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As a fan of prog metal, I was recommended this band several times by people I know on the internet. Some of their recommendations were good (Ayreon) and some were utterly atrocious (Pain of Salvation's Scarsick, which takes the nu metal styling's Dream Theater's Train of Thought tentatively flirted with and goes ALL THE WAY with them, even though nu metal is dead, dead, dead and not coming back). So while shopping at a used CD store (one of the last remaining in Memphis), I came across a double disc special edition of Mastodon's Leviathan. The packaging was slick, with the black and gold slipcase and intricate booklet art. But prog? Yeah, prog as interpreted by a group of cavemen.
Leviathan occupies some mediocre junction where progressive metal, metalcore, and groove meet. The vocals are all horrible grunts and screams, some of which sound disturbingly like Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir (!) and others sound like a gorilla smoking crack cocaine. There are plenty of prog rock time shifts, tempo changes, and polyrhythms in evidence, as well as a drummer who seems intent on out-wanking Mike Portnoy (yeah, good luck, chump), but instead of soaring leads and sweeping keyboards, you get...chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga for all eternity. Disgusting sludgy, down-tuned rhythm clunking batters the ears like latter-day Sepultura played really fast. Instead of being energetic and invigorating, it's plodding, dull, and troglodytic.
Mastodon doesn't really play real solos, but there are some leads that are rather less distorted than the riffs, but they are still harsh for guitar leads. Mastodon abjures keyboards, even though keyboards contribute greatly to the sound and dynamic nature of prog metal and is practically baked into the formula (where would Images and Words have been without Kevin Moore's keyboard work?). The resulting sound is dry, barren, and scorched, with relatively little variation.
There's a concept of some sort, apparently involving a white whale (Moby Dick?), but the moronic, unintelligible vocals do not encourage the listener to pick up the booklet. The two barkers could be reciting Tennyson and all you would hear is URGH URGH URGH AAAAAAAGH.
Mastodon doesn't really suck. They are talented instrumentalists, and have a good grasp of basic song structure. But their style, presentation, and sound are mind-numbingly dull after more than a few minutes of their ceaseless bashing. In an interview, Mastodon claimed to be "cooler" than Dream Theater because Dream Theater "look gay" and James LaBrie "sounds gay like an opera singer" and various other things involving the word "gay". Gay or not (and the fact that they're all married with kids suggests otherwise), Dream Theater have infinitely better vocals, more interesting riffs, decent leads, and no groove/core bullshit (except in Train of Thought). Sorry, Mastodon, but you and your record are not cool. Not cool at all.