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Atlanta-product Mastodon has made some big waves within the metal scene in the past years with their debut Remission and colossal follow-up Leviathan. Mastodon, branded as playing ‘progressive sludge’ by critics, breaks the mold by adding more influences to their musical repertoire than just the fused elements of doom and hardcore. The band stated that they wanted to start a "prog-revolution" with the new album, but did they really mean it? They certainly did.
Mastodon chose to utilize the same ingredients to make Blood Mountain as they did with Leviathan. They used the same studio, same producer, and same lineup. Though using the same formula, they created something entirely unlike their previous works. With Blood Mountain, Mastodon has built off of the progressive elements from Leviathan, as well as improved on their songwriting and vocal-work.
Though the new album is different, Mastodon still has the same sound; crushing guitar riffs, Brann Dailor's signature million-fills jazzy drumming, and the blending of acoustic and electric guitar. Playing the first track of the CD, I was expecting a mid-tempo, simple riff to get things started, similar to the start of Leviathan. Instead, the first track, entitled ‘The Wolf Is Loose’, throws at us Dailor drumming the hell out of his set, warning us that the path up to Blood Mountain is not going to be a stroll in the park.
Songs like ‘Capillarian Crest’ and ‘Circle of Cysquatch’ really show off Mastodon’s technical ability with time shifts, tempo changes, and blazing-fast guitar solos. On the other hand, songs like ‘Sleeping Giant’, ‘Hunters of the Sky’, and ‘Siberian Divide’ revert to the band’s sludge metal roots with slow and extremely heavy rhythms. Nevertheless, each song contains flawless guitar work, progressive instrumental sequences, and clear production.
Bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders displays a variety of vocal techniques throughout the album. Sanders’ clean vocals in Blood Mountain are more present than in the previous two albums. That's not to say that the gruff growls are gone, as almost all tracks are full of them. On occasion, you will hear guitarist Brent Hinds bellowing to the sky, like a cursed fisherman lost at sea; a characteristic taken from Leviathan, which in fact was influenced by the novel ‘Moby Dick’. Blood Mountain also features various guest vocalists, such as Cedric Bixler-Zavala (ex-At the Drive-in, The Mars Volta) and Joshua Homme (ex-Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age).
True, Mastodon has given us a variety of fresh and catchy riffs with Blood Mountain, but the real praise is given for how well the riffs flow together. Each line seemingly feeds off the other, one paving the way for the next. Once you start nodding your head to one riff, another comes into play, continually competing for a spot in your head.
Mastodon has pulled the best elements from southern rock, hardcore, sludge, death, thrash, and progressive, and has blended them all together into a musical journey titled Blood Mountain. Mastodon’s continual pushing the envelope of metal may soon place them among the top American metal bands, and perhaps spark a new wave of progressive metal.
Originally written for Texas A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion