#3: BRENT HINDS (MASTODON)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play guitar (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Mastodon’s Brent Hinds…
Everyone knows Brent Hinds is a good guitar player; as the main writer of Mastodon and as the band’s outsize stage presence, the man’s guitar skills need no introduction. But, oddly, it wasn’t until I saw him play with rockabilly side-project Fiend Without a Face in Brooklyn last year, up close and personal in a venue that holds not more than a hundred people, that I was completely bowled over by the man’s guitar prowess.
You know when a couple of dudes are battle-rapping and every time one flings an especially impressive or cleverly worded diss at the other, all the spectators standing around watching erupt in delighted cries of, “Ohhhhh! Ohhh shit!!!”? That’s what it was like watching Brent Hinds slay the living shit out of rockabilly riff after rockabilly lead after rockabilly riff after snaky, wiry, buttery rockabilly lead, except that the delighted onlookers were just one person (me) and instead of saying “Ohhhh shit!” I did so inside my own head. But yeah, that. The dude was on fire. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing not ten feet in front of my eyes, fingers moving like masterfully guided buttons on a player piano, dancing and darting across the fretboard in ways I’d never before imagined. And with so much feeling, this man not impressing with metronome-breaking speed or nut-crushing brutality, but pure guile. He could do no wrong.
Hinds’ bread and butter — and the reason he’s on the list — is of course not a for-fun side project but his main squeeze, Mastodon. Few bands have had as wide and profound an impact on the metal landscape in the past ten years. There’s no question that every member of Mastodon contributes to the writing process — all four of them sing, and where else have you ever seen that in a band that isn’t Boyz II Men, The Beatles or ’60s doo-wop? — but from watching the hours upon hours of in-studio reports, bonus features and interviews that have cropped up over the years, we get the impression that Mastodon’s Mastodon-ness, at least musically, comes in large part from Hinds. In addition to being a fantastic blues-based soloist that can hang with the best of ’em, and an unparalleled riff-monster whose titanic steam-powered octaves and evil-inflected power chord combos make balls shake and moshpits erupt from sheer nothingness, it’s Hinds’ compositional skills that have made Mastodon a great band to so many other merely good bands. Endless internet debates over whether the “real” Mastodon is heard on their earlier, mosh-driven stuff or the proggy escapades of their newer material will never be settled, but no matter which side of the fence you fall on (we fall on the latter) one thing is certain: Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye are incredibly well-put together compositions in every sense of the word. They’re the work of a master.
Lastly, any paean to Brent Hinds is incomplete without mention of Brent Hinds the person, Brent Hinds the character. In case his forehead tattoo didn’t already tell you all you really need to know, stories about Brent Hinds’ drunken buffoonery are more plentiful than Vince Neil’s collection of DUIs. Fist fights with celebs? Walking off the stage mid-show to hang out and drink a beer? Complete black outs resulting in hospital stays? Pssshh, been there done that, once a week at least. To say nothing of the stuff that doesn’t even make it to the media. Heck, even us lowly bloggers have our own Brent Hinds bar-fight run-in. In an era when metal is quickly becoming dominated by short-haired nerd-faces who stay at home tweaking tones on their AxeFX (not that this or the associated music is a bad thing), Brent Hinds is the closest we have to a true guitar hero in 2011, the great white hope to carry the idea of the “rock star” on into the future.
THE LIST SO FAR