Review Summary: An excellent look into the birth of one of America's most interesting metal bands.
To those of you who are avid Mastodon fans and know about their past songs and material, you would notice that Mastodon has taken songs from their Lifesblood EP
and put them back on here. You may be thinking that this would just be a reissue of their past materials, but it's much more than that. The band has taken their old songs and given them a much better mix so they sound far better than they used to. There are also some other previously unreleased songs that you only would have heard if you saw them in concert.
In terms of how this album sounds, lets just say that it's a lot different from their newest and very popular album Leviathan
. That album, while still being very superb, is not the best example of what Mastodon really is. They're a band that will create chaos amongst insane drumming, downtuned riffs, and a vocal delivery that will leave you sweating after the album is done. This album, while being only about 28 minutes in length, is enjoyable from start to finish and is the prime example of what Mastodon really is to the world.
Musically, this album is quite interesting. While most drummers would take the role of being the beat keeper of the group, Brann doesn't. Most of the time he's playing some incredibly fast and technical fills while the guitars and bass maintain order throughout the song. It's absolutely amazing to listen to Brann play, as he is always coming up with creative drum parts and blistering blast beats that would make most metal drummers cringe. He also only plays on a typical single bass drum set with only three toms, which makes it even more impressive to hear him play. He even gets a very awesome drum solo in the interlude of the very powerful "Battle at Sea".
The guitar riffs have both their good and bad parts, but mostly good. Brent and Bill are great at locking in and playing guitar parts reminiscent of Slayer, and then quickly switching to a cleaner but still evil sounding part. As far as creativity goes, these guys are at the head of their game in the metal world. Their style of riffing is far different than most metal bands and it's something new and fresh to listen to. Their style of chord changes is very interesting because they would make changes that most bands would not dare doing, but they still manage to make it sound musically sane and fresh. Their tuning is also very low; you'll often hear them play some very low notes, like on the chugging riffs in "Call of the Mastodon" or the baritone guitar intro in "Battle at Sea". The best riff in the entire album has to be at 0:28 in the song "Slickleg". It's creative, catchy, and will leave you headbanging for hours on end.
As far as bass goes, nothing too special happens on this album. Troy is usually laying down a good backing groove for the band to maintain order over. His vocals are also very present, as he is constantly laying down some incredibly heavy screams that practically sound like death metal. They're very cool and he's still an important member of the Mastodon crew.
After all of this praise, what goes wrong on this album? For one, their creativity may sometimes get the best of them. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you necessarily should. Mastodon will sometimes play a really bizarre riff or sing/scream in a style that just isn't pleasing to the ear. Some examples of this would be in the song "We Built This Come Death" where the chorus is filled with weird, nasally vocals that just make me cringe and go to the next song. Behind those atrocious vocals are guitar riffs that just keep going down a half-step at a time which just doesn't fit in at all. After that, the song just continues on with blast beats and crazy pinch harmonic-filled riffage. It's just an awful song and brings the album down quite a lot. There are some other examples of bad riffs, but I'd rather not list them all. I'll just leave it at that their creativity may sometimes get the best of them.
Shadows That Move
- This song is a killer opener that grabs you by the throat as soon as you put the CD in. It's chock full of crunchy, heavy riffs that will keep you banging your head for the entire time. The song also features some timing and tempo changes which almost give it a progressive feel. It's a very good song.
Battle at Sea
- The best song on the album. This song beings with some very haunting clean guitars that keep you interested until the band's full fury is unleashed upon you. From there on the song is filled with a catharsis of anger and hatred that few other bands can match. The screams are perfect, the riffs are crushing and the drums always amaze. It's simply a mind-blowing track.
- This song contains some odd and dissonant riffs that are fun to listen to until you get to the best riff on the entire album which I mentioned earlier. That riff alone makes this song a highlight, but everything else on here is solid too. It's another great song that doesn't fail to impress.
Call of the Mastodon
- Usually the title track of an album would be one of the best, and this is no exception. This song is another roller coaster of downtuned guitar riffs that keep you throwing up the horns. The song also features multiple time changes, from 6/4 to 4/4 to 3/4, showing off their skills as musicians. The dual lead guitars on here are also awesome to listen to. A great way to end the album.
-- Very inventive and musically brilliant in most parts
-- A great way to see how Mastodon got started
-- The drums are simply amazing
-- Good production quality
-- The vocals will sometimes be annoying and noisome
-- Guitar riffs may sometimes be weird and will not make musical sense
-- This album may be too heavy for some listeners
Final Rating: 4/5