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I'll be frank: Blood Mountain MIGHT be a really good album. It's got just the right level of technical flash, songwriting that shows clearly the band knows what they're doing, and a great mix of a whole bunch of different metal styles. Mastodons previous albums had all of these too, and they worked great. What Blood Mountain lacks is memorability. The riffs don't seem quite up to par with those on Remission, the vocals lack the power of Leviathan, and the entire package comes off with a restrained feeling. Blood Mountain is far more accessible, and in many ways less heavy, than the previous two Mastodon albums. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but unfortunately for me that's the case here.
Upon the first listen of Blood Mountain I could not help but feel something was missing. More listens made me appreciate it more, but never to the high level Leviathan had readied me for. While Mastodon has previously been able to keep fast and furious music going on and on without getting stale, most of the tracks on Blood Mountain meander without really going anywhere. Start with an intro part (usually with Brann Dailor's drumming in the foreground), move into a riff, then chug along for 4-5 more minutes. Throw in random solos and leads here and there and you've got any song from Blood Mountain. Its not a wall of noise but it lacks coherency. The ultimate effect is that the album gets boring about half way through and half way too early.
In spite of this, Blood Mountain is enjoyable. The drumming is excellent as on all of Mastodons material, and the bass is prominent and is not content to follow the guitar parts. Vocals are no where near as aggressive or powerful as Remission or Leviathan, which at times make the album feel somewhat cheap and lacking (particularly on Sleeping Giant). When viewed from the proper perspective - A concept album themed by earth and documenting a journey up a mountain to find a mystical skull - the album became far more interesting, for me at least. Guest vocal appearances by two men whom I greatly admire - Cedric from The Mars Volta & previously At the Drive-In, and Scott Kelly of Neurosis - is definitely a plus, but neither of their potential is used to the extent is could have been. Cedric doing his trademark nonsensical wails would have been far better than the limited part he does on The Siberian Divide.
All in all, Blood Mountain does set out what it wants to do, but it feels like a huge letdown compared to Mastodon's previous material. The album feels a bit like an experiment in a more progressive direction; perhaps the band can next fuse their older sludge style with the new and create something truly unique.