Review Summary: A great album for serious music fans, but maybe a bit of a bore for casual listeners.
I have tried endlessly to classify Mastodon into some specific category. I tried Death (the band) influenced heavy metal but it didn’t work, there was MORE to them than just that. I tried the classification of the Encyclopaedia Metallum, progressive sludge metal, but yet again that name didn’t successfully imply ALL that Mastodon stood for and did. So after trying a million more like those I found the right one. Mastodon. No one sounds like them yet everyone does, they sound like no one yet they sound like everyone. They have early death metal influences combined with straight out heavy metal elements, sludge, doom, stoner, black and any other kind of metal you want.
I must confess my first Mastodon record was Blood Mountain, it simply blew me away, it was so good and so original yet so reminiscent of all my favorite bands. So after I practically burnt out my copy of Blood Mountain I wanted a little more, and so I went and bought myself their second offering, Leviathan…
BLOOD AND THUNDER: From the opening riff it just caught me. It’s just too damn catchy, and simple as hell! The lyrics also got me immediately since Moby Dick is one of my favorite books ever, and Mastodon is one of my favorite bands ever, it seemed like a good combination from the start. After the basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus scheme (which by the way contains incredible drums) comes a Death inspired guitar harmonization riff, with even more amazing drumming from Troy. Then the bridge comes in with its massively powerful vocals and amazing lyrics (break your backs and crack your oars men!) Overall just an incredible heavy metal song. 5-5
I AM AHAB: This one again opens with a great riff leading the way into a fun song with great lyrics. Again the drumming is just incredible, Troy Sanders has got to be one of the best modern drummers, and Mastodon’s incredible use of the power chord as a musical tool is unmatched, it is used a lot yet never at a wrong moment and also never overused. The only thing that kind of cuts this song down is its length. 4-5
SEABEAST: This is one of the reasons I decided to call Mastodon a Death influenced heavy metal band for a while. The opening is so ***ing Death! But then the verse comes in and twists things around, honestly in my opinion I don’t really like the vocal melodies here and the lyrics aren’t as outstanding as in the previous tracks yet the little guitar leads (and obviously the drumming) adds a nice touch to the song. After a while turns to a more interesting riff versus vocal bridge section, a Mastodon cliché that always works, and they switch back and forth between that and the other vocal melody line before going into a nice outro section. 3.5-5
ISLAND: I can’t say this song really stands out. It’s a good song for sure, but nothing (besides obviously the drumming) really stands out, nice lead parts but they seem too ripped off from Death to be interesting. I’m sorry to mention Death so much but that was one of the things that first called my attention about Mastodon. The other riffs are cool but not really stand outs from the rest of the Mastodon riff spectrum. The lyrics are very cool though which adds some extra points to this song. 3-5
IRON TUSK: So far the album seems to be in a slow and constant downhill climb, yet it stops here. The brutal drum intro leads into a great harmonized riff and into great verses that play Mastodon’s guitar versus vocals game amazingly well, with some exceptional lyrics and drumming. The bridges are also really cool with each riff kind of standing on its own especially the little lead part around halfway through the song which greatly differs itself from most Mastodon lead passages. More brutal deliveries of drums/ riffs/ vocals end the song beautifully. 4-5
MEGALODON: The song starts off ok, with a creepy intro and a verse that sounds much like those in the rest of the album until the lead part when the song suddenly jumps up a whole category. The brutal riff is simply amazing, and the little stops made for the vocals to go in are simply great. The sudden riff change leads through a new and interesting passage with more harmonized leads that happily (I’d never thought I’d say this) don’t resemble Death. More great riffs lead out of a great song. The only thing that holds this one back a little bit is the lyrics which, though good, aren’t up to par with some of the others on the album. 4-5
NAKED BURN: An interesting intro that recalls industrial metal starts up the song. The song then goes into its basic structure leading into some very cool melodic vocal parts which stand out from the most of Mastodon’s stuff. I shouldn’t even mention it by this point but the drums are great. It’s a normal song with nothing TOO exceptional but something about it just makes it really cool. 4-5
AQUA DEMENTIA: This song starts almost as a clone of the rest of the album’s intros but the more guttural vocals (maybe performed by a guest vocalist please excuse my ignorance) make this song an interesting standout from the rest of the album. The sheer bad-ass-ness of the drums again gives the song a great boost. This song also has some passages which almost resemble metalcore, giving it a different touch from the rest of the album, making for a nice break from the three very similar songs that precede it (all of which are really good by the way).The open chord passages also add a nice different touch. Again though this song may not be amazing it gets points for being different. 3.5-5
HEARTS ALIVE: I don’t have much too say about this song. The concept of Mastodon tackling a 13 minute epic seems great, but it just lacks originality. I’m sorry, I’m probably going to get bashed severely for this one but hell I just don’t like the ***ing song. At the beginning it’s good, and it definitely has its shiny moments, there just aren’t enough to make this one special, and at times it’s a little boring, becoming head-on monotonous towards the ending. Trust me it’s not that I’m “too commercial” in my tastes or some ***ing bullcrap like that, I love epics just this one is boring. 2-5
JOSEPH MERRICK: A nice little ending instrumental with some cool dissonant arpeggio passages, and great lead work, but simply no way to end such a great album. 2.5-5
I am going to write this last little paragraph because I don’t think the song ratings alone can explain my whole conception of this album. Song by song most of it is pretty good, with little exceptions. But listening to it the whole can be a monotonous experience. Well actually I take that back. When you’re doing a bit of casual listening, maybe putting it on while inside a car with you’re friends, it CAN be an incredibly monotonous experience. But if you’re listening seriously and intently, paying attention to all the little details you grasp the whole thing and enjoy a wonderfully rich album. In that sense of serious and intent listening this album earns itself a four.