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: bloody, thunderous, Moby-Dickin’ second outing…
(2004) Relapse Records
For so many Leviathan is both the defining Mastodon album and the defining metal record. Having streamlined their approach since Remission they shook off their caustic grind roots and threw their hats gleefully into the prog bucket, resulting in a much more varied, dynamic record.
Re-listening after five subsequent releases, it’s easy to spot this as a turning point for them creatively; Leviathan is ferocious and the experimental elements are a vessel for finding more effective ways of being downright frightening. None of their follow-up records sounds as outright metal as this, and indeed some fans were a little put off at them drifting away from the chaotic prog-grind of Remission.
“Blood and Thunder“
The record features a pretty even split of bangers and weird shit. “Blood and Thunder” is a statement of fucking intent. “Aqua Dementia” leans towards the stranger end of the spectrum, all disorientated guitar/ percussion play-offs before the blistering piece comes together. Penultimate track “Hearts Alive” is a shimmering, oceanic narrative which concludes the seabeast themes they’ve been frantically exploring.
The record really gave the band scope to expand on some bizarre influences (which would later be the focal point of Blood Mountain). Aside from Brann Dailor’s natural affinity for jazz fills, there’s a really off-script country section in “Megalodon” which – somehow – is a perfect transition to an aggressive riffy section. These give the record an unusual colour but they’re never used heavy-handedly.
Plenty of bands have messed about with time signatures, grand literary concepts and out-of-place flourishes. Leviathan‘s edge is how tastefully it’s achieved; even by their second full release they were an incredibly organic-sounding outfit.
After this they really went for some crazy out-there stuff before reducing their sound a little for The Hunter and following records. The Mastodon hype train may have ended here for many, but my god what a high point.
Stay tuned for the rest of the week for much more from Mastodon Week!