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Leviathan

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(176 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Mastodon is very difficult to categorize.”Leviathan” is definitely heavy metal…but what kind? These Georgians play music which might appeal to metalcore fans, but they don’t play Killswitch Engage-type of riffs, and they’re not nearly as melodic as most New Wave of American Heavy Metal bands, so Mastodon are definitely not typical metalcore.

    “Leviathan,” which Revolver magazine gave 2004’s album of the year award to, is very explosive. There are only a few beat changes in this album (there is usually just one drum beat per song), but almost every song is chocked full of crunchy, lumbering, cascading, and occasionally grinding riffs.

    Musically, “Leviathan” is not very innovative. Plus, some parts can be quite repetitive; but what adds innovation to this album and makes it constantly interesting is that it mixes brains with the brawn. Musically, this band is like Black Sabbath meets Meshuggah meets Metallica meets Alice in Chains, but they also have a storytelling ability that would make both King Crimson and Cradle of Filth proud.

    In case you haven’t heard, “Leviathan” is a concept album. Over the course of these ten tracks, Mastodon tell the story of “Moby Dick.” The band members got this idea when they flew from Hawaii to London, so, to kill the time, they read Herman Melville’s classic. Evidently, the life that is described in that book is very similar to life on the road (life while touring). Plus, somewhere in “Moby Dick,” there is a reference to a “sea salt mastodon.”

    “Blood and Thunder” begins with one of the guitarists playing a catchy, somewhat restrained sounding riff. The drums begin, then the guitars come to full volume. This song then proceeds to turn to groovy guitar playing with a couple of pick slides, and a nice shout-along chorus.
    “I Am Ahab” has a beat and guitar riffs which are quite a bit faster than the preceding song. Guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher shoot and rip throughout this song, while Troy belts out some more throaty yells.
    “Seabeast” begins with soft strumming, which is followed by a smattering of drums, then the vocals begin. The guitars make a catchy, grooving sound, and are accompanied by some clean backing vocals.
    “Island” has more strong guitar riffs and fast drumming. After this song’s brief guitar solo, the riffs turn to a fast chugging.
    “Megalodon,” a song which is about a mastodon (a prehistoric beast), has some more heavy chugging riffs and good, thumping drumming, but this song is different because, about halfway through, there is a light guitar interlude. After this, however, the beat comes back and is even faster than it was before.
    “Hearts Alive” begins with light, acoustic sounding guitar strumming and some drumming, but the power chords kick in at around the two minute mark. This song is highlighted by trippy guitar work, ripping, wailing guitar solo, and a couple piercing cries of “Terrified!”

    In conclusion, “Leviathan” is a good, fun to listen to metal album with great musicianship, but there’s more to this C.D. than that. Some words are audible (i.e. “white whale,” “watery grave,” “deep blue sea”), but, since the guitars are so loud, singer Troy Sanders’ vocals are pushed to the back, and the lyrics are seldom audible. But I encourage you to read and think about the lyrics, because you will probably only realize this is the smartest album of 2004 once you do that. It may take several listens for you to fully absorb and appreciate this album, but once you do, you’ll realize this is very great, brilliant, addictive, and an all around gargantuan C.D.!

    Posted on December 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Remission was perfect. Brutal, intricate, epic, soulful, and even soothing. Mastodon would be foolish to even attempt to make a sequel to such a masterpiece. Thus, a new direction.

    Mastodon subtly abbreviates their own sound to great effect, sloughing off much of the progressive, Death circa Sound of Perseverance complexity as well as the doomy stoner rock boom for a sound more distinctly their own. Overall, Leviathan is more concise and direct. Remission displayed pretty much all the technicality you could want, so Leviathan is obviously all about the feel.

    Remission had a pretty similar feel throughout. A warm, dark, claustrophobic dirt-floored shack being hit by a freight train and a stampede of bulls at the same time. But Leviathan has much more variety and complexity in the mood it sets. Despite shorter, cleaner songs, Leviathan taps into an entire landscape, with the epic “Hearts Alive” being the best example of grand texture shifts.

    Mastodon was ahead of its time with Remission, and it is perhaps too far ahead of its time with Leviathan, now virtually a completely new band. Give this album time and you’ll understand the ambition of textures, variety, and feeling it holds. It may not be as shockingly perfect as Remission, but Leviathan is an essential evolution, still deserving at least five stars.

