Monster Magnet – Mastermind   9 comments

I shouldn’t have to tell the readers of this website who Monster Magnet is, along with just a few others, they are one of the most successful bands within the realms of Stoner Psychedelic Metal. I know when I first heard them back in 1992 after the release of the “Spine Of God”, I basically felt like I had discovered the new gods of Stoner-Metal. “Spine Of God” still stands out today as a masterpiece that fused together 70’s Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Space Rock and Heavy Metal into something that was ahead of its time for 92, look at how many bands took their blueprint after-wards and ran with it album after album. 1993’s “Superjudge” I also rate as a top-notch album, tracks like “Twin Earth” and “Cage Around the Sun” still give me goosebumps. “Dopes to Infinity” was a breakthrough album in my mind as seeing the video for “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” on MTV was a visual and sonic treat for its time. Although the album is today seen by the band as a let-down sales-wise, It still rates as a favorite album for many MM fans. However it was the “Powertrip” album that push them up to the next level and it still rates as their most successful album although I have always felt the album was very patchy. This album pushed the band into the mainstream and following tours with bands such as Aerosmith, Metallica, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson further established them as a commercially successful act. There is many jukeboxes around the world that contain the “Space Lord” tune, an another sign you are no longer in the underground.

The charge into super-stardom was quickly brought to a halt in 2000 with the release of “God Says No”, not a bad album in itself but one that lacked any songs to match the strength of previous efforts. 2004 saw the release of “Monolithic Baby!” and by now the Psychedelic, Space Rock vibe that had been the band’s trademark was in short supply with the band heading into a more straight Hard Rock approach. It was the very first time for me when I bought a MM album and found nothing worth replaying, the album quickly started gathering dust. In 2007, it was announced that Monster Magnet would release a new album, “4-Way Diablo”, which had been put back for a year due to Wyndorf’s overdose. The overdose suffered by Dave is largely blamed for Monster Magnet’s switch to a more stripped-down Psyche-Rock sound and while I am primarily against drugs, it does seem to have hurt the creative side of Monster Magnet somewhat. “4-Way Diablo” didn’t gain too many positive reviews as it is seen as a very weak album by most critics and Monster Magnet fans alike. It’s another album I bought and it too quickly began gathering dust, it now lives in a storage shed along with many other albums that didn’t float my boat. On November 24, 2009, it was announced that Monster Magnet had signed a new deal with Napalm Records and thus they began work on “Mastermind”.

So after years of disappointing releases, how does “Mastermind” shape up. The truth is this a big step in the right direction with the band sounding more aggressive with fire in their collective bellies which hasn’t seem to have existed for the last few years but I will get one disturbing factor about this album out-of-the-way now; the drums sound computerized and it sounds like some drum samples have been used in this recording. I am sure Wyndorf has his reasons for taking this route but for a band whose reputation was built on organic heavy sounds, this is disturbing to my ears. Despite the modern production, “Mastermind” still kicks some serious butt especially in the first half. “Hallucination Bomb” opens the album in classic MM style, this could have easily fitted on “Dopes To Infinity”. Wyndorf’s vocals are at his most commanding and most apocalyptic, Ed Mundell and Phil Caivano’s gigantic riffs are pure gold and this is Monster Magnet at their best. It’s so good that the album can only go downhill from here and it does, the following two tracks “Bored with Sorcery” and “Dig That Hole” are still worthy additions to the album with both full of infectious punky hooks and packed to the brim with energy, the bass line in “Dig That Hole” is one of the highlights of the album. “Gods and Punks” is played with an Iggy And The Stooges kind of attitude, the song is about someone down and out drinking himself to death and its classic Wyndorf lyrics.

