Mastodon - Blood Mountain Review
by Travis Becker
A section of the Heavy Metal world languishes in a desert of lunkheadedness created by a large percentage of the bands associated with the genre. Awaken your minds, brothers, and discover Mastodon. With their new album, Blood Mountain, the Georgia-based Homers (the poet not the Simpson) of the Metal world add to their legacy another masterpiece of prog-Metal inspiration. Intelligence never sounded so loud. Epic both in feel and in scope, Blood Mountain rages across twelve tracks for over an hour concerning wild terrain, monsters, and Birchmen. The old, blind Greek himself couldn't have woven as entertaining a yarn.
While not strictly thematic, like 2004's whaling tale, Leviathan, Blood Mountain hits on many of the same ideas and interests. "Siberian Divide," "Sleeping Giant," and "Colony of Birchmen" all feel like a good fit with one another as this tale of wonder lopes along. The unity in the album comes from the cohesive production and from the expansive, "big" feeling of the songwriting. As on their previous efforts, Mastodon's songs stretch out to gigantic proportions, like a tall tale of the high seas as imagined and created by a Hollywood producer, while still maintaining a gritty, tangible element that allows the listener to taste the salt and pluck out the splinters.
Continuing the trend begun with Leviathan, the sonic edges are smooth and every note fires out of the speakers crisply. Every new Mastodon album sounds like the masterpiece everyone has been waiting for, right out of the gate and maybe they are. Listening more closely deconstructs the accessibility as the more slight and subtle elements of the band work their way to the surface with more dissonance, but much more interesting music.
The band's sound remains much the same, blending Metal with doses of hardcore Punk a la Corrosion of Conformity and weird quirkiness one would expect to find on a Faith No More or a Clutch album. Once again, the compelling drumming of Brann Dailor plays an integral part in the core of Mastodon's sound. Opening the record with "The Wolf is Loose," Dailor hits so many notes, one is forced to wonder if he's grown a third arm. At times, it even sounds as if the entire band is soloing at once. The chaos of "Bladecatcher" and "Capillarian Crest" recall the "Free Jazz" or Ornette Coleman in a very Metal way.
Like the memorable guest vocal by Neil Fallon on "Blood and Thunder" from Leviathan, Blood Mountain contains some memorable guest appearances as well. Josh Homme lends his voice as does Scott Kelly from Neurosis and Cedric Bixler-Zavala from the Mars Volta. The guitars, however, provide most of the memorable moments on Blood Mountain. The interplay between Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, whether it's proggy, high pitched plucking or plodding monster riffs, will confuse and delight your ears as it dares you to decide which lead to follow or which notes to collect together.
Far from self-righteous bombast, Mastodon succeeds in making epic music by not forgetting that Metal is all in good fun. Despite the high tone, and chest-beating power of the band's music, it's still clear that no one is taking things overly seriously-wait through the long silence after the last track for some proof. When the Earth is laid bare and only the fossils of Metal remain, those of whom we will be the ancestors will have one mighty set of bones to unearth when they dig up the Mastodon.
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