Boom. Crowd favorite Mastodon's easy win over Bay Area thrash supertroupe Ghoul never happened, both for the former's shortcomings and for the latter's strengths.
First off, “The Hunter” continues Mastodon's embrace of accessibility, but no need to hate on them for that. Don't get me wrong — this is still an engaging album, full of meaty riffs, vaguely great vocals, and fidgety drum fills on this album. In fact, “The Hunter” delivers exactly what you'd expect to hear after “Crack The Skye”. And that's the problem. I'm not sure that sludge-meets-disco gamble warranted a sequel. If anything, this album is less memorable than its predecesssor, which in turn is less memorable than “Blood Mountain”. And the parts that do stick with you are dubious (the chorus of “Curl Of The Burl”, or the major-key hooks from “Blasteroid” or “Octopus Has No Friends”, for instance). Even their characteristic detuned-until-you-hear-the-strings-deform sound is neutered and underwhelming.
Then there's “Transmission Zero”, the latest from the relatively unknown Ghoul. This album is undeniably fun, harkening back to a sillier, less pretentious time, and evoking (or borrowing from) GWAR, Motorhead, ArnoCorps, Cliff Burton, Iggy Pop, and Misfits. It's a plucky hodgepodge of thrash, punk, and seemingly everything else this band could get their hands on. And the real beauty is that the thrash itself is more than competent. The plucky result is a rollicking runaway train of an album, palpably tongue-in-cheek without coming off as jokey (an easy but certain trap for many silly metal outfits). And with some surprise, Ghoul unseats top seed Mastodon and proceeds to the Round of 16. Or whatever you wanna call the next thingie.
If this first battle is any indication, the entire tournament is going to be deceptively tricky, and deliciously bloody. Tomorrow: Textures goes up against Stratovarius.