The Taste of Chaos Ensemble
Performs Mastodon's Leviathan
posted on 8/2006 By:
I’ve always considered these string tribute things to be purely for card carrying fan club members and/or people with more money than they know what to do with. I am neither, so ever since the day ten years ago when I first picked up, then put back down Apocalyptica’s Plays Metallica By Four Cellos, these albums have remained a curiosity thats persistent itch was less niggling than the cost to scratch it. As one who hasn’t heard a single string tribute album, I’m either the best or worst candidate to give an opinion on this one. But I chose to review The Taste of Chaos Ensemble: Performs Mastodon’s Leviathan for the selfish motivation of not only finally getting to hear one of these deals (and hear it for free), but also because the subject matter happens to be one of the most compelling and unique albums in recent memory. So I paid my money (figuratively) and took my chances.
And I got lucky. This album is very much worth hearing if you’re a big fan of Leviathan, although it still feels like an enjoyable but totally unnecessary addition to the collection. Even before playing the album, the two points of interest are pretty obvious. First, the observation that in choosing this album, The Taste of Chaos Ensemble has a motherload of richly textured melodies and frantic chaos to reinterpret, creating both a challenge and mouth watering possibilities. Second, pulling off Mastodon’s compositions without the incredible percussion so key to the band’s sound would not be easy. These musicians have risen to both challenges. The group’s use of short bow strokes to echo the taut heaviness and dark spirit of the material comes as no surprise, but the technique’s real reward is that it captures the uniquely confident, muscular energy of the material. Using instrumentation to mimic vocal melodies is a necessary evil, I suppose, and in some places the “vocal” lines contribute well to the composition, while in others, it gets a little muzak-y. But with few exceptions, it’s the sprawling, complex instrumental passages from Leviathan that are reinterpreted with the most success. The tumbling graceful melodies and violent collisions are painted here in broad strokes and fine accents, as TTOCE use a full chorus of strings to each contribute to the capture of Leviathan’s fiercely progressive and technical soul. Although the sprawling “Hearts Alive” would seem to be especially fertile ground, it proves no more exceptional than its peers. The plucked intro over melancholic violin, during the intro to “Seabeast”, on the other hand, is a shining moment. Although this is an album I’ll surely revisit, it’s hard to give a clear and definitive recommendation, without tacking on the qualifier that you knew before clicking this link. It depends, of course, on how much you enjoy Leviathan and appreciate other ways to experience it. Glad I could help.
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