Personnel: Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Philip Caivano (guitar, bass guitar); Garrett Sweeny (guitar); Bob Pantella (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Joe Barresi.
Recording information: Shore Fire Studios, Long Branch, NJ; Studio 13, Red Bank, NJ.
Photographers: Sara Stadtmiller; Puddin Aylward.
After 2014's Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol, it's tempting -- at least at first glance -- to greet Cobras and Fire (A Mastermind Redux) with some degree of suspicion. After all, why do two remake albums in a row? Simple. In an interview at the time of Milking the Stars' release, Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf claimed he was so pleased with the results that he was already at work on something crazier. He wasn't lying; this is it. Where 2010's Mastermind was a well-produced (some would argue overly so) exercise in '70s hard rock, Cobras and Fire is saturated in swirling, fuzzed-out, sprawling, hard space psych. Of the ten tracks here, only five are actually redos from Mastermind proper. Other jams are essentially brand-new recordings from smeared strains, riffs, and vamps from that set. First single "She Digs That Hole" is dominated by a humming bass and distorted vocal. When the blasting wah-wah guitars kick in, it's rawer and wilder than the original. That said, it never loses the boogie, even when it careens into the red zone. Conversely, it's odd to hear the power chord riffing of "Gods and Punks" -- done here as "Gods, Punks and the Everlasting Twilight" -- transformed into a slow, menacing ballad that threatens with sinister intent, but never releases its tension. "Mastermind '69" is fueled by organs and plucked sitars, and illumined by spiky guitar fills and reverbed drums. The title track is actually a new version of "Hallucination Bomb." The plodding riff from the original is replaced by droning sitars and acoustic six-strings with reverbed electrics pulsing percussively in the backdrop. At three minutes it begins to pick up steam; at four it explodes into a thudding, squalling acid-drenched burner. A cover of the Temptations' classic "Ball of Confusion" is all but unrecognizable. Forget psychedelic soul; this version creates a collision between Space Ritual-era Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band of Wasa Wasa. The stoner strut of "When the Planes Fall from the Sky" is subtitled "Sitar and Psych Version" here, and it is. It's slower but no less heavy as the East Indian instrument takes over the guitar solo role amid wafting organs, echo chambers, and ugly, greasy, walloped tom-toms. At nearly nine minutes, closer "I Live Behind the Paradise Machine: Evil Joe Barresi's Magnet Mash, Vol. 1" is a loosely knit sonic assemblage of bits and bites from various Mastermind tunes -- and other sources. It doesn't really go anywhere -- other than oblivion, which admittedly might have been the point -- but it does provide a nice trance vibe to go out on. Like Milking the Stars, Cobras and Fire creates something almost wholly other, a new way of hearing these songs free from the moorings of their sources. It adds another dimension to Monster Magnet's ever expanding musical persona. ~ Thom Jurek