Mastodon

The Workhorse Chronicles

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As both a wrap-up of Mastodon's initial years with Relapse and a great souvenir in general, The Workhorse Chronicles is a marvelous DVD that is an instant classic of the form, much more so than any number of desultory, unmemorable band videos out there. The musical content is sharp and entertaining enough, consisting of footage from a variety of different sources -- ranging from handheld fan-filmed efforts to full-on professional multi-camera cuts -- that covers the first five years of the band's existence. While that would be a treat enough for fans, what's especially nice is that the footage shows a performance of literally almost every song released by Mastodon, from their first single through the masterful Leviathan album. Both the sheer focus and the obvious talent of the group shine through on nearly every cut, not to mention a lot of sharp humor courtesy of individual song intros either on tape or live. Brief interview snippets with the bandmembers talking about each era of the group add to the nicely retrospective feeling, while the separate inclusion of the three official song videos done by the group are also welcome. But it's the accompanying documentary that makes this an essential release, something that even a disinterested listener could enjoy on its own. Taken from a slew of different interviews with the group members -- Bränn Dailor wears his heart on his sleeve by not merely appearing in an Iron Maiden shirt but with a framed Maiden cover image under his arm -- it's an entertaining and incredibly funny portrait of four intelligent, wry cutups who also happen to be accomplished musicians. Everything from Brent Hinds' hilarious way around English accents to Troy Sanders' sweetly earnest love for George Jones and Men at Work takes a bow, while the told-via-dolls version of how the group formed would even give Todd Haynes a run for his money. The amount of instantly quotable lines throughout (no one is more dryly sarcastic than Dailor, for example expounding on the fart-ridden atmosphere of the vans and buses the band travel in: "I crave it...like a pregnant woman") makes for that unique beast among metal band documentaries in particular -- a serious effort that's as intentionally hilarious as This Is Spinal Tap without being as unintentionally hilarious as Some Kind of Monster.

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