If all the rumors are to be believed, Jonah Hex — both the box office mega-flop and Mastodon’s accompanying score — was pretty much (ahem!) hexed from the get-go. Massive re-shoots took place, and original composer/Mastocollaborator John Powell left the project, taking with him what Brent Hinds has called “some of the best shit I’ve ever written in my life.” His replacement, Marco Beltrami, apparently wanted something different outta the Mastodudes, and now we don’t get to hear any of that great shit.

Of course, none of this information is really relevant to a review of Mastodon/Jonah Hex EP. But I feel like making excuses — it’s rare that a band I so admire releases a product I care so little about. This EP is six songs (really four songs plus two “alternate versions” of the same material) clocking in at a little more than a half an hour, but you’ll probably be asleep well before the first track ends.

It simply isn’t fair to say that a film score can only be appreciated when watched with the film for which it was created. If you think that the best film scores of all time — works by Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota and John Williams and a hundred other composers I won’t list here — aren’t wonderful pieces of music that can stand on their own, well, you’re a putz. Period.

And the score for Jonah Hex simply cannot stand on its own. It’s boring. It’s repetitive. It’s lifeless.

Occasionally, as in the last minute of “Clayton Boys,” the music picks up, and starts to sound like the Mastodon we know, or, at least, a Mastodon we can appreciate. But most of the time, it sounds like the band is doing… well, not much of anything. When a track is as long as “Death March” (nearly nine minutes), you expect it to be a musical journey, full of variation, however subtle, to keep you interested. Repeat the same part over and over if you have to — but do in service of creating something hypnotic. Alas, no such feat has been achieved here.

Luckily for all us Mastodon fans, I think (hope) this album is only going to be remembered as a blip on the radar of a long and successful career, not something we look back at as the beginning of the end. It seems clear that there were all sorts of impediments that stood between the band and the creative heights we know they’re capable of achieving.

But the sooner we forget about the Jonah Hex EP, the better. It shouldn’t be too hard. Look! I’ve forgotten about it already.

(1 outta 5 horns)


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