Review Summary: Mastodon's debut combines sludgey-metal riffs and technical instrumental work to create an excellent album.
A wise man (Thomas Erak) once asked, what sound does a Mastodon make? Well if we’re to go by debut full-length Remission, the answer is an awesome sound. In recent months Mastodon has become one of the leading bands in “progressive/stoner” metal. But before all that awfulness came to be, they were once a very enjoyable metal band, combining technical instrumental work, a thick sludge-like atmosphere and brutal vocals to create some of the most interesting heavy music of the past decade.
Whilst many argue Leviathan or Blood Mountain as the group’s best work, it’s necessary for people to hear the beginnings of Mastodon. For those familiar with newer Mastodon albums, you may be somewhat shocked to find that Remission contains no clean-vocals. The album also rarely slows down into overtly wanky guitar passages. Instead Remission favours a fast-paced crushing style that is unrelenting and brutal yet at times melodic and accessible.
Opening with Crusher Destroyer, the band sets the stage for what is to be an incredibly heavy journey. For those at all familiar with Mastodon the manner in which they create music hasn’t changed all that much, even in the beginning the band focused on technical music, Brann Dailor being the most technically impressive of the group demonstrating a level of drumming prowess not often seen in any genre of music. Guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher provide an assortment of enjoyable riffs, focusing more on creating riffs that sound good in place of riffs that are super-technical, whilst bassist Troy Sanders creates a murky heart-beat at the depths of the album to keep the dank atmosphere at its fullest.
Beyond the well done instrumental performances, the band demonstrates a solid level of song writing ability. The riffs and fills throughout the albums flow well together, keeping a nice balance with all the members contributing to the overall sound of each track. Notably the band’s placement of their more technically impressive elements is a nice touch. With the appropriate drum fill occurring at the right time so as to not overshadow the other member’s performances. Production wise the album is stellar, the drums sound heavy and distinct, the guitars are both polished and grimy, switching between the two as necessary, similarly the bass maintains its position at the bottom of the mix dragging the listener into a tar pit of sound.
Remission isn’t the magnum opus of Mastodon’s career, and it can at times feel a tad repetitive. But the band makes it work and the song writing found here is as good as any they’ve ever put forth. Remission is the heaviest album Mastodon has made and it’s heaviness may make it abrasive to the un-prepared listener, but for those attempting to cross over into the realms of sludgy metal there’s not a better starting place I can think of. Remission really is that damn good.