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Regarded by many today as the crowning achievement of Mastodon, “Leviathan” has been hyped as some sort of revolutionary new wave in the metal world by its champions, many of whom reside in the mainstream of music media. Having obtained this album a while back after listening to and being utterly revolted by their other 2 albums (I still am after giving them a few more chances), my expectations were obviously low. After a rigorous set of listens I have found that I once again must differ with the sentiments of the mass media, although surprisingly this album has some inspired moments and is enjoyable at times.
The same flaws that were present on the other 2 releases have still endured on here, though to a somewhat lesser degree. Brann Dailor is still throwing way too many fills into the mix, being the quintessential spider monkey wanker behind the kit, but we do get the implication of a beat on most of the songs, something which “Remission” completely lacked. “Megalodon” has a decent speed metal section that showcases Dailor’s ability to play a straight up beat, although constant section changes are incorporated to accommodate his profound case of ADHD. The vocals are a complete throw away, profaning nearly every decent death and thrash singer to ever take the microphone. The thing that saves this album from this is that the vocals don’t drive the songs, which leads us to where this album has the advantage over the others.
There are sections of several songs where we get some quality riff work and some brief melodic sections that toy with some progressive influences. “Naked Burn” has some occasional soft sections where we get some eastern sounds, contrasted with some decent heavier riffs and some clean vocal tracks that sound a little like Ozzy’s better days. The intro riff to “Aqua Dementia” is another high point of this album, while the rest is somewhat decent speed metal mired by vocals that depict an image of a gorilla with a real bad case of constipation. “I am Ahab”, “Blood and Thunder” and “Iron Tusk” also deliver some quality riffs and feature a rhythm section that is mostly tight and cohesive, now if only they could get someone who can actually sing and slow down the section changes a bit.
However, the songwriting and riff machine of Mastodon is, at its best, far from consistent. “Seabeast” takes my pick for the album’s commercial meanderer and fails to actually present a song, but instead a disjointed collage of ideas that passes itself off as progressive. I am confident that when people listen to this song they don’t comprehend it, they just shout in a retarded voice “Heavy Metal” when they hear the distorted guitars kick in. “Heart’s Alive” is proof positive that this band should stay away from breaking the 7 minute mark, let alone try to composer a 13 minute plus epic, something that will never work in the Groove/Metalcore genre no matter how many good ideas are thrown in. Listening to this song was comparable to the ADD test they did on that episode of South Park where they proceeded to read The Great Gatsby to the mentally retarded character Timmy in one session (it took the better part of a day) and then ask some question about an insignificant detail in the middle of the story. “Island” falls apart instantly with the same issues heard on “Remission”, too many ideas, no cohesion, and the drums showboat themselves out of any semblance of order.
In some ways it is a bit sad to listen to this album, because it showcases the absolute limitation of technique removed from musicality. All of the members of this band are actually gifted with a good command of their instrument, but they can’t write a song to save their own lives. Even when they do get a good idea going, they run to something different without giving it a chance to develop, like an immature child who bounces from one hobby to another without ever mastering anything. If you wish to check out this band, get this album and avoid the other two, and definitely do not buy this at full price, $5 is the highest that I can condone.