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.!