    Posted on December 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Perhaps no form of music is better suited to the story of _Moby Dick_ than metal. Dealing with whales, ships, water and intangibles like OBSESSION and REVENGE, the subject matter is pretty heavy. Projecting this story, American metal band Mastodon unleashes _Leviathan_. Probably the best thing you can say about it is that it is an epic that creeps up on you. Even listening to it abstractly, one slowly begins to recognize hethe brilliant intuition behind the musical flow. There is a feeling of great satisfaction when the last track plays, a feeling that evades most album creation.

    Though resembling their namesake in terms of lumbering heaviness, Mastodon is a dexterous beast, from their brisk and tight metal rhythms to Brann Dailor’s fusion-esque drumming. Aggressive vocals are set with the churning waves of hulking riffs, with harmonic subtlety and some stunningly melodic parts without pretense. And they are metal through and through, with scores of meaty, blood-dripping riffs heavy enough to liquefy some heads.

    The best song is the climax, “Hearts Alive”, which manipulates highly evocative atmospheres to orchestrate the dreadful, unstoppable crush of fate over its 13 minutes, and all with awesome riffs no less. The album is concluded with a somewhat uneasy electric-acoustic instrumental, “Joseph Merrick”.

    I am reviewing the “deluxe” edition which comes with a bonus DVD featuring live tracks and some cuts from _Leviathan_ mixed in 5.1 surround. The extra musical features will probably be more meaningful to others…I am strictly interested in deluxe edition’s amazingly sexy jewel case. If you value the aesthetic side of CD packaging, this is the one to have.

    Posted on December 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I title my review this way because of how Mastodon’s style of heavy metal reminds me of Coltrane style jazz; chatoic and seamingly without a solid form or tempo, but still with a flow and style that compliment the music genre they belong to in a way no one else has been able to. Considering how long heavy metal has been around its strange to think that few, if any, bands have ever done such an amazing job of going “free form” with their style as Mastodon has done. Not being a student of music it is hard for me to express in words why I came to this conclusion as a way to describe how highly I think of Mastodon’s music, but unfortunately words do fail me at this point. I love Mastodon’s music and their unique style is quite refreshing and pretty unheard of.

    Some fans have complained, or at least commented, that they like this album less than Remission, the band’s first LP on Relapse records, because this album is so much more melodic, and the vocals are clearer. Unlike many of these fans, I’m not a metalhead, just a music fan, and the only reason I could see the bands more melodic sound and clearer vocals as being a negative would be if they didn’t pull it off well. When you get right down to it, this album sounds ten times better than Remission, both in style and in song quality. The subject matter itself is quite impressive. Mastodon has essentially written a rock opera of sorts; a concetp album based on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” The very idea is odd, to say the least, but the poetic images that Mastodon creates with their words, in addition to the artwork on the album’s cover and sleeve, and the epic sound they create all go hand in hand in making this a triumphant and monumental work of Heavy Metal Art. Their first album was more poeitc to me. This album rings out like an Epic Masterpiece, and I can not recomend it enough. It has a beginning, middle, and an ending, and reminds me of listening to a Led Zeppelin album–sure, you can listen to individual songs and they sound great, but playing the album from start to finish only emphasises how incredible each and every song is by throwing it all together in one linear and cohesive composition of work. I can’t recomend this album enough.

    Posted on December 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I first heard about Mastodon when their debut release “Remission” first came out. So I went onto amazon and listened to a few seconds of each sound clip and to say the most, I wasn’t impressed. So I dismissed them as MTV Metalcore garbage solely because they were being pushed in my face with other american groups like Chimaira and Killswitch engage. It was hard not to slap that label on them seeing as I hadn’t really heard what they had to offer. Anyway two years later “Leviathan” was released, and the hype for this band began to grow even more. I reluctantly gave in and picked up “Leviathan” after seeing the Video for “Iron Tusk” one night on TV. So after letting “Leviathan” sit in my ears for a while the only thing I can think is “Mastodon, how I’ve misjudged you!”

    I am really glad that bands like this are still kicking around, getting the praise that they deserve. That is, bands that don’t easily fit into a single genre category. Bands like this truly are a dying breed in metal today, sure there are some great bands that give out some great death metal, black metal, thrash, etc. but they don’t really do anything to help progress metal and give it a new and interesting spin. Bands like Clutch, Mastodon, Absu Strapping Young Lad, Sunn O))) Meshuggah, Opeth, Finntroll…And the list could go on, but the point is that they all bring something refreshing and new to the table.

