Not content to carry a majority of the songwriting workload with his world-conquering heavy metal band Mastodon, vocalist and guitarist Brent Hinds has regularly been involved in numerous side bands throughout the years. This peculiar "split" release combines two of them: Fiend Without a Face and West End Motel -- each characterized by distinct musical origins, and both having little in common with Hinds' regular day job. Indeed, the schizo psychobilly (complete with hysterical shrieks à la Nick Oliveri) of Fiend Without a Face songs like the opening "Calypso," "Green Slime," and "Stupido" is about as "heavy" as this whole thing gets, so take heed, headbanging brethren. Beyond that, FWAF proceed to indulge in more traditional (though still tequila-spiked) rockabilly inspired by Hinds' beloved Stray Cats ("Hot Rod," "New York," etc.), serial killer garage rock with a Southern twang ("Bank Robbin Bandits," "Don't Like"), and truly warped, (mostly) instrumental surf music like "Black Grass," "Get Straight," and the Dick Dale-on-crack homage "Tsunami." As for the other side of this two-headed vanity project, West End Motel explores Hinds' parallel passion for drunken country music (see honky tonk bar-clearers like "The Devil Called Me Tommy" and "Silly Old Song") and gothic Americana -- particularly Tom Waits' debauched hobo persona, if examples like "...And We Are Here to Entertain You" and the piano-led "She's on Fire" are any indication. In sum: as should be obvious by now, both of these "bands" were conceived to entertain those involved as much as, or perhaps more so, than a record-buying audience, never mind Mastodon's metallic minions (ain't that what side projects are all about, after all?). So while this release may do well to broaden some minds and initiate discovery into a few artists behind these sounds, calling it anything more than a welcome curiosity would be misleading. Come for a lighthearted distraction and you won't be disappointed, but be sure you don't take Fiend Without a Face or West End Motel too seriously; their creators certainly don't.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2