The most hyped metal release of the year, but justifiably so. Barring maybe technical stoner rockers Keelhaul, no one else sounds like Mastodon, currently straddling the past of heavy metal and its future.
This marks their major label debut, and
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underground expectations are high.
The off-kilter tension that followed drummer Bränn Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher from Today is the Day has receded to reveal an epic heavy metal sense of the grandiose hinted at in early songs like ‘Ol’e Nessie’ or the bridge of ‘March of the Fire Ants’; which I once described to a friend as akin to: “someone riding a dragon made out of naked women into Valhalla and biting off the cock of gods.” Such hyperbolic ranting scarcely does Mastodon justice. Their last release, Leviathan, was an ambitious splicing of mythic sea creatures into a retelling of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but this monstrosity is a grand tale of their own devising. One man’s Promethean struggle up Blood Mountain to battle werewolves, commune with Cysquatches (precognitive one-eyed Sasquatches) and search for a Crystal Skull “to banish his reptilian brain”. An allegory for a band attempting to conquer the mainstream and ‘knock the bastard off’ spiritually in the process. Presumably while eating acid by the handful.
Featuring guest vocals from Scott Kelly (of fellow elemental metallers Neurosis), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Cedric Bixler (The Mars Volta); this album manages to combine the clout of Melvin’s sludge with triumphant NWOBHM leads filtered through guitarist Brent Hinds demented southern rock brain. Thrown into the Voivod blender of technical playing, resultant songs like ‘Bladecatcher’ go from Lightning Bolt contact-mic gibberish one moment to Iron Maiden soloing the next. The mournful ‘Sleeping Giant’ will leave anyone saddened by the demise of Kyuss grinning broadly. Worth the cost of two tinnies. Just fucking buy it.
(Ed- Congratulations must go to Chris, for finally working the phrase ‘cock of gods’ into a review in a way that I
wouldn’t edit out.)