    Now, onto the review of Mastodon’s “Leviathan”. The Five star rating really is closer to a 4.5. Why is it a 4.5? Well its mostly because of a few little problems that in the end don’t make the album suffer enough to deserve a 4, thus the 5 star rating. I’ll also give them credit for making metal that almost anyone could like. You could like practically any type of metal or even Rock and still enjoy this. In my opinion Mastodon(along with some other bands mentioned) is the embodiment of metal; its not held down by any negative labels, its easy to get into and enjoy, but its not made for people with an attention span of 2 minutes. *cough* Nu-metal *cough*.

    My only beefs with “Leviathan” are: The Production; while it is a definite improvement over “Remission” its just not 100% better.(But once you are bombarded by some of those deadly Riffs, you’ll hardly notice.) Another beef I have is “Hearts Alive”, its just too long on an album of 3 and 4 minute songs. Im not at all saying that its a bad song, its a great song. Its just if you don’t listen to it the album becomes 33minutes long rather then 46. So if you don’t like it then your gonna have a shorter album then most people. Again these problems I have are more like the only flaws I could find, and they aren’t that big of a deal to me. (Like I said, I enjoy “Hearts Alive” and the production doesn’t bother me…It just might bother you.)

    Now that the the problems I had with “Leviathan” are over with lets move onto the reason that I like “Leviathan”. I’m a Major sucker for a concept album, I just love it when an album follows a theme or story. It makes the whole record seem that much more memorable. The Artwork on the cover and in the booklet is unbelievably good. And Two Big thumbs up to whoever did it.

    I don’t understand why people don’t like the vocals…I guess that they are people that are more used to the vocal styles used in Judas Priest, or Metallica. Please, If you are a fan of metal and do not like the screaming/etc type of vocals try your absolute hardest to like them on this record. As this may be a good “gateway” band for you that may end up leading you onto more unknown and amazing bands and genres of Metal. You’re missing out on a ocean of great music, and your missing out on it just because It’s not what you are used to. The vocals here really are not that hard to enjoy, They’re not death metal screams/growls/grunts so if you don’t like those you should enjoy “Leviathan”.

    The guitars are spectacular and the guys really manage to make up some really unique and original riffs/sounds. Also not to be understated are the drums, they will blow your mind! Brann Dailor is a beast of a drummer. He uses a very un-conventional method of drumming which is more like jazz drumming then the usual blast beat-ridden method. And all the while Troy Sanders beefs up all the riffs with his bass. making them sound all the more heavy and monstrous. So to end this review I’ll just mention a few tracks that I thought were the strongest and give a brief description for each.

    Some standout tracks are:

    .: Iron Tusk :.
    An amazing track that is everything metal should be. It has some great, crunching riffs laced throughout it. This has to be my favorite track on the entire album. Apparently this video was banned from being aired on MTV because they had those guys who swing around with hooks through their skin in the video. So todays lesson is that the people working in MTV are complete tools.

    .: Blood and Thunder :.
    A great opener for the record. It also sports a guest (Vocal) appearance from Neil Fallon of Clutch (2:15 – 2:55)

    .: I Am Ahab :.
    Very good track with some riffs that sound a bit stoner rockish. A good follow up to Blood and Thunder.

    .: Naked Burn :.
    GREAT chorus riff on this one, and a great chorus to go along with it; |Saaaaaave your self| |Dooooont wait on me|. It might sound a bit cheesy but it really works.

    .: Aqua Dementia :.
    Another Track with a vocalist guest appearance (Scott Kelly from Neurosis) The riffs and drum beats that start off the track are very catchy. The lyrics also fit well with the vocals.

    .: Hearts Alive :.
    The monster track from “Leviathan”. It really shows off the great musicianship and songwriting ability that Mastodon is capable of. it also happens to be 13 minutes long so you had better hope you enjoy it to because if you don’t you’ll find yourself getting to “Joseph Merrick” (the albums intrumental Outro) 13 minutes sooner.

    If you found even one sentence of this review remotely interesting, appealing, or helpful please take a second out of your busy day to press the “yes” button next to “Was this review helpful to you?”
    Thank you,
    -Igar the Terrible

    Posted on December 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now