Of all the Mastodon side projects, Legend of the Seagullmen might be the most unexpected. Sure, the pairing of Tool drummer Danny Carey and Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds makes a fair amount of sense with both of their main groups skewing towards the progressive side of metal. But the rest of the group, comprised of bassist Pete Griffin (Dethklok, Zappa Plays Zappa), synth player Chris DiGiovanni (even google doesn’t know where this guy came from), guitarist Tim Dawson (???), vocalist David “The Doctor” Dreyer (seriously, where the fuck did they find these guys), and guitarist/producer Jimmy Hayward (I shit you not, he’s the guy who directed Horton Hears a Who! and Jonah Hex), nothing about the group adds up.
Give them this, they certainly have the market cornered on nautical-themed stoner/sludge rock, a genre that I don’t think has ever been explored before. So they’ve got that going for them. I was highly skeptical of what this album would sound like (despite my love of Hinds), but also cautiously optimistic thanks to the two lead singles that were released early (“The Fogger” and “Shipswreck). Could their self-titled debut live up to my expectations that I didn’t even fully understand?
Well…sort of. For a band consisting of two metal legends, a bassist who shares his name with Quahog, Rhode Island’s most famous resident, three guys that even the internet doesn’t recognize, and the guy who directed the smash 2013 hit Free Birds, Legend of the Seagullmen is a surprisingly entertaining listen. Carey and Hinds lead the charge musically, with Carey’s tribal drumming and Hinds’ fine guitar work providing the framework of the entire album, giving the other musicians enough room to make their presence felt, while still letting Carey and Hinds share the spotlight. The album peters out a bit after the first three tracks, but it remains consistently fun, even if it’s not consistently great.
While “The Doctor’s” vocals wear thin as the album progresses, I must admit that they fit the music perfectly. He certainly has the voice I’d imagine a hard-rocking sea-faring captain might have. But that also brings up my biggest issue with the record: from the moment you hit play on the first track you are beaten over the head with the knowledge that, yes, they are singing about the sea. We get. We got it by the end of track one, you can explore a few more thematic elements rather than exploring that same concept ad nauseam for 7 more songs. Despite the sheer anonymity of the rest of the band, Hinds and Carey possess more than enough talent to let the band explore all sorts of sonic ideas rather than staying so close to one sound.
But for a band with surprisingly little credibility beyond its two most noteworthy members, that might be my only real complaint with Legend of the Seagullmen. “The Fogger” is a bizarrely entertaining listen, with Primus-like bass work and a haunting yet catchy hook that for reasons that I can’t even explain just works. “Shipswreck” and “Curse of the Red Tide” wouldn’t sound too out of place on an Iron Maiden record (“Shipswreck” in particular may be the best track on the album, with Hinds racing to the forefront of the track with some phenomenal guitar work). And “The Orca” dials the cheese back just the right amount to make the darkest track on the record a fantastic listen.
When you look at all the side projects spawned out of Mastodon, Legend of the Seagullmen isn’t able to measure up to Killer Be Killed or Gone Is Gone. But they don’t have to. The one thing readily apparent listening to their debut album is that the band had a blast making it, which in turn makes it fun to listen to. It may not end up on many (if any) year-end lists, but Legend of the Seagullmen is absolutely worth a few spins. It’s certainly the best album I’ve ever heard involving the director of not just one, but TWO animated flops. And that’s saying something.
“The Fogger”, “Shipswreck”, “The Orca”