2+2 Reviews: Memorial Day Weekend Edition (Mastodon, Chelsea Wolfe, Esa Holopainen, An Autumn for Crippled Children)

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Welcome to the Memorial Day Weekend Edition of 2+2.  I was out of town this weekend, relaxing by the ocean which has done wonders for me but also delayed this post.  Anyhow, I’m so glad to have a bunch of new tunes to jam while I watch the waves knock down some unsuspecting beach-goers.  Excited to share these very tunes from Mastodon, Chelsea Wolfe, Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen and An Autumn for Crippled Children.

Mastodon Forged by Neron

BH: It’s so good to have another new Mastodon track.  Between “Fallen Torches”, “Rufus Lives” from the Bill & Ted Face the Music soundtrack and now “Forged by Neron”, we’ve had several solid singles in between full length records.  

While Emperor of Sand wasn’t among my favorite Mastodon albums, I’m very excited to hear what they’ll do next.  If these three singles are any indication, the new one should be pretty damn good.  

“Forged by Neron” is the lead track for the Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack based around the DC comics.  The soundtrack will also feature Greg Puciato, Gunship and Chelsea Wolfe (which we discuss below) so Mastodon are among great company.  

Anyhow, I really enjoy this track overall.  Troy’s vocals sound great here and the lead riff hits hard.  The more I listen, the more the song’s hooks dig into me.  I will say I wish the ending wasn’t quite so abrupt.  It has some uneasy build-up but then just stops suddenly.  Still, I do keep going back to the track so there’s enough here to keep me happy until the next album.     

George, what do you think of Mastodon generally speaking?  What does this track do for you, good or bad?  I know you initially had trouble getting into certain aspects of this track…Can you elaborate and have things changed for you over more spins of the song? Also, were you already familiar with the Dark Nights: Death Metal comic series and now soundtrack? 

GF: I’ve been on Team Mastodon since late 2006. Shortly before I went to college, I saw the music video for, “The Wolf is Loose,” and something clicked for me. While I wasn’t initially jazzed about the half of the song that featured the harsh vocals, Brann Dailor’s Billy Cobham-turned Superman drumming had me hook, line, and sinker. As I dove deeper into their music, I actually came to appreciate the harsh vocals more, and to this day, “Blood Mountain,” reigns as my favorite album of theirs. 

This song makes some unconventional choices with regards to melody, and certain passages (especially within the chorus) don’t resolve on the note that my brain sees as the, “logical choice.” At first, this is kind of frustrating, as it’s like, “erghhhh, why can’t you go a step or two up?!”, but because of this, you’re listening in a way that’s more intentional, and I appreciate that.

I also had a hard-time with the solo at first, but now, I’m on board. Brent Hinds have started to veer into Kerry King-style atonality in certain spots these last couple of years which hasn’t always been my favorite thing, upon first listen. After understanding what time it is, with regards to the song as a whole though, I think his playing is right on the money.

DC put out a soundtrack with some of these same artists a few years ago, which yielded a couple of songs that I really liked. “Brief Exchange,” which saw Chino Moreno, Tyler Bates, Gil Sharone, and Mike Elizondo team up, was definitely the highlight of the set. I still play it to this day.

I’m excited to see this soundtrack continue to roll out, as both this song and Chelsea Wolfe’s track are magnificent.

Chelsea Wolfe – Diana

GF: Ooh, boy– the supreme Scorpio empress of sunless lands did a song about Wonder Woman?

Sign me up.

This shit is a certified cooker– a song that will (hopefully), fully-catapult Ms. Wolfe towards the limelight, giving her the large audience she deserves.

The Tom Morello-esque guitar theatrics that open the song deliver a jolt to your ears right off the bat, and provide the perfect counterpoint to Chelsea’s breathy, delicate, yet tortured vocals that follow.

Ms. Wolfe’s vocals recall Amy Lee of Evanescence, but they’re heavier. It sounds like the weight of a mountain rests upon her chest, and it’s going to take everything she has to obliterate said mountain, and free herself.

Of particular note here is the chorus, which has a turbo-charged addition, the second time it comes around. Here, we get to see Chelsea go full-on banshee, with all sorts of blissful chaos weaving in and out of stereo behind her. 

It’s truly incredible– a powerful moment that stopped me dead in my tracks, the first time I heard it. I can only imagine how fun that section was to mix, and play around with, in the studio.

Brandon, how did you first hear of Chelsea’s work? Have you been a fan for awhile?

What parts of the song stuck out most to you, or, what did you find most satisfying in here?

BH: I actually first heard about Chelsea when Pain is Beauty released in 2013.  I believe her label, Sargent House, had advertised for it on one of the albums I had bought from them.  She also made an appearance on a Russian Circles album that I adored and then was featured on a Deafheaven track a few years back, so she has continued to be on my radar.  

Anyhow, I really have only heard certain songs from each of her albums over the years so haven’t fully explored her catalogue.  “Diana” certainly proves why I need to spend the time.  

I think what really struck me out of the gate was how damn twisted this song is.  I expected it to be dark but it really creeps me out in a good way.  The off-kilter piano does wonders for me.

Also when we hit the chorus, I was just really blown away.  If we ever get a truly gothic film version of Wonder Woman, this had better be the end credits song.  

“Diana” gets pretty chaotic but Chelsea keeps it firmly together and her voice is really something special.  Additionally, I do hope if there’s another season of Twin Peaks to come that David Lynch hires her as a musical guest as she would fit right into that world.

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen – Ray of Light

BH: Esa Holopainen is primarily known as the lead guitarist and a founding member of the insanely influential and awe-inspiring band, Amorphis.  

While his main band have been hard at work on the next release, Esa found some time during the pandemic to work on his first solo effort and it really has an incredible collection of vocalists.

One of my favorite tracks is “Ray of Light” which features Einar Solberg’s (Leprous) soaring vocals.  This has some gorgeous melodies within and Einar is on top form here, locking in nicely with Esa’s composition.

Though it’s unlikely we will ever see a tour of Esa’s solo album (at least stateside), I’m secretly hoping Amorphis and Leprous will tour together and I will get to see this song performed.  

An Autumn for Crippled Children- Melancholia

GF: You ever have songs come across your radar where the second you hear the first note, you know you’re going to love it?

This was one of those songs for me.

This song was made to blast at sunset on the highway, while driving in a drop-top, somewhere out in LA.

I guess that means that traffic has to be moving, which– is a big ask, but it’s possible if you just think hard enough about it!

The guitars here are sun-kissed in the most beautiful way you could ever hope to imagine. On top of that, the 80s new wave synths that soar behind them, are kind of the greatest thing in the world.

In some ways, I feel like this is predicting where Deafheaven will most likely find themselves at some point, if they give up the blastbeats. 

Until then, An Autumn for Crippled Children are riding in this lane by themselves, and the open road ahead of them is glorious. I can’t wait to listen to more of their music.

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