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Well, as the saying goes, the third times always the charm. And with Blood Mountain, the band has shown us they’re able to whip out another fantastic album with a bunch of new surprises sprinkled throughout, and yet stay true to their roots.
Released on September 11, 2006 in Europe and the day after in North America, Blood Mountain did extremely well. Total Guitar ranked it the number one album of 2006, while magazines like Kerrang! and Metal Hammer thought it was just was epic as Leviathan, if not better. It was also featured on many websites' and magazines' 2006 countdowns. It was also Mastodon’s third highest debut on Billboard 200, at #32, behind Crack the Skye and The Hunter. Guitarist Bill Kelliher considered this album to represent the earth element, and at the time, bassist Troy Sanders said it was "sonically the best album we have done."
The story behind Blood Mountain is relatively simple. The main character wants to place the Crystal Skull at the top of Blood Mountain, but along the way deals with the problems, that according to bassist Troy Sanders, that can happen when ‘you’re stranded on a mountain, lost in the woods, and you’re lost.’ And on their DVD, it was said that the Crystal Skull is supposed to eliminate ‘the reptilian brain’, allowing its owner to have the ability to achieve the next step of human evolution.
Sonically, I liked this album a LOT more than Remission and Leviathan for a few reasons. Firstly, I loved the raw emotion found on Remission, and was a little disappointed when Leviathan didn’t have the same intensity. With that being said, Leviathan allowed more influences, like sludge, prog, and I even dare to say a little old fashioned heavy metal to seep into the sound and it was the diversity in the overall sound I enjoyed the most. Blood Mountain was a good medium between the two – the sheer rage from Remission and the well-rounded, developed sound of Leviathan married quite well. I really enjoyed ‘Crystal Skull’, especially with the tribal-sounding drum intro, and the guest vocals of Scott Kelly just top it off. ‘Sleeping Giant’ is another favourite; I like the vocal rhythms in it, and it seems to allude to what they’ll be doing in Crack the Skye. And opening with ‘The Wolf is Loose’ was a good call on their part – the drum solo in the beginning instantly reminded me of ‘Blood and Thunder’ and got my blood pumping. It got me so excited for what the rest of the album also had in store, and it didn’t disappoint.
If you were just to give Blood Mountain just a quick skim, it would sound like this: 70’s prog rock and Meshuggah meet up with NWOBHM and get drunk with some good old fashioned thrash metal. There are also some outbursts of guitar virtuosity (which never is overdone in Mastodon’s case), and great atmospheric pieces, like the intro of ‘Sleeping Giant’.
It should also be noted that there was a significant improvement in the lyrics. The vocabulary wasn’t a problem; it wasn’t as simplistic as the stuff found on Remission, but at the same time, it wasn’t insanely technical and difficult like what some tech death metal bands do. For me, it was more of how the ideas were presented that Mastodon got better at. For some of the songs, in particular, ‘Hunters of the Sky’ and ‘Siberian Divide’, feel more like miniature stories as opposed to older songs found on their older material. I like that!
Overall, I really enjoyed Blood Mountain. I love the story, I love the sound, and I love the lyrics. I love it all! After a miniature disappointment with Leviathan, I was glad to find Mastodon had found their footing within the metal scene with Blood Mountain, and I think the scene was happy they were able to come out with another fantastic album.