Posted on January 9, 2010 -
Mastodon are already quite widely regarded as one of the most important and best metal bands of the current decade, and `Blood Mountain’ ought to do a lot to solidify their position as such. They will doubtless alienate a few more fans, as they already did with `Leviathan’, due to the very slick production and their contract with a major label, but I think far more fans will stick with them rather than abandon them. Anyway, I think `Blood Mountain’ is absolutely fantastic, and perhaps the best of their 3 full lengths. (I definitely prefer it to `Leviathan’, though it’s a tougher call with `Remission’.)
Mastodon has definitely progressed a lot stylistically over their relatively brief career. Their debut EP was wild, flailing metalcore, for the most part, while `Remission’ took things in a sludgier, more southern direction albeit while still staying in contact with their roots. `Leviathan’ removed the sludge for the most part and played up melodic tendencies and some thrashier riffs. `Blood Mountain’ continues this trend with more clean singing than ever before and a very polished production. Nevertheless, I suggest this is actually a less accessible album then `Leviathan’, as the increase in singing is counteracted by an added emphasis on their jazzy/progressive angle. All in all, `Blood Mountain’ simply cannot be shunted into any of the major metal subgenres, though the typical classification of Mastodon as `tech-metalcore’ will suffice, even if it isn’t all that helpful. I could call it thrashy-southern-jazz-tech-metalcore I suppose but, uhh, that’s a bit unwieldy….
From an instrumental standpoint this is definitely their most accomplished album. Brann Dailor seemed to reign in the drumming slightly last time around, but he’s back in top form now with a simply astounding metal/jazz fusion performance. He’s simply the best, the most entertaining drummer in metal bar none, and this is perhaps even better than his legendary contribution to `Remission’. The guitarwork on this album is stunning as well, and widely varied, mixing in stomping groove riffs, crunchy thrash riffs, speedy trem work, numerous frenetic, jazzy licks and quite of bit of melodic acoustic work. The vocals are the relative weak point of the band, but this most just emphasizes how good everything else is. They get the job done, anyway, and are fairly varied due to the use of multiple vocalists and a few guests. (Though most of it falls into the growled/howled or quasi-melodically bellowed categories of singing.)
`Blood Mountain’ is one of those very rare metal albums that has over 10 tracks, but which doesn’t have anything which ought to have been cut. It would be very easy to discuss every track here, so I’ll have to restrain myself. `The Wolf is Loose’ is a first rate opener worthy of their tradition. Monstrous drumming, nicely varied, ferocious riffs, and an effective pairing of harsh and almost ethereal vocals. `Sleeping Giant’ is a more low-key, stoner-ish track with some fine acoustic work and an unforgettable main lick. `Capillarian Crest’ is one of the most immediately striking songs. It’s one of their wildest tracks ever with a staggeringly energetic and jazzy middle section. (That part stands out the most, but it’s all great.) `Colony of Birchmen’ is a somewhat controversial track. It’s probably the most accessible thing here, and while this will doubtless turn of some people, I think it’s absolutely great. The main riff is fantastic, and this has got some of the strongest vox on the album, with two excellent choruses.
The last 3 tracks display Mastodon’s progressive side particularly nicely, moving between tempos and styles adroitly and continuously. `Siberian Divide’ is probably the most widely varied track here, moving from acoustics to a wide variety of riffs and back again and again, combining occasional melodicism with outright discordance. This song has also got perhaps Dailor’s most pummeling fills ever. `Pendulous Skin’ is a relatively low-key closer with distant, indecipherable vocals over top of melodic electric and acoustic instrumentation. (Plus some synths, an organ and a great solo.) A rather wistful sounding song which somehow manages to be harshly melodic. Definitely a first-rate closer.
Anyway, this is another great album from Mastodon. Probably the finest album I’ve heard yet this year. Check it out.