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"Leviathan" has been described by many as a progressive metal record. This can be regarded as true if you look at it this way: Mastodon play their own music (which is heavy, very heavy) and bring into it influences that they draw from the 60's and 70's progressive rock. I want to give my opinion on this here point before I give you the reasons for the high rating because I've heard too many complaints already from progressive metal lovers who expected some Dream Theater kind of stuff from this band and didn't get it, then went and nagged about it. My point is that, in order to understand and (then eventually) love this album (and this band) one MUST have a solid 60's-70's prog-rock background or chances are he's going to feel misguided.
Besides the fact that I don't really like modern progressive metal because I think there's just as much feeling in it as I hear when my dishwasher is on, and that's another difference, one BEYOND the music, that sets Mastodon apart from modern progressive bands. This guys put their hearts and guts into it, not only their brains and musical knowledge. And sure to me it's much more interesting to hear a drummer like Brann Dailor going totally fucking insane on his drum kit with the urge of an hungry wild animal looking for blood that those plastic progressive drummers (Mike Portnoy, anybody?) all they do is indulge in those boring odd-time signatures where you barely know when the riff starts and when it ends and then give you the usual fucking roll and a bang to let you know when to clap... But let's cut the crap and get down to the songs that rocked my socks that morning of June 2005.
I had a chance to listen to "Blood And Thunder" a few weeks before I bought this Cd, watched the video on a compilation DVD I got from a magazine; I thought it was a silly funny video but the song was great! Ferocious up-tempo rock'n'roll with an Iron-Maiden-on-speed kind of break that put such a grin on my face… I got the weirdest looks even from my band-mates who were there with me. Everybody agreed it was an awesome song and a band definitely worth checking out. So, I went and bought the Cd, listened to it and got a sound thrashin'! After the first listen, I ended up thinking that "Blood And Thunder" was actually my least favourite song? I had to. This album grows like a monster, like the "Seabeast", from the depths of the fictional ocean it's set in, and grabs you by the balls and starts squeezin'. Throughout the triptych "I am Ahab"-"Seabeast"-"Island" melody and ferocity walk side by side. Talk about beauty and the beast, that's both.
I don't exactly know why but when I first heard the opening riff to "Iron Tusk" I immediately thought about Opeth. Can anyone explain that to me? Another great song, a little too short maybe, but absolutely enjoyable. On this one, and especially on "Megalodon", Brann Dailor shines and rules like never before. Notable the weird, yet very tasty, country guitar break that introduces the second, more aggressive part of the song, courtesy of Brent Hinds' not forgotten past spent as leader of the rockabilly band Fiend Without A Face.
After the relatively more relaxed and melody-driven episode Naked Burn, that can be seen as the calm before the storm, an unbelievably inspired guitar-drum double attack crashes on the listener like waves on a rocky shore in a stormy day introducing the amazing "Aqua Dementia". The uncontrollable stream of notes wrecks your ship, nothing you can do about it, as the song turns into an apocalyptic punk attack that kicks you far away from safe shores. As the chugging ending riff fades away, along with Scott Kelly's last abominable scream, your senses slowly come back... only to realize that you sank with the wreck of your ship and you're now up for one last claustrophobic nightmare. And you better be ready for this one, because it's going to be a long one...
"Hearts Alive" contains the best 13 minutes of heavy music I’ve heard since Neurosis’ "Through Silver In Blood". It's the best way to wrap up an album as adventurous and mystical as this one and one of the most beautiful progressive metal (by now you should know what I mean by it) compositions ever. Daring, intuitive, free-spirited improvisation of both drums and guitars build up slowly but inevitably to the album's epitaph: a guitar solo worthy of Jimmy Page followed by a crushing, menacing riff that can only lead to a long, agonizing fall into the depths of the god sea.
That is the end of the line. If you've been a careful listener all hope to regain your senses must now be gone and all you can do is float away and let the dream-like melodies of "Joseph Merrick" carry your drifting remains to a safe place where silence reigns and it's all that matters. Yes, that's exactly the way I feel when I come upon something this great and it unfortunately ends: nothing can match what I've just heard, then I'd rather enjoy the silence.