Blood Mountain



by Iluvatar EMERITUS
September 14th, 2006 | 114 replies

Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A tepid exercise from Mastodon attempting to expand their traditional metal sound with more of the jazz, progressive and extreme metal facets; in the end, it's a bloated and repetitive record.

Mastodon is supposedly some sort of savior of modern metal. Not quite mainstream, not quite extreme, they seem to strike a perfect balance between what is easily listen-able and what is actually powerful or moving. The mold classic (or, perhaps, cliché) metal elements with slight progressive tinges, for a sound that some consider to be pioneering or, in the very least, unique. Blood Mountain is the latest release from Mastodon, and it has been highly heralded in merely its first week of release. Is it a unique sound in mainstream metal" Yes. Is it really any good" No so much, unfortunately.

It’s obvious Mastodon try to accomplish something with their music. They are constantly “experimenting,” or at least trying to give everything its own unique sound on the album. Everything has as much production value thrown at it as humanly possible, and thus causes none of the songs to sound alike. The thing is, when every single guitar part sounds like a garbled mess, and every vocal take sounds like Ozzy through a ***ty vocorder or a fetus being smothered, it ends up being completely un-enjoyable.

The production is merely there to mask what an incredibly repetitive album this is. Yes, there are some moments of clarity, but for the most part they really don’t variate from the basics much. The guitarists constantly play boring riffs with a few good, and are generally just monotony embodied. The distorted guitar assault is passable on a few tracks where the energy is high enough to keep you distracted (“The Wolf is Loose” is undeniably energetic, for example), but for the most part it becomes tiring. It varies from spacey on “Sleeping Giant”, to almost blues-y on “Pendulous Skin,” and then for the most part variations on the same basic playing techniques they’ve always relied on. It’s no surprise “Sleeping Giant” and “Pendulous Skin” stick out more than anything else.

Mastodon has the tendency to also be called progressive, and while the title isn’t completely unjustified, it hardly fits very well. Drummer Brann Dailor can be mostly attributed to this, as his playing style constantly switches between hardcore-influenced rhythm playing to messy and derivative jazz-styled opuses. Dailor obviously has skill; the opening fill to “The Wolf is Loose” is a perfect way to open up such a sprawling and out-of-whack album. However, he often just goes where he will with little regard to the rest of the band, and is a large distraction from the actual songs. Often he goes completely against the grain of what everyone else is dong, and in a band that relies on melody as much as Mastodon, Dailor’s off time and “take no prisoners” drumming style just detracts from what really isn’t there already; a strong sense of cohesion.

See, the band also tinkers with expansive ambient musical intros and interludes, such as the opening to “Pendulous Skin”, where some nifty synth work toys with the soft acoustic guitar, which easily slips into the extremely sludge-y and equally space-y main body. However, they don’t take advantage of it well enough; while more than a few songs feature such a facet, its never anywhere besides the intro, and thus it becomes expected for each song to have some sort of flowing introduction.

It’s a shame, as the songs themselves could certainly use a few musical interludes themselves. Mastodon varies up what they do in every song by making frequent tempo changes, but never anything too drastic, thus keeping a sense of flowing continuity. However, Mastodon don’t have the sense to notice that their songs seem to just plod on without anything really interesting happening, sans an occasional flare of guitar creativity (aka not just continually doing hammer-on’s), and so as each song goes on for longer and longer, it’s easy to just become disinterested in the whole thing.

The lyrical concept of the album is, to put it simply, stupid. Yes, it’s easily disregardable and just as easy to just take in Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher’s vocals as merely another instrument in the fold, but what fun is that" The vocal effects they use on every single song are laughable (from the Ozzy impersonation to the Poison-like production on “Pendulous Skin) and severely distract from any credibility they have, and often don’t even sound very good with the instrumental tracks. The lyrics are the main problem though; like Leviathan, this is a concept album, albeit instead of a huge whale they now discuss a man driven insane by being stuck on a mountain and his search for the “Crystal Skull.” Or something. Honestly, it was so overly dense and pretentious I could barely get through reading the lyrics to these songs, as everything is done in stereotypical metal/thrash language or silly metaphors. Quadrophenia, this is not.

As a whole, the album suffices itself. The band has talent, they just don’t take advantage of it enough here, and instead try to overreach what they can do by throwing in haphazard progressive elements and a drummer who just wants to hit things as much as humanly possible. They work better when they’re all in synch, such as “Colony of Birchmen,” where the band puts in a great hard rock song complete with operatic vocal elements and with drummer Dailor actually sticking to keeping the beat and just contributing the occasional fill. When they reach for new heights, it’s hit or miss; “Sleeping Giant” is an excellent song that really shows what they can do when they just take their metal sound and lightly coat in prog influence. Then there’s trash like “The Siberian Divide”, which could very well be menacing and creepy if not for the cookie monster vocals, and “Pendulous Skin,” which absolutely screams bad 80’s metal in the vein of, yes, Poison.

