Michael Nelson
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In February, we talked to the pioneering American prog/sludge/pop/metal band Mastodon, who were then in the studio recording their forthcoming LP, Once More Round The Sun. And today, the first music from that album has emerged, in the form of “High Road,” which debuted today on 98.9 The Rock, and which you can listen to right now below. My two cents after one spin: I like it a lot! But I liked The Hunter a lot, too, and I think this is much closer to The Hunter than it is, say, Leviathan (which, um, I also liked a lot). Listen!

The first track we heard off Lust For Youth’s forthcoming International was, to me, a revelation: “Epoetin Alfa” represented a huge step forward for the band. Here the Swedish producer Hannes Norrvide (and his growing supporting cast) presented a much warmer, more synth-pop-based sound than the soft drone we’d come to expect, this new sound very much in the timeless vein of New Order, Depeche Mode, or the Pet Shop Boys. Now LFY have released another cut from International, called “Illume,” and I dunno if it’s the 75-degree weather in NYC or what, but I swear listening to this thing is like an explosion of sunlight behind my eyes. It’s such a perfect, gorgeous pop song. I have a feeling this is gonna be a pretty terrific album! Anyway, the video was directed by Cali Thornhill Dewitt, and stars Norrvide alongside collaborator Loke Rahbek (Var, the Posh Isolation label, Sexdrome, etc.), and the two men were given no direction beyond, “Look beautiful.” Said Dewitt of the video: “The concept of this was simple. My subjects were/are very attractive people, so I decided to pair them with attractive landscapes. We shot the whole thing in one 24 hour period, and Loke and Hannes were very comfortable dressed in their Cary Grant suits.” They do indeed look beautiful, and the song sounds beautiful, and why wouldn’t you want such beauty in your life right now?

I keep saying how 2014 is shaping up to be one of the great years in metal’s history, and I keep using the highest-profile examples to make this point: Behemoth, Agalloch, Triptykon, Thou … and on their heels, new albums from bands like At The Gates, Pallbearer, Tombs, Eyehategod, Leviathan, Opeth, Mastodon, and Godflesh. And while that is indeed a mighty impressive docket, it’s not really why 2014 has been so great so far. No, 2014 has been an overwhelming year for metal almost primarily because of the incredible number of bands on the fringes (or nearer to the fringes than the above-mentioned bands) whose new albums feel like future classics: Morbus Chron’s Sweven, Woods Of Desolation’s As The Stars, Pyrrhon’s The Mother Of Virtues, Artifical Brain’s Labyrinth Constellation, Fluisteraars’ Dromers, Black Monolith’s Passengers, Ifing’s Against This Weald, Coffinworm’s IV.I.VIII… And there’s no question Sacred White Noise, the debut LP from Toronto’s Thantifaxath, belongs in that group, too. Thantifaxath are three anonymous weirdoes in grim robes who play technically ambitious, intensely heavy, oddly melodic atmospheric black metal. An obvious reference point here is Krallice, who pull off a similar trick, but Thantifaxath’s songs aren’t quite as dense as those of their neighbors to the south. Also, the robes make everything so much freakier. Bands that play music this complicated don’t wear robes! They can’t! All the loose-hanging cloth around the wrists would get in the way of their fretwork! Not so, say the unnamed members of Thantifaxath, who play out on rare occasion (including a four-date mid-May tour with the similarly minded Castevet). Another kindred spirit is France’s totally non-corporeal Deathspell Omega, who never play live at all. That’s pretty rarified company to keep, I think, but with Sacred White Noise, Thantifaxath have earned such distinctions. We’re streaming Sacred White Noise in full, right now, for you to listen to in advance of its release. Check it out; tell me I’m wrong.


 +1Posted on Apr 17th | re: Mastodon - "High Road" (11 comments)

I actually wrote about it last year, when we premiered the first track:

 +2Posted on Apr 11th | re: The 5 Best Songs Of The Week (13 comments)

I think he technically holds the title of “junior staff writer” or something, as he has since graduated from intern to paid contributor. I can’t vouch for the “drinking thru straws” thing. He’s also a great guy! Welcome indeed!

 +3Posted on Apr 11th | re: The 5 Best Songs Of The Week (13 comments)

James Rettig!

Guarantee this is some weird viral publicity thing for Season 2 of Orphan Black.

 +4Posted on Apr 4th | re: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs (163 comments)

@Michael_: Definitely not trolling you, didn’t mean to offend you. I think your feeling is totally valid; it’s just not the way these lists are assembled/produced by us. And it’s not analytics that establish a blogger, but words, and you’ve published a lot of ‘em. I say that with the sincerest respect. WITH THAT SAID I am jumping out of these comments now, because the work is piling up over here. Thanks for listening!

 +8Posted on Apr 4th | re: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs (163 comments)

@Ben: Yeah, it happens every time, and for the first few months doing these franchises, I would always step into the comments and explain that these are always and only assigned to writers who are passionate fans of the artist in question, and we’ve in no way asked them to either follow or reject consensus, but to present a list that reflects their feelings as honestly as possible. I stopped making that address in the comments because it made no difference; people accused of us trolling just the same. The only reason I called out Michael_ is because he’s a longtime reader and a pretty established blogger himself and I think he knows in his heart that we don’t operate that way. But it’s a good opportunity for me to restate our editorial policies, even if they only go read by you and Michael_ and other people who comment here regularly anyway.

 +24Posted on Apr 4th | re: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs (163 comments)

Nah, you have my word — hand to heart — we approached this with no such intention, and James was given no such direction (and to be clear, no writer with whom I’ve worked has EVER been told directly or indirectly to be “more controversial”). I’ll be totally straight with you: In this case, we actually considered asking James to reconsider his decision to leave Teen Spirit off the list, before finally deciding that doing so would have been kind of invasive and dishonest. That said, if I had written this list, Teen Spirit would have been No. 1. But I hold James’ opinions on music in the highest esteem, and they’re presented here unaltered, and they are 100-percent sincere.

 +24Posted on Apr 4th | re: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs (163 comments)

You think it’s safe to assume we hired James Jackson Toth, an acclaimed songwriter (bka Wooden Wand) and outstanding critic in his own right, to write 3200 words on Nirvana … to troll commenters?

 +17Posted on Apr 4th | re: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs (163 comments)

For anyone not inclined to read the intro, I just want to highlight one section of it, which precedes the list itself:

“Many readers will note the conspicuous absence of Nirvana’s most popular and enduring song from this list. For the record, I concede that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a great song (possibly the best song to ever rip off the Pixies), but the fact is, Nirvana recorded better ones. At least ten better, as a matter of fact. Here they are.”

 0Posted on Apr 3rd | re: Ifing - "Realms Forged" (Stereogum Premiere) (8 comments)

Oh man, that Breakfast Stout is so good! But it’s heavy as hell.

(Also, editor’s note: the commenter to whom I am replying, Damian Master, runs Colloquial Sound. Buy his stuff!)