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Mastodon - Medium Rarities: A trawl through 20 years of long-lost sonic mayhem

Mastodon's new compilation Medium Rarities is a breakneck trawl through the cobweb-strewn corners of their archive

Mastodon medium rareities cover art
(Image: © Reprise)

It’s 20 years since Mastodon rose up from the Atlanta underground, and to mark the milestone the ever-inventive prog-metal quartet have released this mixed bag of rarities, covers, instrumentals, soundtracks and live tracks. 

Previously unreleased opener Fallen Torches is textbook Mastodon: head-spinningly, palpitatingly busy, but with an elegance surfing the noise.

The covers, though, are where the really interesting choices were made. Metallica’s Orion is a nod to an obvious influence, but their take on A Commotion makes the already dramatic Feist song oppressively heavy and dense, while a surprisingly faithful version of the Flaming Lips’ A Spoonful Weighs A Ton demonstrates why Mastodon are so consistently fascinating, taking pinches from across the whole musical spectrum to season their unique sound. Meanwhile, the vicious Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife, from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force soundtrack, is gleefully mad and thoroughly punk.

The instrumentals are less engaging, although they give fans a chance to deconstruct the mechanics of Toe To Toes and a delicate Jaguar God. But then this collection isn’t intended for the casual listener, it’s a salute to the obsessed, those who listen to this band and discover something new even on the thousandth spin of any given album. 

As such it’s a fine mix of odds and sods to stave off the hunger for the next sonic feast they cook up.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.