In honour of the release of their seventh LP Emperor of Sand this Friday, we’re celebrating all things Mastodon this week. One of the finest 21st century metal bands, the Georgian quartet’s career has been markedly consistent; not without flaws, but nevertheless focussed and of exceptional quality
Where better to start than with a primer for each of their previous six studio albums?
Next up: the Billboard 200-busting, major breakthrough:
(2006) Reprise Records
If Mastodon’s first two albums represented the elements of fire and water, then Blood Mountain is the earth album; a muddy, gore-soaked stomp up a big ol’ pile of riffs.
Bridging stormy breakthrough Leviathan and the seminal Crack The Skye , there are elements of what was and what would come to be sprinkled across its rocky surface – and it is rocky, in more than concept. The sonic quality of the record can feel a bit mishmash at times – there are brushes with acid, math rock and psychedelia - but it’s to its credit that it nevertheless feels like a complete piece.
The concept itself is only really loosely important. Flashes of story are present – a quest object (“Crystal Skull“), strange creatures (“Circle of Cysquatch” and “Colony Of Birchmen“) and reaching the crest of the mountain (“This Mortal Soil“) – but unless you’re paying close attention, you’ll probably miss the specifics. Nevertheless, the album’s tone is relatively consistent, in that you never quite feel only steady footing; like you’ve eaten a wild mushroom you probably shouldn’t have. It’s quite exhilarating.
“Colony Of Birchmen“
Going through some of the inspirations for the record is quite fascinating. “Crystal Skull” was conceived of by Brann Dailor after watching King Kong; a scene involving tribal drumming inspired the song’s iconic opening, and apparently Dailor had to leave the theatre to call his answer machine and record riff ideas.
If not many people’s favourite overall, Blood Mountain is a perfect blend of prog and aggression, dipping into highly experimental territory on many occasions (and getting spotted and chased by freaky LSD-inspired monsters in the process) and coming out the other side sweaty, broken, but successful in its mountain-cresting quest.