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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.