Review Summary: Mastodon continue their tech-metal evolution with a lot of Iron Maiden influence. The result is an album without a single bad song.
Mastodon continued to defy what mainstream rock sounds like with this release. The fact that it features harsh vocals, a rough conceptual story, and musical complexity all goes against what has been popular for the last decade.
When Mastodon released Leviathan, many fans thought it was their pinnacle, and there was no way to top it. After all, it was based on Melville's Moby Dick, featured intricate yet crushing guitar work, the impressive drumming of Brann Dailor, and song structures that would make even the most seasoned metal-head sit up and take notice.
With Blood Mountain, though, Mastodon went into hyperdrive, with a completely original concept (the main character is in search of the Crystal Skull to place at the top of Blood Mountain), intricate stop-start song dynamics, improved vocals (both clean and screamed), and a balanced mixture of fast and slower songs.
“The Wolf Is Loose” is a highlight of the album, and it starts it off on a heavy note. “Capillarian Crest” is sure to be one of the craziest songs you ever hear. The spiraling dual guitar trade-offs are insane enough, but Dailor absolutely steals the show during the break downs; the man has to have at least 3 arms to drum like he does. “Circle of the Cysquatch” is fairly unremarkable except that the opening has one of the eeriest riffs I've ever heard and the ending vocal performance has some creepy foreshadowing of “Colony of Birchmen.” “This Mortal Soil” is easily the most un-Mastodon song Mastodon has ever made, with a spacey intro guitar riff and wailing, out-of-this-world vocals.
There is one thing that is very clear here: when Mastodon made this recipe, they added a lot more Iron Maiden than they did Metallica. Dueling, twisting guitar harmonies are what drives this beast forward; it doesn't lumber along with massive riffs. That leads to one of the few weaknesses: if you're looking for heavy, soul-crushing riffs, don't look here (or take “The Wolf Is Loose” and run). Guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher obviously felt that they needed to step up; the result is the cleanest and most intricate guitar work they've ever done. Bassist Troy Sanders' harsh vocals are infinitely better than on Leviathan, and Hinds has improved his clean vocals to the point where he now sounds like a less-whiny Ozzy Osbourne. Another huge plus is that, while they're not all amazing, there is not a bad song on this album.
Mastodon may not save metal from fan-ignorance, but they're doing their best to push it into mainstream. This album is basically Dungeons and Dragons on metal-steroids. If you've ever been a fan of Metallica, check Blood Mountain out to see the kind of vision and talent that Metallica never had.
Check Out: “The Wolf Is Loose,” “Capillarian Crest,” “Colony of Birchmen,” “This Mortal Soil”