Leave it to JPEGMAFIA to create hip-hop that’s equal parts abrasive, experimental, and just plain bold. I guess it comes as no surprise when looking at his list of influences, which includes artists as stylistically disparate as Kanye West, Bjork, MF DOOM, and even Hanson. However, LP! might just be the best record of his career thus far: the balance between accessibility and risk-taking is at its strongest here, leading to a record that never stays in one place — musically or emotionally — for too long. “Hazardous Duty Pay!” and “Tired, Nervous & Broke!” bring out the aggro side of JPEG perfectly and manage to be two of the biggest bangers he’s ever put out, but it’s impressive that he’s able to juxtapose these songs so well with more tender, melancholic moments. You’ve got the gospel-inspired “What Kinda Rappin’ is This?”, the low-key vibes of “Thot’s Prayer!”, and even a goddamn Animals as Leaders sample on “End Credits!”. Moreover, LP! can be seen as JPEG’s “fuck you” to the hip-hop industry, which is even more apparent on the ‘(Offline)’ version, which he considers “the true LP!“. LP! largely acts as a commentary on exploitation and favoritism, as well as JPEG’s disillusion with an industry that “never had my best interest at heart.” Really, it’s no wonder that he wanted to go all-out with LP!, and thankfully, he did. –Brendan Schroer
29. Failure – Wild Type Droid
When I think of Failure, I think of a mountain. This comparison may sound very dumb, and frankly it is, but the band are simply too consistently (rock) solid to circumvent silly metaphors. While the landscape surrounding the iconic ’90s-grungegazerockers may have changed drastically, Failure’s sound remains firmly rooted in that which makes them great while showcasing the growth and erosion induced by the passing of seasons. Wild Type Droid is no exception: it’s every bit as hard-hitting, well-written, and bass-y as every other record by the band, yet encompasses more varied flavours of timelessly outdated alternative rock. “Mercury Mouth” features a massive chorus in dire need of a stadium, whereas “Headstand” offers a wonderful take on space-y mid-tempo dad rock. Closing cut “Half Moon” might just be Failure’s most explicitly pretty track yet, subverting expectations by drowning a typically heartfelt acoustic number in distorted guitars to enhance the song’s ethereal qualities. Wild Type Droid is nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s simply incredible at packaging familiarities in ten wonderfully written, entirely addictive songs. –Jesper L.
28. Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Noktvrn
There couldn’t be a better title for Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s fifth album than Noktvrn. To quote the Wikipedia definition (only the best…), a nocturne is “a musical composition inspired by, or evocative of, the night.” By adding a playful ‘trve’ twist to this classical music-evoking word (most-famously associated with Frederic Chopin), this German band have captured the essence of their latest venture’s style.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit have always been one of the more creative groups within their atmo black metal niche, and every one of their accomplished records has captured a certain unique feeling compared to the others. That said, Noktvrn feels remarkably ambitious, even compared to predecessor Finisterre, itself one of the strongest metal albums in recent years. While I’d argue that not everything on the new album works perfectly, it’s a laudable effort that maintains the band’s hard-won reputation for always delivering excellence. As the title and artwork suggests, Der Weg Einer Freiheit pursue an “after-dark” theme, with all the diversity that can entail. There’s despair, gloom, and a touch of romance, featuring black metal, post-rock, and tinges of classical and folk, infused with potent melodies. Songs like “Immortal” and “Haven” stray further from the band’s bread-and-butter than ever before, but they stand tall alongside the more traditional fare.
When all is said and done, Noktvrn probably isn’t Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s best work (Finisterre still claims that title), but it’s a worthy follow-up which should and probably will merit further acclaim for its talented creators. The Bavarian black metallers have been one of the most consistent bands in all of metal for the last decade, and their latest stroke has been to craft an intriguing and surprisingly emotional set of tunes. After all, I didn’t think I’d be referencing Chopin in a black metal blurb, but here we are. –Sunnyvale
26 (tie). Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
Wolf Alice’s widescreen Blue Weekend is crowd-pleasing melodrama at its absolute finest. Constantly aiming for the stars, it’s full of moments that should be ridiculous, and perhaps are, but manage to be perfectly genuine. For example, between pulsing strings and chiming guitars of “Lipstick on the Glass”, the heavens part during the bridge as omniscient prose condemns from above, “You know nothing would have needed deciding / Had you just simply asked.” Iconic. And on “How Can I Make It OK?”, they manage to flip an Enya-like vocal line into what’s destined to be an arena-rock anthem. Point is, these moments don’t just work; they’re consistently the best on the album. The record is like the best mid-brow action pictures, crammed with too many ideas and opulent style but knowing the exact right tone to aim for.
