Brent Hinds Presents: Fiend Without a Face / Westend Motel

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Brent Hinds Presents: Fiend Without a Face / Westend Motel
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Brent Hinds Presents: Fiend Without a Face / Westend Motel
Rockabilly, Southern Rock, Swing
Rocket Science Ventures
June 6th, 2011
Release length: 54:08
Fiend Without a Face Myspace
Westend Motel Myspace
With the Mastodon-mania growing with every new album, it was bound to happen that a label would cash in on the name. However, it’s not the bigger labels such as Roadrunner Records who are taking advantage of this despite having the band on their roster right now. Rocket Science Ventures, an off-spring of Rocket Science Ventures, brings the fans of the group’s guitarist two releases from his other projects. This compilation features recordings from Fiend Without a Face and Westend Motel, both radically different from the established Mastodon sound. But is it too radically different for fans?

What could have easily been a simple one disc release, this compilation is actually split up into two. First up is Fiend Without a Face, a Rockabilly and slight Southern Rock venture with additional surf-tones added. The music here feels reminiscent of the seventies and eighties style, but with a more modern audio quality. The guitars come through rather clean and vary greatly in speed on each track to give off either a serious tone, or a little more of a light hearted experience. The bass is present here but it feels more like a twang in the background and allows the audio to focus more on the guitars without adding much of a deeper presence. The latter of that statement is handled by the bass kicks, which are very low and easily covered by the other instruments. Even the rest of the kit drowns them out thanks to the louder cymbals and natural sounding snares. Other then the kicks, everything else seems to be around the same level as far as the instruments go, but the vocals can be quite different when they show up. There’s usually a heavy echo effect on them that really makes them sound a little trippy at times, podded up loudly in the mix to the point where this performance, no matter what, always dominates over every other instrument, or can be really buried in the music, deprending on what the atmosphere is. But, if they are clean singing vocals, everything is matched nicely in the mix.

But, as far as the band’s Rockabilly sound goes, Fiend Without a Face is pretty impressive and often catchy. it’s sad that there’s no additional impact from the bass, though some tracks find it an instrument that takes priority over the rest such as with “Black Grass.” This track follows the more energetic “Calypso,” which will have you in the mood to just get down and party, generally have some fun. The speed of this song isn’t really explored that much throughout the album, as there are plenty of mid-tempo upbeat tracks that do utilize the bass more, and they too are just as much fun overall, though often lack the same amount of energy. There also are times where the music can feel a little on the psychadelic side, such as weith “Bank Robbin Bandits,” but usually only for a brief while. This is exactly what happens with this song, finding that additional musical push towards the end, and it does come through a bit unintentional, though hard to miss.

Of all the songs though, “New York” feels a little more out there. The track sticks to the Rockabilly sound, leaving it an enjoyable track with an upbeat sound anyone can enjoy. However, thanks to the vocals and the direction the music goes in at times, you can’t help but feel this a more Avant-Garde expression. This slightly eccentric track leads into “Don’t Like,” which is a far more grounded track that still retains the upbeat sound well, but you can’t help to feel the vocals and lyrics are bringing a bit of a hostile environment with them. But, after that, you happen on “Get Straight,” which shows what sounds like some slight experimentation with background effects laced with some influence by Devo‘s song “Whip It.” Overall, the time with this disc of the Brent Hinds Present experience really isn’t too bad, but clearly it’s not the end. While this disc had a Rockabilly approach, Westend Motel was more of a Country release, different from both that band, and Mastodon in many ways.

Westend Motel‘s disc starts off with a spoken word segment that eventually grows into a Vaudville opening, a style that will be present throughout this one. This sets up the album as if you are ready to watch an old-time saloon’s live entertainment, which is literally what you feel is going on from the rest of the music, though the “How’s that?” question at the end of this song kind of destroys that set up and atmosphere for the other songs. The audio quality here is a little different too, coming in much rawer with a traditional country sound thanks to the acoustic guitars and bass that stands out well to keep the beat. The drums are pretty far back in the mix, though you still hear the snares as a low thud with the bass kicks about the same, but it’s the cymbals that come through a little louder. All but the bass can be drowned out a bit when the electric guitars do kick in, and the vocals are a lot cleaner in a nasal, back of the throat clean singing style that you can’t help but wonder if it’s done seriously, or in a satirical fashion.

This disc is really hard to describe because of the varying elements that come into play. “I Like it a Lot” carries that Country sound, but also has a bit of an off-broadway eccentric musical approach to it with the slower music, taking on a darker, almost circus-like tone during the chorus with additional instruments going on in the background to set the atmosphere. This song is actually pretty creepy, and far diverse from the rest of the material. After that, it’s largely the Country/Vaudeville sound that starts off this disc. It’s not bad, especially given the more laidback sound at the atmosphere the tracks bring. “She’s on Fire” is one of these songs that really capture that old-west vibe nicely, and isn’t the only one. “Under My Skin” is another enjoyable track, though that is lost thanks to the obvious scratch on the source disc this comes from. At least, that’s what it sounds like. Through the track, you can pick up on the slight skips of what would send a CD player into overdrive, but not when the damaged disc is backed up on another disc. This may not be what it is, and it’s very faint in the audio, but this sound is very distracting and seem to only appear in this track.

Disc One: Fiend Without a Face
01. Calypso – 2:36
02. Black Grass – 2:06
03. Green Slime – 1:44
04. Cha-Cha – 2:19
05. Bank Robbin Bandits – 1:54
06. Tsunami – 1:54
07. Hot Rod – 2:05
08. New York – 2:35
09. Don’t Like – 3:08
10. Cosmonaut – 3:00
11. Stupido – 1:47
12. Get Straight – 2:156
13. Volcano – 3:07

Disc Two: Westend Motel
01. …And We Are Here to Entertain You… – 2:31
02. The Devil Called Me Tommy – 2:38
03. I Like it a Lot – 3:49
04. She’s On Fire – 3:53
05. Under My Skin – 3:00
06. Silly Old Song – 2:40
07. High Waters – 5:05

Overall Score: 7/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Rocket Science Records via Earsplit PR.