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As with most things concerning the band Mastodon, I'm torn between what sounds like some healthy ideas and the obvious flaws of the music. "Call of the Mastodon" is a compilation album, just under a half hour in length, which chronicles the earlier, pre-"Remission" material by this band. The choices made here are rather easily linked to later, more familiar material. The album itself has more of a gritty atmosphere one can instantly associate with the sludge metal scene. Considering some of the band members were influenced by bands like The Melvins, this is understandable.
So what does this album represent? It basically represents the early days of this band. The progressive tendencies are there, as are the leanings into random noise and mass confusion concerning the drum beats, though the former is not as present here as later on. Brann Dailor continues to annoy the hell out of me, and I wish someone would inform him his days in a grindcore outfit are over, and its time to put the self-indulgence behind. I say this because as evident by "Shadows that Move" and "Thank You for This," among others, he has little content for maintaining a straight beat. Some call this impressive, I call it randomness personified, which causes the songs to suffer in terms of memorability and overall the enjoyment of the listener.
Aside from the drumming issues, which one will always encounter when dealing with this band, most things here are actually quite good. The vocals are actually better here than later on, emitting a misanthropic growl that sludge fans probably won't mind. Sure the vocals are ugly as hell, but they also morph into cleaner (yet gritty) vocals and they suit the sludge infested music well. The lyrics aren't all that spectacular, and don't follow a common theme such as the fire, water, and earth elements that later works would.
In terms of songs, I found few here that were truly memorable. "Battle at Sea" would be one, with its somber beginning before morphing into a decent number. The usual indulgences of Mastodon still arise even here, but to a lesser extent. "Call of the Mastodon" also fits here and is also one of the better songs. The shorter numbers like "Hail to Fire" and "Thank You for This" are around the two minute mark, but both are pretty hard to keep up with and to recall. Essentially, alot of this runs in usual Mastodon fashion in that they embody good songs with ill-fitted ideas and randomness running amok.
Taken as a whole, "Call of the Mastodon" is actually not all that bad. It isn't necessarily that good, either. Instead, its a glimpse into the future of this band, while remaining heavily tied to the dirty sludge metal approach. I found most of this album fairly enjoyable while it was playing, though I also found most of it hard to remember. Of course, if you're a Mastodon fan, you're used to this so it shouldn't bother you too much. Those listeners interested in this band might want to check out "Leviathan," which is the most straight-forward work and indeed the best album this band has done. Keep in mind I used the word "random" alot in the review, which refers to most of the music this band has put out. Most of this is caused by the drummer, who refuses to understand where and when overly technical drumming is appropiate, and where it is not, thus resulting in a tidal wave of unnecessary drum fills and beat changes. Yet in the case of "Call of the Mastodon," I recommend this only to Mastodon fans and perhaps sludge metal fans as well, who will get two songs in "Battle at Sea" and "Slickleg," that lay off the structural confusion long enough to present an enjoyable and memorable song.
After a lot of work e-mailing Mastodon and its associates, I figured out that this release was indeed considered a full-length album, which surely seems fitting considering its length and overall feel.
Call of the Mastodon is a re-release of the demo that started everything for Mastodon-- only, this time, Troy Sanders and Brent Kelliher do the vocals instead of Eric Saner. I personally have never heard the song versions with Eric Saner, so I can not comment on the different vocals, but Troy and Brent both do pretty good jobs at them. They have a very strange vocal style, which surprised me at first. They sound like they are kind of forced out (adding a nice raspy tone), but in this case it is not a bad thing and please do not take it as such. In some spots, they do clean(er) vocals, but there is still some distortion to them. Clean(er) vocals on 'Call of the Mastodon' are, again, strange in my opinion... but they grow on you, they really do; adding a lot to the overall feel of it all.
Moving on, all i need to say is wow this guy can sure drum. At first i wasn't too impressed because I didn't listen closely. When you DO, however, you will see that he has a very technical style. There are tonnes of fills in ever corner, and lots of variation. You will most definitely not get bored with the beats in this one. Brann does an excellent job, and doubtlessly carries his weight.
The bass and guitars are not bad at all either. The bass (usually inaudible in metal) is very present here, and you can hear it nicely. An example of this would be the start of the song Battle At Sea. It goes to show how effective the most simple of basslines can be it music. The tone of the bass in the beginning of that song still gives me shivers, and I just love to listen to that song because of it. Guitars are quite good too, nothing too special there though. They focus more on matching the rhythm with their own crazy riff, not always AMAZING, but no bad ones at all.
The only faults I could find with this album were the lyrics and the length of the album. Even though each song is good in its entirety, Mastodon should have made the songs/album longer. Lyrics in Mastodon albums usually follow some sort of theme. Ex. Leviathan - sea stuff, Blood Mountain - hills, forests, hunters. This album is a mix of the two somewhat, and I would have enjoyed it more if it followed one specific theme more closely.