This tonal control is primarily thanks to the powerhouse performance of Ellie Rowsell and the lyrics’ constant earnestness. The band’s willingness to run headfirst into the biggest sounds and wildest notions they can think of is commendable; even more so, their command of melody that allows their brashness to pay off. There’s a beauty to the bigness of Wolf Alice’s latest that is simply inescapable. –neekafat
26 (tie). Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
Deafheaven: love ’em or hate ’em, right? Right… but what if there were a middle ground? What if every album by the band is at least good, but still falls victim to several issues that appear, at this point in time, to define the band’s career? More concretely, it can be said that, while Deafheaven are undeniably excellent performers, their greatest strength is the music’s ability to universalise particulars, for better or worse. According to the band, Infinite Granite was going to be a full-scale foray into shoegaze, sparking worries among fans and nuanced, middle ground-dwelling, casual listeners. Would it end up bland and derivative?
Yes and no. Simply put, Infinite Granite is a shoegaze-tinged dad rock album that finds its quality in genuinely pretty moments and its ability to be enjoyed by just about anyone. It’s an album that refuses to succumb to gaze purism (those vocals are very clear), instead focusing on crafting highly-digestible soundscapes and adhering to the Deafheaven™ level of quality. As such, its ability to package its sounds into a universally enjoyable album overshadows Infinite Granite‘s shortcomings: why complain about “Great Mass of Colour” overstaying its welcome when the guitars twinkle so brightly; why highlight “Other Language” lacking any real bite when the drums intertwine so delightfully? Five LPs deep, Deafheaven are persistently reinventing themselves while retaining a respectable level of quality. Perhaps they’re a good band? –JesperL x Sunnyvale
25. Sweet Trip – A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals
“Sure, I’d be honored to write about the album of the year… what do you mean it’s only #25?” –YoYoMancuso, paraphrased
Sweet Trip have been building toward the triumph that is A Tiny House… for their entire career. Velocity;Design;Comfort, while groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting, finds itself a bit too sprawling and scatterbrained to be a true classic 18 years down the line; even Roberto Burgos himself says he wishes it were about 15 minutes shorter. After over a decade of silence, he and Valerie Cooper have crafted their masterpiece, a lush, patient, and heavenly record that blends every positive aspect of the band’s previous output into a cohesive whole. Not a second is wasted from the opening explosion of “Tiny Houses” to the final breathtaking motif of “At Last A Truth That Is Real”, with Burgos and Cooper packing every nook and cranny of the album with sugary hooks, ethereal tones, and borderline flawless production. It’s as if they never left, and this time around, I really hope they stay. –Jack Mancuso
24. Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana
I vividly remember that very day: 20th of August, the best release day of the year in retrospect (no, Infinite Granite, you are not part of my reasoning). After hearing the initial singles, I was certain of Primordial Arcana‘s superiority: the riffs, the mystical atmosphere and a perfectly enjoyable production were all there — and my instinct turned out to be correct. Spinning the whole album for the first time absolutely confirmed that Primordial Arcana is indeed an excellent work. Like a flawless continuation of their previous release, Thrice Woven, the band’s latest offering follows the same atmospheric and folk-spirited style, carefully operating with excellent riffs and ethereal ambience, resulting in a gorgeous and outstandingly consistent album. This year, the Weaver brothers and Kody Keyworth have presented arguably one of the best black metal records of the year, and at least for me, undoubtedly the best Wolves in the Throne Room album to date. –Grump
23. Black Country, New Road – For the first time
If I could use one word to describe For the first time, it would be ‘paranoid.’ Descending into its frenetic musical environment introduces you to a world of unpredictable arrangements, the lapping flames of dissonance, and the unmistakable narration of Isaac Wood, polarizing for both his vocal delivery and lyrical style. For the entirety of 2021, a mountain of praise has been heaped upon the gorgeous “Track X”, no doubt the outlier on such a volatile and tense record. This praise is absolutely deserved, but I’d also counter that For the first time is most successful as its ugliest. After what seems like an eternity of steadily propulsive crescendoing, “Instrumental” soars for the skies with a rhythmically and melodically dizzying saxophone solo that draws a road map with each note for how this album is going to sink its hooks into you. I’ll admit that a considerable amount of time passed before I took to “Science Fair”, but I found myself buying in due to how committed the band is on this cut: Wood sounds absolutely unhinged, and the titanic payoff of the final minute is worth every penny.
