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Mastodon – a name that when uttered, either makes you think of Power Rangers, a dinosaur or a heavy as hell metal band. They were always known for their balls-to-the-wall metal, as shown in past releases like Remission and Leviathan. Here, they continue what they began on Blood Mountain, which was a great experimentation period. I fully believe that with this release, they have reinvented and out-done their selves on an amazing scale. Never fear, the crunching riffs and drum rolls are still here – just in a slightly different way. This album is different, though, in the sense that it’s meant to be a ‘grower’, not a ‘holy shit’ at first glance album, like Mastodon’s previous releases.
Beginning the album is Oblivion – which at first glance shows you the album will not be like the past two releases. There is not a fast and quick drum intro, nor is there a riff repeated over and over. It’s the simple strumming of a guitar, down all the strings and into a very beefy riff. Then, the song kicks into the more traditional Mastodon style, with some crazy drums here and there and some great riffing going on and a tremendous solo in the middle. The vocalists are a pair here, and they each show off their talents greatly with clean and harsh vocals. This trend is continued on the next track, Divinations. This song is more reminiscent of Blood Mountain/Leviathan: hardcore, packed with a fast tempo and a galloping riff and harsh vocals to boot. A great rocker and definitely one to headbang to.
Now, things start to get a tad strange for Mastodon. They jump into Quintessence, which feels like a strange track. It’s got the riff, it’s got the drums, yet they’re not at an extreme tempo. They’re more relaxed. The chorus of the song is fast, yet that’s about the only part of the song that is. The rest is a relaxed, mellow feeling song. It’s a great middle track. The Czar just continues to the madness of this release. A ten minute song? The first of two? In MY Mastodon? Fret not, folks, it’s done well. It opens with an organ playing some haunting tune. It then continues with a slow bass line followed by some very clean singing and the guitar chimes in and you’re off. Cue complex time changes and amazing riffs and an amazing ending solo to definitely write home about. The song sounds very much like classic progressive rock and Mastodon do it very well. The finale is just a soft piano, which is very strange for a Mastodon song. The next two songs are similar, but that does not make them bad in the least. Ghost of Karelia and Crack the Skye are two straight-forward rockers. The drumming from Blood Mountain is back and in full force in Ghost of Karelia and the experimentation of The Czar is in Crack the Skye. Ghost is a song that is centered around vocals, and the vocals are done very well. It’s one of Mastodon’s better vocal-centered songs, with the guitars and drums matching the vocal parts very well. Crack the Skye is also done very well with harsh and clean vocals, but the keyboards return there and a fancy guitar solo is thrown into boot.
Finally, we come to the finale of the album, and (in my personal opinion), the greatest Mastodon song ever recorded: The Last Baron. Beginning with a faced paced acoustic guitar and clean vocals which send shivers down the spine, you know you’re in for a treat. The first few minutes are classic Mastodon – layered guitars, beasty riffs and vocals. After about the three minute mark, the song goes silent – and slowly fades in a guitar. Once it fades in, you know the ride has just begun. The crazy and amazing instrumental sets in (with vocals coming in here and there), which is not unlike Dream Theater (good DT, not bad). Towards the six minute part of the song, there is a breakdown which sounds vaguely like the one featured in Leviathan’s Megalodon. The end of the breakdown gives a nod to Rush’s YYZ, which is always a great tidbit. The song then ends with a repetition of the beginning and fades into silence.
I fully believe Mastodon have outdone themselves with this release. They have fully matured from a band who simply tried to play as fast as possible and tried to make great songs (which they did) into a band with structure, with purpose, and feeling. At first glance, people may think that Mastodon have lost all of their past metal-ness, however this is not true. If you are willing to let this album grow on you (which I said you should, stated above), then you will find a rewarding experience and in my personal opinion, the greatest Mastodon album yet.