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I never used to like Mastodon, finding the few single songs I heard entirely underwhelming and mediocre. However, with enough prodding, any wall gives in eventually, and when I checked out Blood Mountain to see what the fuss was all about, I certainly didn't expect something this good, or something of any worth at all, for that matter. I expected something lame and fraudulent, a hollow, modernized pile of flashy, showy crap that didn't have any worth at all. I expected to dismiss it quickly and write some lame negative review decrying the band and all of their fans.
But no, Mastodon are the real deal, a bold and stand-alone band that makes no compromises and takes no prisoners. Blood Mountain is heavy, inventive and constantly moving forward. The band get a lot of flak for incorporating so many elements of genres like hardcore or sludge, resulting in what has become to be known as a "modern" sound, but unlike their contemporaries, Mastodon emphasize everything a "modern" Metal band should be, with their thick, encompassing sound and uncompromising, almost stand-offish approach to writing songs. None of these songs are dumbed down or weakened for radio airplay, and all of them charge forward with stomping riffs and a surprising amount of frenetic energy and ballsy technicality. Mastodon's sound is one rooted in heavy grooves, chunky riffs, time changes, complicated drum fills and everything else that is usually called The Enemy of Metal. Seriously, it's like a checklist of things I usually hate about modern Metal, and yet Mastodon strings it all together with unpredictable, tight songwriting skills and interesting ideas to create something that I find oddly appealing. The vocals aren't amazing, being a sometimes strained-sounding hardcoreish shout, but they work well enough, especially when they get harsher.
I like this album because it does something new and creative and sounds good while doing it, plain and simple. It doesn't conform to any sort of trend, it just sort of exists as its own entity while other bands happen to play music with elements similar to it. Blood Mountain is singular and iconic, and while it is indeed very hateable, with many elements that most metalheads will cringe at, it really isn't bad at all. There are no radio-friendly songs, no simple melodies or pop-obsessed choruses, no mindless wank and certainly no wasted moments by the band trying to sell themselves. If you don't like Mastodon, they don't give a shit. I like that kind of staunch stubbornness in a band.
Thundering out with ballsy, creative rockers like "The Wolf is Loose," "Crystal Skull," the galloping instrumental "Bladecatcher," and the unstoppable duo of the killer "Mortal Soil" and "Siberian Divide," Mastodon have created something undeniably killer, an endless paradox of would-be vomit-worthy parts to create a grandiose whole. This stuff isn't exceptionally catchy, and there are a few songs that sort of drag on a bit, like "Hand of Stone," but overall, Blood Mountain is a satisfying ass-kicker from a band that gets too much unnecessary flak. Recommended.