"If I heard some kid call me a sellout, I'd punch his face in."
Very strong words there from Bill Kelliher, the guitarist of prog-metal inspired giants Mastodon. Taken from an AP interview with the band, Kelliher said this in reference to the band signing a deal with major label Warner Bros. Records, after releasing their last two albums on indie label Relapse Records. It seems that metal is making a progressive push towards the mainstream. Signings of big name metal acts such as Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb Of God (to Warner Brothers and Epic respectively) have caused many to condemn the metal bands signing to major labels as sellouts. So will Mastodon share the same fate by following suit?
Let's just say that if I hear some kid call Mastodon sellouts after listening to this, I'd probably punch his face in.
Mastodon's third full length studio offering, Blood Mountain, is insane. There's no way to better describe it than that it is sixty plus minutes of controlled chaos. Everything is up to par, musically and vocally. Some parts will make you scratch your head to the point where you're picking at your scalp. The Atlanta quartet has truly upped the ante to the point where it’s hard to think of something that actually was left out of this album.
As far as music goes, Mastodon has a very unique style, blending metal with prog, and throwing in drumming with jazz-style fills for good measure. Brann Dailor is one of the best drummers on the face of the earth, utilizing a small kit with unmatched skill in a genre where a kit with less than five cymbals is barely ever heard of. The album is chockfull of great riffs. Kelliher and fellow guitarist Brent Hinds scatter them everywhere, powering their playing with a perfect tone. If you listen hard enough, Troy Sanders' bass can be heard behind the guitars, and although they mostly follow the guitars, he sometimes branches away from the riffs. Sanders and Kelliher share vocal duties throughout the album, and while the vocals aren't anything too special, they fit the music perfectly.
There are too many highlights on this album to go into detail about them all, so I'll just have to go over a choice few cuts and why they are so good.
The Wolf Is Loose: You can't ask for a better opener to the album. Even the name fits perfectly, in reference to the beast Mastodon unleashes over the album. It opens with a fill on the drums and soon busts into a song that you could identify as being on Leviathan or Remission if you didn't know any better. There is a really nice harmonized riff about two-thirds of the way through the song. The chorus is extremely strong as are the post-choruses (at least that's what I'm calling them). A great opener for a great album.
Sleeping Giant: The guitar is the standout part of this track. It's one of the few songs where I can say the drums are completely overshadowed. It begins to build up in a serene state for a minute Then it's got a BEAUTIFUL lead line that just sounds so perfect you won't believe it at first. It stays completely calm for about the first minute and a half and then it slowly begins to progress. The lead line repeats again after the progression, and then everything has broken through to the peak by the four minute mark, and then at around 4:30, there's another genius lead line that repeats, and then the song fades out after that. The whole track is just mind-blowing.
Bladecatcher: It starts off and you think it’s going be just like the rest of the songs you've heard up to this point, with an extremely interesting intro riff. They begin to build up with distortion and then all hell breaks loose. For the next section, it is impossible to fully comprehend what is going on. It then has another harmonized line, which the bass can be heard very clearly under. It repeats both steps again. Then has another build-up followed by a fill, followed by them letting a note ring out on guitar. This is one of the most chaotic songs made outside of the grindcore genre.
Mastodon accomplished pretty much everything they needed to accomplish with this album. They kept the same basic sound and album structure that they used on their two prior releases and threw in great production and some creative measures to take their sound to a completely new level. How this album will react to the mainstream, who knows? It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Mastodon become the leaders of the metal after the release of Blood Mountain. One thing is for sure though: all of Mastodon's fans will love this album. It encompasses all of Mastodon's past sound and just expands on it to make one of the best albums in recent memory.
The Wolf Is Loose- 5/5
Crystal Skull- 4/5
Sleeping Giant- 5/5
Capillarian Crest- 4.5/5
Circle Of The Cysquatch- 4.5/5
The Colony Of Birchmen- 5/5
Hunters Of The Sky- 4/5
Hand Of Stone- 4.5/5
This Mortal Soil- 4/5
The Siberian Divide- 5/5
Pendulous Skin- 4.5/5
Overall Album Rating: 4.75