Review Summary: No classic, but the beginning of great things.
Many people know Mastodon now as a bunch of bearded loonies who have songs about white whales and old novels. And, fair enough, it is a true description, despite how very vague it is. But before the success of Leviathan
propelled them into the public spotlight, Mastodon released this, their first album proper, which would deviate from the lesser sounds of Lifesblood
their demo, and showcase their talents as a band.
takes less than a second to show you that this is no ordinary band - seriously. The opening sound effect is taken directly from Jurassic Park, which then morphs into a thick, speedy tune that makes up the opening track Crusher Destroyer
. You’re never really quite sure how the hell they manage to pack so much into such a short song - everything happens at once, and after two minutes, it’s all over, which is a shame - it’s a decent opening track which could have been so much more. The same could really be said about Where Strides the Behemoth
- it’s a really good song, one of the best on the album in fact, but it’s really too short to be considered epic. The sound completely rushes around you, and it all seems to go too quickly for you to make anything of it; it usually takes a few listens before you know what’s happening, yet when you know what’s happening, you’ll be glad you persisted.
March of the Fire Ants
is a completely different beast altogether. That pounding four-part riff has continually found its way onto many a live Mastodon set, and is also one of their most famous songs, along with Blood and Thunder, Hearts Alive and The Wolf is Loose. After a few runs through of that opening guitar riff, Troy litterally explodes into the song with the usual fantasy vocals that really fit Mastodon’s songs, but other people‘s music with these lyrics would be plain stupid. This is the first really progressive song from Mastodon’s catalogue; it manages to effortlessly segue between different tempos and sections, not once stopping for silly, open silences that are so often found on common albums; it simply wouldn’t work here.
is a somewhat ignored track; this, I personally can’t understand, as it is a quality, yet more mellow, thrasher that holds back compared to the two speedier tracks already described, and for this, it’s a heck of a lot better - you can actually hear the music that accentuates those vocals, which is a good thing, as one thing this band can do is create some supremely good music that accompanies their lyrics.
is somewhat disappointing, as Mastodon’s speed gets the better of them, and there’s no real way of comprehending exactly what is happening at the start of the track, which sounds like someone who’s picked a guitar during a sugar rush.
And we reach the three epic songs on this album; Ol'e Nessie
. Ol'e Nessie
is atmospheric, as a distorted bass guitar crackles in the background as the lead guitar is allowed to progress through, then passes through into a heavier section, which makes a welcome break from the speed. The focus instrument here is the guitar, which at times manages to make the seamless transition from beautiful lead notes to a wall of sound which reflects the harsh vocal nature. Trainwreck
could be considered a beefed-up Ol'e Nessie
, in fairness; it manages to do everything Ol'e Nessie
does, and a hell of a lot better. Every instrument gets a half-decent focus here, and it’s not surprising to find Brann Dailor’s drums go haywire as the guitars provide a decent backdrop to Troy’s vocals.
Mastodon truly come together with Trilobite
. It takes just over a minute before the band effortlessly come together in the same style as Ol'e Nessie
, although where it differs is in it’s progressing guitar line; you can almost imagine seeing several fingers travel up and down a fretboard as you get the clean guitar section melding in with the heaving choruses, and their ability to switch between these two different styles is impressive.
While Trampled Under Hoof
is a personal favourite, it’s easy to note that it’s simply a rehash of everything that’s gone before (albeit a good rehash). Mother Puncher
is a great track, where the title came about from previous vocalist Eric Saner shouting ‘This song makes me want to punch my mother!’ The heavy guitar lines make their way into the track by leading the band along, with only the backdrop of the bass and vocals really making any progressions, until the familiar slow-yet-crushing verse makes an entrance. Elephant Man
is an excellent instrumental track, with the beginning section almost feeling sad and remorseful, in a way, then the track starts to increase in power, featuring some excellent solos, but never deviating away from that powerful rhythm that courses through it’s veins.
If you’re lucky enough to have the special edition, then you’ll have heard their Thin Lizzy cover of Emerald
. It’s a tremendous cover, very possibly on par with TL’s original version. Troy commanding as much power from the opening lyric as Phil Lynott , and the band aren’t afraid to stamp their mark on the song as they stay true to the original, yet give it the extra oomph that it might have needed the first time around.
So what should we make of Remission
? Well, it’s a fine album, and one that no Mastodon fan should be without. It’s certainly got the elements of the Mastodon of the future - maybe not in the way a fan might expect - but they’re all here and present. If you hated Blood Mountain
, this won’t exactly change your mind about Mastodon, though it’s sufficiently different enough to warrant a listen anyway. It didn’t exactly set the world alight, but it’s a good ride if you can get your head around it.
Talented metal has returned - yet not in the way you might have expected
- March of the Fire Ants
- Where Strides the Behemoth
(if you have the special edition)