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When I first started listening to “heavy” music – which was, interestingly enough, only about 5 or 6 years ago, I was a dirty “hardcore kid.” Better than being an emo kid, I say. Anyway, I was at a stage when I was listening to the heavier offerings of the latter genre – Bleeding Through, As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage – and occasionally sampling some of the earlier metal offerings, such as Sabbath and Maiden. Mastodon’s “Iron Tusk” was the first, truly HEAVY metal song I ever listened to, and readers I must admit I was fully won over. Although now my tastes range far beyond hardcore, and my favorite bands are no longer the previously mentioned ones (rather, they include Nile, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Neurosis, Death, Behemoth, and Spawn of Possession), that song – and video, which is also amazing – will always have a special place within my memory.
“Leviathan” was an amazing CD, and although I have nearly limitless confidence in Mastodon as a band – how could one not with a band that cites such giants of sound as Neurosis as one of their main influences – I honestly did not think that they could top it. Even though they seemed to be getting better and better – “Remission” was also great, but also very inaccessible and disjointed, as well – “Leviathan” was a nearly-perfect work of conceptual metal. Knowing that these guys were doing the same routine for the next album, I can honestly admit that I had my doubts. Could they still make quality music without it being too derivative of their previous works in both style and idea? Yes, they could – and they damn well did. “Blood Mountain” is not only an incredible album; it is a work of art. I am proud to own it, and you owe it to yourself to share my pride in claiming ownership over this masterpiece.
“Blood Mountain” is astounding in the fact that the band never steps wrong. Ever. There is not a single song that is out of place on this CD, not one track that distracts from the overall ebb and flow – not even the schizophrenic and seemingly drug-induced “Bladecatcher.” Holy FUCKING SHIT is that song ridiculous. So, not only are the songs all great, many (if not most) are standouts for Mastodon as a band; this album contains some of the most praise-worthy work this band has done – and, frankly, will ever do. Among them, “Crystal Skull,” “Sleeping Giant,” “Capillarian Crest,” “Circle of Cysquatch,” “Colony of Birchmen,” “This Mortal Soil,” and “Siberian Divide” all stand out as amazing works; some of the best material ever put out by Mastodon. I was luckily able to obtain the bonus DVD version of the album, – the last copy of either version in the store! – and watching the 45-minute, highly-entertaining “making-of” documentary, you gained a lot of respect for these guys. They all worked their fucking asses off on this album, playing beyond the best of their respective abilities. What they have created, is a truly sublime contribution to the metal community and the music community, as a whole. “Blood Mountain” completely captures the essence of being lost in the wilderness, and all sorts of emotions are evoked by each of the songs – anger, fear, insanity, paranoia, sadness – making it not only a truly captivating listen, but also an extremely moving work, as well.
Mastodon has undoubtedly expanded their musical style on this album, and I use the word “expand” rather than “shift” or “change,” as I fail to see this CD as being a hugely dramatic departure from their previous works. True, most of the harsh screaming and growling vocals have disappeared – and so what? Although I enjoyed them, I enjoy the clean vocals just as much, and I think the more melodic vocal work on this album is truly indicative of the wide span of musicianship that these guys are capable of. Many have accused Mastodon of “selling-out” on “Blood Mountain,” and to those who truly, and honestly believe in their hearts that Mastodon has sold out, I have but one thing to say to you: shut the fuck up. Oh, and you are all retarded, too. (Sorry, two things!) When a band sells out, they compromise their musical integrity for financial accumulation, with the intent of acquiring a more mainstream fan base. Although I could receive shit for this, I do not believe that Mastodon is any more accessible on “Blood Mountain” than they were on “Remission.” Watching the doc, it is clear that they integrated clean vocals with harsh growls because, as Brent Hinds states, it “sounded better” in that case. Mastodon is still as puzzling as ever – the lyrics are bizarre, the themes are far-fetched, fantastical, and most likely have no place among the same crowd that listens to Angels and Airwaves. I honestly like the evolution that Mastodon has taken here, showing advancement in musicality and maturation of the band as a whole.
Speaking of musicality, holy shit. This is, quite simply, some of the best guitar work I have ever heard. The drums are less frenetic on this album than the others – showcasing the increased focus of the band – but no less technical or astounding. Brann Dailor is an incredible drummer. Troy Sanders discusses (in the doc) his heightened confidence about his work on this album, and that is a very accurate assessment. The guitars and drums clearly dominate over the Troy in several areas, but his baseline is far more audible, and sufficient props must be given to him for his improvement and dedication. As I said before, the guitars are amazing; Brent and Bill play the shit out of their axes, and I’m honestly amazed that they are able to memorize all of the notes. Incredible work by all of the guys, bravo.
I guess in the end what truly matter is how it all comes together. Like I said, “Remission” was a mess, and although “Leviathan” was far better, it sounded too much like “Remission” (not a bad thing, though!). What “Blood Mountain” did for me, few other albums have done. It evokes the feelings of dread and anxiety one experiences when faced with the impossible (in this case, a treacherous mountain ascent). It is not only a stunning album; it is disturbing, as well. You feel at times like you’re not even listening to a work of music – rather you are listening to a perilous adventure story akin to the ones your father or grandfather told you in your youth. What an amazing CD.