Thus, I can’t truly recommend the album in full. If they had perhaps cut each song down to 3 minutes, 4 at absolute tops, the album would be a far more enjoyable listen without all that extra crap. Songs trudge along like nothings happening…because nothing really is. It’s all an exercise in futility, as the guitarists flash that they can play brilliant technical parts but stick to repetitive riffs; the bassist does nothing at all to even worth being mentioned; the drummer shows how great he can be, but then overdoes it 70% of the time, and the singers just…suck. In the end, it’s 50 minutes of okay modern metal that is a more of an indication of something greater than the next step. Which is a shame, because the video for “The Wolf is Loose” should really have a better album for it to be supporting.

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    With this release, Mastodon has proved that they are the current masters of Prog. Progress...

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    Mastodon are this generation's Black Sabbath.... bar none, and Blood Mountain sets out to ...

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    Blood Mountain won't make history, but it will certainly change musical standards for thos...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
September 14th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

You couldn't be more wrong, but you stated your opinion decently.

September 14th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I gotta hear this.

Just to form an opinion of it.

September 14th 2006


Word. Good work.

Brain Dead
September 14th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I used to have the same opinion as you, Iluvatar, but repeated listens got me to really love these guys. If you listen to them more, the same may be true for you. All the same, good work, although I find your criticism of Brann Dailor completely unfounded. Name one instance where his drumming is a distraction.

September 14th 2006


My friend showed me one of these songs pn his ipod during marching band but i odn't know the song. it was pretty good.

September 14th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

I was gonna say, how the hell many reviews of this album do we need?

But I'm glad we've got a different perspective on it now. Good work.

Oh, I like it. But Remission is still their best if you ask me. I kind of agree with this review.

September 14th 2006


i've yet to form an opinion on this album as i haven't listened to it enough. but from what i remember the drumming was ace. the music does get a bit repetitive by the end though.

one problem i find with the review is that the whole time i think you only focused on about three or four songs, mostly Pendulous Skin and Sleeping Giant. but yeah its good to have differing opinions.

September 14th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

decent work, although you tend to ramble directionless through the whole review. good writing though, so it gets my vote

September 15th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

i don't think i've ever disagreed so hard with any other review here on Sputnik, but alas its your opinion.

although you seem like you're out on a vengeance more than anything

September 15th 2006


Like others I don't really agree with the review, but your written expression is a joy to read at times. So the review gets my vote.

September 15th 2006


Good review, but I really enjoyed this album.

September 15th 2006


It's only been officially out for three days and it's already massively overrated.

Guess I won't be masturbating to it like everyone else.

September 15th 2006


I enjoyed this review because it sums up my feeling for Mastodon exactly. A hard working band they may be, but they really cannot write a song that holds my interest.

In short, the saviours of metal they are not.

Zesty Mordant
September 15th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

saw these guys live a couple of nights ago, fucking unreal show.

I'll be back later to weigh in my opinion on this album, but I know so far that its neither this rating nor all the fanboy reviews that have given it a 5.

Great review

Activista anti-MTV
September 15th 2006


Spelling errors, there are. Good review, it is.

September 15th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

this review almost seems as though it was written for the sake of writing a negative review. its beyond my comprehension how anyone can view brann's drumming as anything other than at least great!!!

September 15th 2006


[quote=spoon of grimbo]my review almost seems as though it was written for the sake of masturbaating. its beyond my comprehension how i can view brann's drumming as jizztasic!!![/quote]

September 15th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

I agree with this review 100%. The album was nothing special at all. They'd find a good riff or rhythm in a song and suddenly throw in some vocal effect or jazz line that made absolutely no sense. It seemed to me that they tried way too hard to take average metal and differentiate themselves from other bands by using pointless effects.

Dried Muffin Remnants
September 16th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

This album is definitely masturbatory in more ways than one but not in the literal sense LOL.

But yes, I feel that there is too much shoved down by throat and I feel nothing after each song. Leviathan blew me away though.

September 18th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

This guy is the kind of guy who doesn't dare to listen to something different, and Brann playing is absolutely great, saying "Often he goes completely against the grain of what everyone else is dong", its one of those things that makes this album really interesting

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