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A Reformed Opinion - 49%

JamesIII, February 1st, 2010

A few weeks ago, I penned a nice little review of Mastodon's "Leviathan," in which I described it as the only album worth seeking out by this band. Since that time, I have spun a few more listens of "Blood Mountain" and come to a reformed opinion. While I have never, nor will likely ever praise this band as a force of innovation done right, "Blood Mountain" is getting a better response out me. I still wouldn't consider it a more worthy listen than "Leviathan" was, much less hailing it as one of the best albums of the 21st Century.

Considering that categorizing this band has led to genre names like groove metal, metalcore, sludge and progressive being thrown out, its only natural this band would sound rather original. Yet originality doesn't always equal quality, as Mastodon has proven in spades over their relatively short career. Unlike "Leviathan," which had a few discipherable song structures that proved quite enjoyable, "Blood Mountain" often ventures off into the world of random noise. This noise, when taken as a whole, attempts to create something out of its technicality and creative processes, yet in the end usually conjures up something that is both unpredictable and boring at times. You do get a few instances of traditional songwriting trying to punch through the random noise, such as "Crystal Skull" and "Colony of Birchmen," so its none too surprising songs like these are some of the better songs this album offers.

While "Blood Mountain" is more organized and moves less into the world of outright random suckage that "Remission" often fell into, the album seems to magnify the flaws present on "Leviathan." I applaud the band for mixing in a few new influences into the game, such as taking a whack at stoner metal tendencies on "Sleeping Giant," which is pretty decent minus the obvious meandering. This same kind of influence can be heard on "Siberian Divide," though to a lesser extent. Its not surprising Mastodon would include these influences on this album, considering the album artwork looks like a bad acid trip through a psychedelic backwoods hell. Still, just like the cover art, the music succeeds in grabbing your attention and interest, then leaving you wondering what in the hell this all means.

As I said before, the best songs off this album follow a more traditional approach to music. Keep in mind during my analysis of the songs that the key flaw in this band, Brann Dailor, continues to be self-indulgent on the drums and showboats like no tomorrow. I'm with hells_unicorn on this one, as Dailor often ruins the experience for me considering on some songs he is constantly changing the beat and throwing drum fills out the ass. However, that doesn't stop songs like the speed metal of "The Wolf Is Loose" or the groovy (and at times, meandering) "Crystal Skull" from being enjoyable. "Colony of Birchmen" is also pretty decent, though the vocals and the song itself often remind me of something out of a heavier alternative rock band. "Sleeping Giant" hits with the stoner influences, as I said before, and besides the usual meandering that Mastodon excels at, the song is also fairly good. Of course, this wouldn't be a Mastodon release if there weren't an abundance of pointless and often comical noises and music sections thrown into the mix. Since I sometimes tend to enjoy Mastodon, this does not outrightly bother me, but I will say it gets pretty fucking annoying on repeat listens.

Aside from some decent metal songs and plenty of meandering for your enjoyment, we also run into some problems. These problems usually carry over from album to album with Mastodon. However, the commendable efforts of "Leviathan," which corrected many of the randomness issues of "Remission," have been lost and the band has relapsed into a musical game of Russian Roulette, sometimes you're spared, sometimes you get the bullet and wish you could just end it all. An excellent example of this is "Capallarian Crest" which is so damn hard to follow and recall its not even funny and this song is awfully hard to stomach. The other example of this is "Pendulous Skin," which goes on for 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes of Mastodon's usual aimless wondering, pointless noises, and a horribly failed attempt at "epic" songwriting. Since this is the third excessively long song this band has written, alongside "Elephant Man" and "Heart's Alive," I'm guessing they refuse to admit they can't write an interesting song over five minutes in length to save their own asses. Other instances of this band's ususal "uselessness thrown in for the hell of it," would come into "Siberian Divide," which would have been pretty decent were it not for those god awful noises that first appear at the 1:46 mark and then come up two or three more times to completely kill the listen.

This album actually gets me pretty disgusted at times, because there are enough good ideas on here to constitute a good listening experience. I'd even dare say Mastodon often do push the envelope of innovation, at least as far as their sludge metal and groove metal altars will allow them to. Yet this band always finds ways to come up with contrasting ideas that make bearing their entire albums a tedious chore instead of an enthralling listen. If they run out of ideas, then they simply meander around, throwing in random spurts of noise and Brann Dailor's ever annoying drum wankery. With that said, I still find Mastodon fairly enjoyable from time to time, but they are certainly not the next "saviors of metal," nor are they close to it. Instead, this band represents a concept where randomness prevails, giving you this swamp of musical waste that might spawn something interesting or something completely ugly and horrid. Either way, "Blood Mountain" is a definite step down from "Leviathan," because it gives you five songs that are enjoyable and some that are flat out unbearable. The misguided legions of Mastodon loyalists will definitely find something to like about this, but those like me who let the music do the talking, this is worth maybe $4 out of your pocket. There just isn't enough quality music on here to let me recommend a higher price with a conscious mind.