Emperor of Sand was Mastodon's big splash of 2017, but how many people missed out on this little gem of an EP when it was released very quietly late in the year? I know I certainly did, as the four song set Cold Dark Place was dropped in September of last year with very little fanfare, only just now getting on my radar as we kick off 2018. For the most part, the material on Cold Dark Place in no way would have fit on Emperor of Sand, these songs not falling into the loose concept of that opus and seeing Mastodon once again embracing their prog roots with a heightened element of psychedelia to go along with it. Though originally intended to be a solo album for guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, Cold Dark Place eventually morphed into a Mastodon release, though Hinds' stamp is pretty dominating here, which is evident from opening cut "North Side Star", the guitarists leathery vocals and new toy, the 1954 Sho-Bud 13-string pedal steel guitar, fully on display and integrating with their unique blend of sludgy progressive metal. "Blue Walsh" contains some intricate King Crimson styled guitar interplay between Hinds and Bill Kelliher, the multi-layered vocal delivery also in full force, something this band have always done so well. "Toes to Toes" is another richly textured prog piece, the melodies infectious, the guitars weaving, Brann Dailor's drums acrobatic, and everyone taking turns with the vocals. Hinds and his pedal steel come back for the yearning strains of the title track, a complete launch into new territory for Mastodon, somewhat of a proggy/psych/country ballad, the guitarists vocals strong & pleading over layers of lilting effects laden guitars, drums, and piano before a blistering Hinds guitar solo takes things to a potent conclusion.
Though some might see Cold Dark Place as an excuse to release a few songs that didn't quite fit in on some of their more recent releases, it potentially could also be a sign of the band hinting at future directions as well. This is definitely a quieter, more introspective side to the band, and it's equally as fascinating as their more bombastic personality. Make sure you don't miss this one like I nearly did.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) North Side Star
2) Blue Walsh
3) Toe to Toes
4) Cold Dark Place