I am blessed enough to experience synesthesia, which can best be described as thinking of things in terms of color. This applies to things or concepts with no color at all--ideas, musical notes, and words are all essentially color-coded in my head. While that sounds boring, it's not: it's color coding with every single conceivable color. And it's not that I see the colors, it's more like I can feel them. As such, it is truly a non-drug-induced psychedelic experience, almost akin to communicating with advanced-consciousness aliens (also how I astonishedly heard Lamb of God's excellent Mark Morton describe hearing Eddie Van Halen soloing for the first time).
I have a theory that my synesthesia has a lot to do with my love (although I suppose obsession is a better word) of music, and especially of music with tons of guitar--what is more awesome, after all, than hearing a song and being psychically assailed by a torrent of glittering colors? Since electric guitars are literally imbued with energy, I can hear the notes, not only with color, but with electricity coursing through them, resulting in a kind of whirlwind of brightly illuminated and colored starlines in my head. Most heavy metal--especially speed metal or death metal--is colored very darkly, and etched with writhing veins of red gold lava. (Sometimes the lava is blue or violet--one of my favorite synesthetic experiences.) I love sitting under that violent cascade of stark contrast; it's very intense. I am always intrigued, however, by odd color assortments in the music I listen to. Now that I think of it, that's probably why I love Jimi Hendrix so much, since for me his music contains basically every color imaginable. This speaks to the alien comparison above.
Lately, for example, I've been listening to two albums that have really turned my head, and it's largely because of their vibrant, unusual colors. Mastodon, as I am sure many of you readers already know, is a very, very heavy band. But their latest album, Crack the Skye, is a hailstorm of galactically intricate riffs and voices melding into an incredible, unique listening experience. From the twin standpoints of my synesthetic mind and my deep, abiding love of the riff, this album really does feel like it's cracking my head open (in the best way). The notes of each riff seem to arrange themselves scientifically, like forces of nature bounding through space and time. Interestingly, the iTunes version of this album (I'm planning on buying the CD later, as it also comes with a Making-Of DVD, which I can't resist.) contains score tracks of every song on the album--no vocals, just riffs, riffs, and more glorious riffs. Listening to these tracks definitely reinforces the idea that the voices of Mastodon are playing riffs just as the guitars are.
Another album that has a similar patina of globbed orange and streaking electric blues and blacks is Wino's Punctuated Equilibrium. The riff structures and arrangements in this album are so unusual to me, but still so organic and perfectly placed, that it's a marvel to behold. Smatterings of Hendrix, Zappa and Sabbath are there, of course, but Wino is truly such a unique guitar player that such comparisons don't hold much water beyond a musical theory standpoint. There are no winding-stair riffs or ocean-tumble drums that make Mastodon such a holy listening experience; rather, Wino is all groove and unbelievable soloing virtuosity in the righteous form of giant orange sheet lightning.
My computer is officially broken, so I will try to post as often as possible before I get a new one. For now, please enjoy this hilarious interview with members of Mastodon, killer weirdo ultimate destruction band from Georgia. They'll be at the 930 Club on Tuesday May 12th. See you there, bitches.