“The Titan Who Cried Liar” tries to rekindled the Space Rock vibe of early Monster Magnet with Sabbathian hooks and keyboards which reminds me of Black Sabbath’s “Who Are You” from the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album. “Mastermind” on the other hand is more like something that could have come off “Superjudge” but just not nowhere near as good and this is where the album begins to sour. The following “100 Million Miles” and “Perish in Fire” both seem like pure filler, the former basically copies the formula that was created on “Bored With Sorcery” while the later is destroyed by the high production values as it has a pure garage rock riff that deserves some grit in the recording but gets very little. Things don’t get any better with “Time Machine” which I assume is supposed to be a Space-Rock power-ballad, it sounds uninspired and falls flat. The same can be said for “When the Planes Fall from the Sky” that tries to bring back the groove that was established on “Hallucination Bomb” but is again a poor mans attempt. The song would have been more effective if it was placed earlier in the playing order, as by this stage in the album it’s all too little, too late and I would imagine most people would have hit the stop button by now anyway. “Ghost Story” is about as far removed from the normal Monster Magnet approach as you can get and is a weak attempt at trying something different, without a doubt its the worst track on the album. The album closer “All Outta Nothin” just sounds like a “4-Way Diablo” outtake and offers nothing to bring this album up to any level above mediocre and disappointing.

A lot of bands like to start albums out with their strongest material, its nothing new as after-all bands like to start an album off with a bang. Sometimes though it can really back fire when the rest of the songs reek of filler quality, this is a perfect example of just that. This could have been the greatest Monster Magnet ever if most of the tracks were as good or close to as good as “Hallucination Bomb”, sadly track by track the album weakens and getting through the second half the album is tedious and frustrating. Also, a lot of bands lose their edge over time, even some of my favorite bands are guilty of that. Fu Manchu and Nebula are just two bands I can think of that lost their edge many years ago and still can’t match the work of their earlier recordings. In the case of Monster Magnet, this album is far from a total disaster, it is stronger than “4-Way Diablo” and “Monolithic Baby!” and gives “God Says No” a good run for its money as well but its weak compared to “Dopes To Infinity” and the classic MM slabs of greatness that came before them. Comparing albums like this is always a touchy subject, you should really judge each album on its own merits so I will do that here and say this has a great start and good tracks leading up the middle part of the disc but after that its very average. There is Monster Magnet fans that will like anything they do, they have a very loyal fan-base in that regard and those people should like this album too but for the rest of us that are a little more picky about what they spend their money on; you might want to avoid this…5.5/10
Official Website
Napalm Records

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Posted October 8, 2010 by doommantia in Monster Magnet

9 responses to “Monster Magnet – Mastermind

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  1. They should just stick to live shows, they have produced anything beyond mundane since Powertrip and even that wasn't very good.

  2. Next to Fu Manchu, they are the most overrated Stoner band ever, good review though.

  3. To Tony – I am sure you meant to say “Not Produced” but I get your point, don't totally agree with it though.

    To the other commentator, I guess they are a bit overrated but I can think of at least 10 other bands that fit that description starting with The Melvins……ooops this might start a shitstorm ha ha.

  4. OK I will stick my hand up and say I like what the Magnet are doing these days. I don't agree with your review but I have to admit they will never beat spine of god. That is still their best album by far.

  5. Good review. Two comments: there are some grammar mistakes that had me rereading the same sentence over and over to make sense of it and the text colour had my eyes pulsing 75% of the way through. [0] <-- my current intoxication level

  6. I have to say that I loved 4 way Diablo. It may not have been as guitar driven but it was dark and revealing. I like to think of it as a Dave solo album really. This new slab is great though and more back to their roots. As far as being successful goes this is as big as it gets for this genre. I say credit MM for bringing stoner/spacerock to the masses. Really though if a band don't change they get slammed but if they do they get slammed. It's a no win situation.

  7. Great points but I must stress I don't have a problem with Monster Magnet changing if the quality of the songs don't change. It's only opinion and totally irrelevant if you like the last few albums but for me they have gone off course since God Says No. I still listen to the band all the time but I have a hard time with their more recent work as I think they have lost what made them special and that is the psychedelic, space rock element. There just seems to be much less of it now and that is what hurts my listening pleasure of the band. However I still have huge respect for Dave, Ed & Co. Thanks for the comment.

  8. I fall under the “loyal fan base” that like anything they do. If anything ever put me off it was when you couldn't go anywhere without hearing space lord on the radio. I will admit that the first play through of Mastermind made me think, “oh no, another healing album”. Maybe I am right but I haven't stopped listening to it since. I really love every single track the band has created and they are my Zeppelin. Very good review. I agree, if you aren't a Magnet fan through and through, stay away.

  9. Well, I for one think MM have never released a “bad” album sure they have their better ones, but what band doesn't! I own all of their albums and enjoy listening to all of them, their's only a handful of bands I can say that about(and that's saying alot!) PEACE 🙂

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