Stylistically speaking, Mastermind is the heaviest, hardest and doomiest Monster Magnet album to date and there is a very clear Black Sabbath influence on display on a lot of the tracks, most of which are mid-paced or even slow. There is still variety to be found however; there are two tracks of jangly chord bashing towards the album’s close, two very intense atmospheric build ups and two faster songs just after the album opens up that raise the tempo in an energetic fashion before the album settles back down into its doomy groove, as well as a third halfway through that shakes you up and stops you getting complacent.
Singer and primary songwriter Dave Wyndorf has consistently been one of the genre’s finest ever lyricists, to the point where it is one of the band’s distinguishing features, and this album is far from a disappointment in that regard. As usual; interesting observations, black humour and some almost depressing philosophical points all mix together in well-written and mutli-faceted songs that reward repeat-listening.
When this is combined with the variety of vocal approaches from bluesy drawls and spacey pronouncements to metallic roars by way of sly and sarcastic punk deliveries and the occasional melody, it makes for a brilliant album that you can listen to a lot without getting bored, in which you can discover something new every time and which should be at least considered for a place in any fan’s collection. This is not the sound of a band phoning it in, it is a band charged up and really laying into it hard.
Its not all super heavy riffs and biker metal production though; the band still incorporate some of the psychedelic sounding guitar effects and additional percussion from the early stuff and touches of electronics from the mid-period material, albeit very subtly, into the hard rock based music. In some ways Mastermind is unlike any other Monster Magnet album due to the precise ratio of its influences and approaches to songwriting and yet in other ways its kind of like the summation of their entire career since it mixes it all together.
Highlights include the Nine Inch Nails-esque ‘Time Machine’ which has some genuinely beautiful guitar, as well as the energetic and lyrically superb ‘Bored With Sorcery’ and the doomy ‘When Planes Fall Out Of The Sky,’ which boasts some of the album’s heaviest riffs.
Overall, Mastermind is one of the best Monster Magnet albums available, no caveat. Its certainly the one with the best reputation in a long time, and although I personally think that the band never got bad, it still gives off those feelings of reaffirmation that all the best comeback albums do.
Its just got a certain inexplicable spark both of creativity and power and I’d highly recommend that any old fans who’ve given up on the band check it out and see if it wins them back.
Basically though, if you like Monster Magnet at all you should probably try this out, especially if you like their heavier stuff. If you are a new fan its definitely not a bad place to start either, although maybe try it in conjunction with a ‘classic’ as well, because they’re definitely the kind of band where hearing one album wouldn’t be enough to really ‘get’ what the band are all about.