on! Get back on your feet! Go for it!” Joe says of the album’s themes, briefly stepping into the role of life coach. “Everyone wants to hear that once in a while, and we want to be that to people: the little voice in your head that says you’re a fucking badass, and that you can do it.”
First single “Born For One Thing” kicks off the album in typical Gojira fashion: hyper-focused but unhinged, confrontational and yet compassionate. “We have to practice detaching ourselves from everything, beginning with actual things,” Joe says of the song’s anti-consumerist message, which was partially inspired by the Tibetan and Thai philosophers he read in his youth back in France. “Own less possessions, and give what you don’t need away, because one day we’ll have to let everything go, and if we don’t, we’ll just become ghosts stuck between dimensions.”
Gojira pivot to more earthly concerns on “Amazonia,” a lush ripper interwoven with indigenous folk instruments and Sepultura-inspired groove-metal rhythms. The soundscapes skew verdant, but the themes prove anything but idyllic, as Duplantier surveys the endangered Amazon rainforest, concluding: “The greatest miracle/ Is burning to the ground.” Proceeds from the song will benefit the indigenous Guarani and Kaiowa tribes, continuing Gojira’s career-long tradition of harnessing their music as a vehicle for environmental activism (their partnership with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society goes back over a decade). “We don’t want to just release a song called “Amazonia”—we want to do something on top of that,” Joe explains. “We feel a responsibility as artists to offer a way for people to take action.”
The album-long call to action comes to a head with “The Chant,” a slow-burning track singled out by Mario as Gojira’s most melodic material to date. Where past anthems were driven by nuanced dynamics and technical guitar arrangements, “The Chant” is a self-described “healing ritual” emanating primordial warmth, culminating in a harmony-stacked chorus that bridges the gap between ancient hymnals and contemporary rock. Consider Joe’s two-word rallying cry in the refrain—“Get strong!”—Fortitude’s mantra, as well as the band’s mission statement heading into this new, uncertain decade. Gojira struggled; Gojira persevered; Gojira rose. Now, it’s our turn…and the soundtrack is at the ready.
For LORNA SHORE, the triumvirate of songs at the heart of “…And I Return to Nothingness” are nothing short of an exorcism – and a plunge into something darker. “There were points where we didn’t know if we could come back from where things left off,” recounts drummer Austin Archey of the tumultuous weeks after the release of the band’s 2019 album, “Immortal”. “The last year and a half was nothing short of a trial by fire.” LORNA SHORE’s latest round of pitch black soul-coughing says that in no uncertain terms. From orchestral passage that opens the EP’s title track, straight into a bombast of blackened intensities and rampaging grandeur, these New Jersey-born extremists are back, rising from the askes like a phoenix. Reborn and sworn to the dark. A coming fire that even the LORNA SHORE faithful will be stunned by. “We had nothing to lose,” states guitarist Adam DeMicco. “As dark as things seemed for us, that also gave us the confidence to push things to places we always wanted to go.” Having finished the US leg of the 2019 Summer Slaughter tour with Cattle Decapitation several months before, LORNA SHORE found themselves cutting ties with vocalist CJ McCreery in December 2019. A new voice was found in A Wake In Providence front man, Will Ramos, a longtime friend of the band and veteran of the scene that birthed LORNA SHORE. “They were one of the biggest influences for me as a vocalist,” says Ramos. “Going back to the records with Tom Barber [original LORNA SHORE vocalist] on vocals, but also seeing how they developed since, they were always an inspiration. LORNA SHORE is one of those bands who you can really call a pioneer.” Undaunted, LORNA SHORE began what was to be both a trial by fire and a victory lap on the European Faces of Death tour, headlined by Polish thrashers, Decapitated. They held their own and won over crowds only to face the challenge of the tour being cancelled and being a continent away as the world shut down amidst the wildfire spread of Covid-19. Returning to America, LORNA SHORE remained bloodied but unbowed and determined. In that time, the seeds of “…And I Return to Nothingness” were sown. As the world locked down, DeMicco, Archey, Ramos and guitarist Andrew O’ Connor plunged deeper into the creative instincts that initially made LORNA SHORE a fixture in the extreme metal scene with landmark albums: 2015’s “Psalms” and 2017’s “Flesh Coffin”. Since then, they’ve twisted together influences and ideas ranging from the symphonic grimness of European black metal to death metal’s complex fatal sonic formulas and hardcore’s aural intensities. What LORNA SHORE arrived at was a new level of blackened technicality and the next step in their darkside journey. Embellished with artwork by noted Polish painter Mariusz Lewnadowski (Bell Witch, Fuming Mouth) “…And I Return to Nothingness” reaffirms LORNA SHORE’s creative focus and intensity. Teaming once again with “Immortal” producer Josh Schroeder at Random Awesome Studios in Midland, Michigan, the band was ready to take the next step. “The whole studio experience was smoother than I expected,” says Ramos of the recording sessions. “Working with Josh, seeing how dedicated and focused the band was going into this record. I think that confidence really came across to final product.” The EP’s three tracks: “To the Hellfire”, “Of the Abyss” and the title track are proof that LORNA SHORE isn’t just continuing their fiery legacy. They’re reigniting it and spectacularly setting their very legacy ablaze.