For the first time certainly depicts a band experiencing growing pains, but is also able to depict a band overflowing with creativity because of this. We’re only a few weeks out from the release of Ants From Up There, a record whose singles seem to suggest a more polished and layered sound. Despite the appeal of such a change, the rawness of For the first time works in its favor, and closes the book on an unforgettable first chapter of BC,NR’s career. –Jack Mancuso
22. The Armed – ULTRAPOP
The Armed have been around for well over a decade, but seem to have been a band that only critics ever talked about. I guess making a pop record — well, The Armed’s version of a pop record — is what it took to get some of your attention. ULTRAPOP truly lives up to its name, taking the catchy melodies and song structures from pop music and amplifying them to extreme levels of intensity, displaying a fascinating duality of harsh and ethereal sounds. Layered underneath the gritty wall of distortion are droning guitar riffs, shimmering synth leads, and hooks that are catchy as hell. It’s fast, it’s overwhelming, and it’s an ear-shattering experience not for the faint of heart. But what may sound like a microwave spaghetti explosion to many listeners is a perfectly-layered lasagna dish to whomever chooses to listen closely enough to hear the beauty within the chaos. –Prancer
21. Origami Angel – GAMI GANG
In recent times, pop-punk has become vaguely synonymous with ‘nostalgia.’ The genre hasn’t been innovating (shocker!), and its main players have all turned 30, 40 or 50 by now. As such, the nostalgia many of these pop-punk sadbois (not to be confused with sad boys) of yesteryesteryear have been indulging in is the bad kind: the kind you sure as hell shouldn’t be singing about when you’re not fifteen anymore. Thankfully, Origami Angel aren’t such sadbois: if anything, they’re the happiest, cheesiest, corniest bois you’ll ever meet. Therefore, the band opt for the good kind of nostalgia on GAMI GANG (all caps please). Like a pack of excited golden retrievers on their way to retrieve some very nice treats, the duo blast through mathy riffs upon peppy drum fills while recalling childhood memories of eating fast food in bed and playing video games in the backseat. The record’s innocence is adorable: Origami Angel are having a palpable blast and invite anyone willing to listen on a journey of twinkles and Twinkies. Motherfuckin’ GAMI GANG ayoo!!!!! –Jesper L.
20. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
After a run of impressive singles with much promise, Spiritbox were one of the most anticipated metal acts to release an album in 2021. With Eternal Blue, the group continues their progressive metalcore style mixed with atmospheric melody and builds upon it, crafting both tracks of intensity as well as beauty. Spiritbox equally display their heaviness and melodic capabilities through Eternal Blue, providing listeners with moments of ferocious instrumentation and breaks of ambient harmonies. Despite the varying musical aspects, the record doesn’t feel disjointed throughout its duration. In fact, the duality of intensity and beauty provide a captivating contrast of the two styles, feeling as if the band allows the record to naturally progress and build off of itself. Eternal Blue is just the beginning of what’s to come for Spiritbox. –Tyler W.
19. Converge & Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I
Converge and Chelsea Wolfe collaborate, a good album comes into existence: not exactly surprising, right? Here’s the thing, though: Bloodmoon: I isn’t quite as intensely dark and heavy as many were expecting. Mind you, it’s still very much both of those things, but relies on moments of silence and enthrallingly catchy melodies to achieve its seemingly boundless atmosphere. As Wolfe applies her gloomy melodies to Converge’s typically frantic riffage on songs like “Lord of Liars”, it’s the brief breaks between guitar licks and spacious production that constructs the true sensation of Bloodmoon. “Scorpion’s Sting” adds unambiguous touches of light to the record’s sludgy tones, allowing the musicians to implement a surprising and delightfully disheveled interplay of guitar and bass towards the track’s end. It’s such moments that display the value in the collaborative effort. The project is not merely a combination of the artists’ established sounds; it’s an opportunity to explore new territory and embrace the fluidity that arrives with the novel lineup. Bloodmoon is a concretely massive album that feels like the start of something even bigger: as the ‘I’ in the title implies, there is more to come. Be excited, be intimidated. –Jesper L.
