Review Summary: Blood Mountain won't make history, but it will certainly change musical standards for those who listen hard enough.
Every so often there comes an album that is so well written, audiences cannot determine its fate. The album will either fall into one of two categories: either: A) the album will be remembered as one that changed music, and that commercially, it was accepted by the public to be further installed into a generations culture; or B) the album will be considered excellent, yet it won’t have any lasting archaic factors that can keep it alive for the years to come. However, there is the occasional album that falls in between these two categories, an album that cannot be so conveniently sorted. When an album like this comes up, not only does it drive me mad, but it keeps me awake at night; to the point where I must decide as to whether or not the album ranks amongst my favorites.
Blood Mountain, Mastodon’s (a Georgian quartet from Atlanta) fourth LP, is an album that falls into this exact category. It has taken me several years to decide exactly just how good it is. Yet, only up until now, have I realized that it doesn’t need to pick a side. That, because this record is so phenomenal in every way, that it doesn’t deserve the murky waters it swims in. Blood Mountain, is one of the best modern metal albums to date. Period.
Mastodon has already released two critically acclaimed albums and both have rendered new feats for metal. In other words, each of their previous albums have embraced a side to metal that not many bands have before. For example, when Leviathan came out, songs like Megladon embraced bluesy riffs. The song embarks through eerie jazz progressions to straight up rockabilly (which starts at 1:19 to be exact). This is what Mastodon are known for. They try to keep their sound mixed up, to the point where one can’t really argue as to what genre of music Mastodon really promote the most. All Mastodon's audience can determine is that they hold one of the most original sounds in today’s world of music.
Blood Mountain follows quite the freakish of stories. As with most concept albums, it is hard to convey a message, ideal, or story that fits properly with the music being played. Mountain follows the story of a character in search of the “Crystal Skull,” atop “Blood Mountain.” The character travels through some of the strangest terrain I’ve ever read about. He battles some peculiar beasts, all in search of this “Skull.” Reading this, one wonders how a band can properly tell this story whilst keeping true to their music. Luckily there is no need to fear because Mastodon have written Blood Mountain to the utmost perfection. Every song captures the feel or imagery that they want their audience to see or hear. As the songs pummel through, they soar high. They destroy all the boundaries shown in their previous work, whilst staying true to the original Mastodon sound. A sound that to this day has not been properly replicated or reproduced. Take the song Siberian Divide for example.
The song sets itself up as a gloomy one, but quickly catches you off guard and throws you to the dogs. It literally feels like you have been hit with a ton of bricks. It's the tiny instances like this, that Mastodon show us that even though their record is grand in scale and depth, there are still those tiny moments that make it that much better. Another small transition in style is shown through the psychedelic “Sleeping Giant.” A song that takes structure from bands like Pink Floyd and changes it to fit in today's modern music. “Bladecatcher” is a prime example in which Mastodon's quirkiness works. It starts sounding like a happy spring time riff, only its not. It’s a precursor to the monster that is Bladecatcher. The odd radio sounding singing only makes the progression of scales and riffs sound even better. It’s a song that few bands can write, and Mastodon are one of them because they have fun with it. Mastodon know how to produce some of the most inventive music out there specifically because they know what makes people think “what the ***?!” That’s the beauty of a band like Mastodon. They can write songs that make one question their own musical compass or whether or not what they listen to really defines them. This is partially why it took me so long to decide whether Blood Mountain is an all time favorite.
Mastodon seem like pretty down-to-earth guys. They love the music they make and have never gone about writing to please fans. They write and play to please themselves. I should bring up that there was a big fear their sound would change. This came about since their switch from an independent record label to a major one. I would like to think this fear has since vanished. Blood Mountain won’t be remembered forever, and it certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but that’s not the message that music preaches. Music is a representation of self, what we listen to defines us. Blood Mountain won’t make history, but it will certainly change musical standards for those who listen hard enough.