At the end of it all, the simple lyrics and the length of the album are the faults of this album though I highly recommend picking up this album, because it is definitely worth the money. You get 28 minutes of totally sludgy, progressive metal out of 9 short, but superior, songs.
Highlights: Battle At Sea, Shadows That Move, We Built This Come Death, Slickleg
When I first when shopping for Mastodon records, I stumbled upon this gem. I went there looking for Leviathan and came out with this (only because it was the only Mastodon CD they had their). I’ll be honest; I had no clue what this is. I was even more surprised when I listened to it because it didn’t sound like the Mastodon I knew. It was great nonetheless.
The album is a compilation of their early demo songs. It’s raw, sludgy and dissonant. The music is hard and aggressive; it makes you angry when you listen to it. The dissonant sound really pulled me in. You don’t really know what’s going on at times, but I enjoy that. The music is a mix of sludge, death metal vocals and can sound a bit grindish at times. This definitely wasn’t what I had expected when I bought it; by the way, it came with a great Relapse Records sampler CD, which was pretty good also.
This is before they hired their current vocalist and guitarist Brent Hinds. The vocalist on this album is Eric Saners. His voice is powerful, booming and a bit raw. On most of the songs he uses that kind of voice, except on “We Built this Come Death” where he sings clean (not that bad either). His voice sounds a bit like Brent’s at times.
I knew already that Brann a very able drummer and this just justified that. Highly influenced by jazz techniques, his fills are fast and loud. He is possibly the most famous out of the four and for good reason. Without his drumming on this album, it wouldn’t be the same Mastodon at all. Like on the song Hail to Fire, his drums sound like cannon fire, or at least that’s the imagery I got when listening to it.
The guitars on this album are strong and grinding. Basically every song uses a very low tuning that really gives it that sludgy, dissonant feel. The riffs churn out really heavy, dark music. There are a few memorable riffs in song like Shadows that Move, Deep Sea Creature, Hail to Fire and the title track. There are some weird riffs like in the intro of We Built this Come Death and Battle at Sea (one of the lowest bass line I’ve heard in awhile).
About the bass, at times it’s hard to hear with all the chaos in the front. But when you can hear it, it’s low and slow. Plus it really adds a sense of darkness to the album on every song.
One thing I didn’t like were the lyrics, they’re some of the stupidest lines I’ve ever read in metal. At times they didn’t really make sense and are just a few lines. It sounded as if Eric was talking to himself at times, that’s what’s responsible for bringing the score down. Another thing is this is it kinda sounds like a continuation of Leviathan. You can see that’s some of the songs have that sea theme or have a hint of it I often wondered if this was a prelude to Leviathan. Also some of that album art depicts themes of sea.
Overall the album was great, except for the lyrics, but you couldn’t really hear for some of the songs. I would recommend it to fans of sludge metal or just anyone who wants to see what Mastodon USED to be like.
Sludge music usually brings along bands that best engender a type of aggression that is so raw, that the flaws in their music perceived by the audience are actually perfections to the bands themselves. Following a sort of almost lethargic drone at times, along with melodies which seem almost unnatural for the inexperienced listener, Mastodon have created a sublime environment of aggression and subtlety within Call of the Mastodon.
From the indecipherable vocals of Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds, to the insane drumwork of Brann Dailor, Call of the Mastodon is a kick in the face to the world of average, melodic music.
The music itself usually is consistent of the sludge category, while sometimes evoking an almost grind feel at times. Even then, the music in this album also emanates some strange melodies that tend to go against the grain of modern music; mainly because of the guitarists use of open stringed picking on their baritone guitars.
The vocals on Call of the Mastodon are distorted screams of rage and never let down their attack on the listener.
The guitars are often drony and chaotic, while many times contorting their way around versatile rock licks and subtle clean-guitar picking passages. Truly, the riffs on this album are very entertaining and stand out. This feeling is highly expounded upon by the very low end of their baritone guitars which, unto themselves, bring a distinct sound which makes their riffing much more interesting to listen to.
The bass serves to accentuate the heaviness throughout the album, but never becomes the focus of instrumentation.
The drums are purely the work of a genius who truly knows his calling. They are performed is such the way of a sort of jazz style, yet with a much more dominant and hyperactive approach than that of the average jazz drummer. Brann Dailor dominates Call of the Mastodon with his percussional expertise and creativity; and, were it not for him, Mastodon really would not be the exceptional creative band as they are known.
The songs themselves are oftentimes quite progressive, but pack a punch that most progressive music does not. However, unlike standard prog., the songs on Call of the Mastodon are short in length; good enough for a memorable, headbanging experience.
Overall, Call of the Mastodon is a very entertaining EP (that should be classified an LP) that is superb in all aspects of their style and serves as more than just a testament to their original sound.