17 (tie). Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth
This is the user list. Famously. Thus, I posed a question to our dear old friends at sputnikmusic dot com: “How would you describe Genesis Owusu’s Smiling with No Teeth in three words?” The replies came quick and steady; I adjusted my lens. “Slick and cool,” said one chap. “Playful funky-neo soul,” claimed a dolphin in a bra. And, perhaps most succinctly, “Shit fucking slaps.” That it does. Thus, the consensus is clear and pretty much has been all over the internet since its release: Genesis Owusu killed it with this debut, which is both massive in sound and statement. Sure, there were naysayers. “Could be better,” asserted one ignoramus. Ignore that, though — they’re wrong. If anything, it’s a miracle Smiling with No Teeth didn’t fold under the weight of its own genre-blending ambition. Rarely does an album with this much variety in sound succeed, and rarely is it an artist’s blooming first. Hopping between influence at a hefty pace, Owusu wears inspiration on his sleeve in a bastard-mix of familiar sounds. A muse melted and moulded, or something like that, into a sound that is comprehensively his. Take “Drown” for example. The initial verse on this sounds lifted from a cheesy Bryan Adams hit, but then a slowthai-esque blend of more stilted-punk enunciation comes in and it all begins to click. Genesis Owusu emerged as a breath of fresh air even within what is indisputably a great time for hip-hop. This is one of the most promising debuts seen for a long time. –callum theatre
17 (tie). Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready
Few artists translate pain as effectively and intriguingly as Lingua Ignota. For four albums straight, she has been making some of the most bewildering, violent, and downright haunting music to process trauma, grief, and grieve. 2021’s SINNER GET READY separates itself from the pack by being less aggressive, more perplexing, and occasionally exceptionally beautiful. Not solely the kind of ambiguous beauty that can be felt behind Lingua Ignota’s tortured screams of past records, but also the kind that actually sounds pretty — adding a greater sense of immediacy to the record. Weaving a complex narrative detailing emotional and physical abuse by means of accounts of religious extremism, anti-vaxxers and occultism, she employs a network of undistinguished storytellers persistently overlapping and further convoluting SINNER GET READY. Yet, there is an eerie clarity to what is being communicated: reframing the words of a televangelist in the gorgeous piano-centric “PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA”, meanings of religious figures as well as the notion of ‘washing,’ whether this be in blood or in water, are distorted to indicate one thing: pain is perpetually inescapable and inevitable.
As such, SINNER GET READY can be interpreted as a remarkable exercise of strength. Underneath all its complexities and deliberately alienating sonic choices, a tale of survival can be identified. Every haunting moment, from the shrieks of “Just kill him / You have to / I’m not asking” to “MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER”‘s masterful final buildup, is complemented by fragments of pure vulnerability. “THE SACRED LINAMENT OF JUDGMENT” features some of the most pristine tones Lingua Ignota has ever implemented in her music, and appears to sum up the record in seven words: “With joy, I dance around the abyss.” The joy may not be actual joy, but the abyss is unlikely to solely comprise an actual drop into the void: SINNER GET READY finds vitality in ambiguity and strength through all that has transpired, positive or negative. –Jesper L.
16. Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse
We all knew Ad Nauseam had something special when they debuted in 2015 with Nihil Quam…‘s off-kilter brand of Obscura-era Gorguts tomfoolery, but while the overt glimmers of a truly unique sound were still in a larval state on that truly brilliant album, the hints of something genuinely innovative were constantly stirring just beyond sight. Fast-forward six long years and Imperative Imperceptible Impulse has all but eviscerated any doubts that this Italian troop’s skills lay far beyond the tropes of a usual dissonant/tech death outfit. The heavy classical influences of pioneering composers like Penderecki, Stravinsky, Xenakis and the likes, have, this time around, dominated the forefront of their curious tuning and theory, resulting in a wholly incomparable and utterly challenging sonic ritual from a world well beyond our understanding. Wrap that hyperbole up in the most nuanced production job a death metal album has ever enjoyed, and you’ve got a fine recipe for a bona fide boundary-smashing work of extreme art. –Evok
15. BRUIT – The Machine is Burning…
With their debut album, French foursome BRUIT delivered exactly what the post-rock scene has been in need of: a varied, emotionally-charged opus that challenges the genre’s conventions from consistently rewarding angles. Opener “Industry” dispels any notion of delayed gratification in less than two minutes. A wailing string section and reverb-laden guitars careen off of Julien Aoufi’s ferocious drumming, and the listener is treated to that rarest of pleasures: an epic post-rock track with real groove to it. From there, “Renaissance” steadily unspools into outright acoustic beauty before bulking up into a rollicking synth-laden climax featuring another standout drum performance from Aoufi. “Amazing Old Tree” pairs the dreamiest, loosest ambience the album has to offer with its harshest, most cutting political commentary; if this album leaves you with only one thing, it will be that “95% of the standing native forest of the United States has been cut down. It’s not radical to try and save the last 5% — what’s radical is logging 95%.” Altogether, these three tracks represent a reinvention of post-rock’s possibilities and a consolidation of its strengths, bolstering the same sense for atmosphere and long-form dynamics with energy and immediacy, with intricacy and depth, and with a righteous anger the genre has to make do without all too often. Though the closing title track may comprise the most straightforward build-release songwriting across the album, it also drives home a key point: BRUIT know the rules, and they know how to break them. I can’t wait to see what they break next. –Nic Renshaw
Once in a while, you come across a band that comes out of nowhere and completely blindsides you. Well, in 2021, BRUIT ≤ were that band. Hailing from Toulouse, France, these post-rock newcomers crafted a debut LP so immersive and wonderfully constructed that you’d swear they’d been around and making records for years. The Machine is Burning and Now Everyone Knows it Could Happen Again (which I will be abbreviating from here on out) is a beautiful fusion of post-rock and modern classical music, partially indebted to veteran post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor yet retaining its own distinct identity. What makes BRUIT ≤ so special is that they’re able to experiment with so many different sounds and styles while managing to keep their music coherent. “Industry”, for instance, manages to feature a trap beat that somehow doesn’t sound out of place with its ambient passages and classical elements. The name of the game here is seamless juxtaposition, something BRUIT ≤ are shockingly good at pulling off; still, the best fusion on offer is that of classical and electronica. Much like Ulver before them, the commitment to bringing these disparate worlds together is both admirable and incredibly well-executed. The Machine is Burning… is easily the best sleeper hit in post-rock this year, and a record that manages to top Godspeed’s last few albums with ease. –Brendan Schroer
14. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G-d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
Godspeed have officially bounced back with not only the greatest album title of the decade so far, but also their most cohesive and realized effort since Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. For better or worse, it still uses the script from that 2012 record for inspiration, situating two feverish interludes in between the peaks and valleys of the two mammoth cuts that dominate the album’s runtime. The band’s trademark elegiac style of post-rock is still present throughout, but there is much to be said about their pivot into a more triumphant and hopeful sound, especially juxtaposed against the current state of the world. Bleak moments abound, particularly toward the midpoint of the record, but we’ve never heard Godspeed as at peace as they are on “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN”, which earns a much-deserved nod in my book as the best interstitial movement this new era of the band has released.
Context aside, the band are also rocking with an energy we haven’t seen from them in almost a decade. The climaxes of “Job’s Lament” and “Cliffs Gaze” speak for themselves. I’ve never thought I’d be grateful for G_d’s Pee, but here we are. Life comes at you fast. –Jack Mancuso
13. Between the Buried and Me – Colors II
For better or for worse, 2021 was a complex year. For better or for worse, Colors II is a complex album. It’s a strange word, complex: if you’re trying to solve a math problem or a global health crisis, it won’t sound like music to your ears, whereas if you’re into math-y guitar work and lyrics about extinctions… it just might. Between the Buried and Me know how to play their instruments complexily. In doing so, Between the Buried and Me know how to capture your attention. Between the Buried and Me know how to unite. Between the Buried and Me know how to work the lyric “ground control to minor 3rds” into some insane riffage while keeping some of the straightest faces you have ever seen. Between the Buried and Me know who and what they are: complex. –Jesper L.
12. Trophy Scars – Astral Pariah
Astral Pariah sees Trophy Scars completely transform while still retaining all of what makes them Trophy Scars. Calling them post-hardcore at this point is fairly disingenuous. While there still may be tinges of that genre, particularly in Jerry Jones’s Tom-Waits-But-If-He-Were-A-Pirate vocal styling, their first offering in seven years embraces the blues more than they ever have before, as well as Southern rock and surprising amounts country, albeit all much ‘heavier’ versions of each of those genres. While this description may seem disheartening to longtime fans of the band, the concept of Astral Pariah is what clearly makes this a Trophy Scars album. Astral Pariah is story of the Vampiric Cowboy, who is on a vengeance-fueled journey in post-Civil War California to murder every member of his family one by one. As the omniscient observer, we get to be immersed in the perspective of each family member at the time of their deaths. If this concept sounds absolutely ridiculous, that’s because it is. There is a saxophone solo as our anti-hero holds a gun in his sister’s mouth and counts down to her death, there’s a “Do it, you won’t” moment from the father as a fiddle breakdown happens in tandem with echoing vocals, and if you close your eyes during the blistering guitar solo in “Brother” you can essentially picture the West Side Story-esque dance fight that should be set to the music. Even if you completely ignored the lyrics (which is not advised) the new sound that Trophy Scars have created so clearly paints this dark Western setting in a vivid way that absolutely enhances their already brilliant penchant for storytelling.
All of these over-the-top aspects somehow come together to create an incredibly grounded album. Within the absurdity of Astral Pariah is a number of beautifully human moments, as the entire concept is essentially an allegory on the classic concept of nature vs. nurture. In “Mother”, our cowboy’s mother continues to call her son her “infant love and baby darling,” wondering where she went wrong raising him, all while indirectly answering the question by mocking and denigrating him and perhaps more directly answering by attempting to shoot her son with a sawed-off shotgun. “Father (Part II)” is one of the most musically striking songs across the band’s whole discography with its ethereal strings, twinkling piano and percussion creating a Southern Rock eleven o’clock number that has a raw burst of emotion ushered in by Jones’s trademark screams. Lyrically, the song is, at its core, about the trauma of being raised by narcissistic parents, with the final minute creating a painfully authentic moment in what, when all is said and done, is an absolutely ludicrous album on paper. Even with the changes to their sound, Astral Pariah evens out their absurdity and campiness with just the right amount of artistry and seriousness, making this undoubtedly a peak Trophy Scars album. –Mathias
11. Mastodon – Hushed and Grim
Here it is: the 2021 Sputnikmusic.com staff album of the year! While this pick caught a fair amount of flack from those arguing that Hushed and Grim is quite far from the best album of the year, I thought immediately that the result was appropriate. After all, Mastodon has always been a consensus band, par excellence. What I mean is that, while relatively few music fans cite Mastodon as their all-time favorite band, there’s long been widespread consensus among metal-loving contingents that they are a great band. Hushed and Grim takes that observation a step further, as the veterans have created an album that blends the preeminent features of their varied eras into a cohesive work appealing to nearly all fans, regardless of their preferences towards a certain side or era of Mastodon’s sound. As such, the group have retreated a bit from the radio-rock tendencies of some of their recent releases, but the music remains less extreme than early records like Leviathan. In turn, the band haven’t fully embraced a return to progressive metal a la Crack the Skye, but there are certainly traces (just listen to “Skeleton of Splendor”). Finally, there’s some of the metallic grit that old-school Mastodon listeners are looking for as well, especially on ripping tracks like “Savage Lands”. Add in an increased blues influence and a surprisingly emotional undertone, and you have an album with extremely broad appeal, both among avid metalheads of all stripes and dabblers in heavy music.
The whole last paragraph can be interpreted as underhanded praise, but it’s really not intended as such. Even if one wants to argue that Mastodon “took the easy route” or some such formulation by trying to appeal to all listeners at once, it’s hard to deny their latest has a pretty high standard of quality. Sure, this double album doesn’t quite justify its massive (nearly ninety minute) runtime, but I can count on one hand the number of double albums in the history of music that manage to fully accomplish that feat. For the (ambitious) chosen format, Hushed and Grim has undeniably accomplished what Mastodon evidently set out to do: providing listeners with a giant slab of tunes that demonstrate where the band is today, which additionally double well as a recap of the varied paths the group has trod (what a long strange trip it’s been). Mastodon’s back, baby — or maybe they never left! –Sunnyvale