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(Review originally appeared in Gnosis Webzine in 2002)
Remission has to be one of my most anticipated discs to come out this year. After falling in love with Mastodon’s debut EP (Lifesblood), I knew that this was a band destined for great things.
To be fair, this album is a tad bit overrated. However, this is not the band’s fault. This is the fault of the PR hype machine that touts every new album that is a little bit different than the norm as the greatest thing to happen to metal since the discovery of distortion. Nothing ever lives up to its hype, but Remission stacks up very well, and it’s an important album to the forward progression of this music form. I’d recommend this album for the instrumentals alone.
Remission is an excellent album, melding brash, abrupt, noisecore riffing with 70's metal guitar heroics and southern rock soul. Last year’s Lifesblood EP was a schizophrenic mishmash of different facets of extreme music, which seemed motivated by the need to have everyone shut up and take notice. Remission is more of a focused affair, mature and confident, and really focused around some strong songwriting.
Mastodon’s not-so-secret weapon is their evil genius of a drummer, Brann Dailor. He's Neil Peart on Chemical X. What makes Brann better than most drummers out there playing extreme music is that while he has massive ability and skill, but unlike a lot of metal drummers, he chooses to play for the song. He has more in common with Bill Bruford, Neil Peart, and Carl Palmer, than he has with modern extreme metal drummers such as Tony Loreano or Nick Barker.
That’s not to say that the other guys in the band are total slobs or anything. They are all very proficient on their respective instruments. The guitar team of Bill Kelliher & Brent Hines have a pretty unique thing going on. For the most part, the heavier riffs are hardcore based, although far more technical than what that implies. What makes these guys special though, is that they have a pretty eclectic arsenal of musical styles to draw from, such as their magnificent melodic parts, which brings to mind the soaring dual harmonies of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. However, these guys are just as likely to flourish the songs on Remission with quirky chicken pickin’ or shimmering jazz runs, as they are to bust out with alternate-picked thrash insanity.
Unfortunately, I have a few minor gripes. The bass is mixed too low, and while you can tell that it is filling out the bottom end sonically, I feel like it’s presence should have been a bit more audible. Also, the vocals aren’t anything special –just your basic hardcore/death vocals. They don’t detract from the music really. They just don’t add a whole lot. I can overlook this pretty easily, because vocal duties are split between the stringsmen, and they handle their (more important) instrumental duties valiantly.
One of the biggest metal bands in the mainstream of today (and I mean the real mainstream. The shit capable of charting and the kinds of bands that people who just watch MTV for Jersey Shore reruns might have heard of) is of course, Atlanta's Mastodon. I decided to start this series for a few reasons. One was that I used to be a huge fan of the band. Really, their first three albums were always in fairly regular rotation from about 05-08, and I think it'd be fun for me to take a trip down memory lane. The other is because the reason this is a trip down a long forgotten path instead of a simple retrospective is because I haven't listened to them at all for the last four years. Yes, Crack the Skye was so unbearably awful that it somehow managed to make everything before it sound like shit to me. It was like The Matrix sequels. And since I've stopped listening to them, they apparently became the new Metallica, so curiosity is leading me to re-explore and re-evaluate the band's career in some attempt to understand how in the everloving fuck that wound up happening to a band that managed to squander away their songwriting capabilities so marvelously. So welcome, my friends, to Mainstream Extinction: The Story of Mastodon, and BastardHead's Expert Opinion on Why You are Probably Wrong.
So in 2002, after gathering up a huge amount of buzz via their two EPs the previous year (Slick Leg and Lifesblood), Mastodon managed to sign to the legendary Relapse Records, and start their career already a few steps ahead of most young, innovative new bands. And their debut, Remission, actually holds up pretty well, even a decade later. What this presented was a very hungry young band, out to set the world on fire. Remission manages to do just that, with it's insanely chaotic approach to extreme music, dashed with influences of hardcore, sludge, and bluesy southern rock.
Back at this time, for those of you who got into metal around the time Dragonforce was wrapping up production on their fourth album (never has a young person felt so old than in the metal scene!), there really wasn't a whole lot like Mastodon in the early 00s. There were chaotic bands, there were noisy bands, there were sludgy, heavy, and bluesy bands, but few that wrapped all of it up in such a nice, appealing package in the way that this band did. Even less so getting frequent airplay on MTV and a major label hype machine. So at the time, this really was a cool experience. The long, psyched out jam in "Elephant Man" was so different from the thunderously heavy "Crusher Destroyer" which was so different from the unremittingly dense "Where Strides the Behemoth". It's a very fun, flavorful album, with enough running threads and common themes between tracks to keep the varied experience cohesive.
The one aspect that absolutely cannot be ignored is Brann Dailor's absolutely frantic drumming. Bill Ward once said that the reason he injected Black Sabbath with so many drum fills was because he had trouble keeping time, and so throwing in a fill every few bars gave him the ability to break into free time for a short while so he could collect himself and get back to where he needed to be. I don't doubt Dailor is more than competent enough to be able to keep time like a human metronome, but he emulates Ward so closely in the frequency, diversity, and intensity of his fills here that I can't help but wonder. One sad, lonely evening as a teenager, I actually sat down and listened to the first two Mastodon albums to see how long they went without a drum fill, and I'm pretty sure my calculations ended up being somewhere around "every four bars, twelve seconds being the longest gap between them". He really ends up being the leader of this band despite being the only member not to contribute vocals. His showy, flashy style ends up being one of the most memorable elements of the early albums, and this doesn't bother me in the slightest since he's very skilled, and it helps add memorability to his performance. So even if I ended up fucking hating this album, at least I wouldn't forget it. I would at the very least remember the complete spaz of a drummer.
And luckily enough, I don't hate this album. In fact I feel like it's quite good, and has managed to stand the test of time as an enjoyable modern metal album. It's hard to pigeonhole Remission into any one particular subgenre of music. There are definitely huge heaping helpings of High on Fire in here, such as "Where Strides the Behemoth" and "Trainwreck", and not to mention the slightly prog rock styled darkness of the acoustic segments in "Ole' Nessie", "Trilobite", and "Elephant Man". Unsurprisingly though, I feel the best tracks are the shorter, faster ones; the ones where the band just completely lets loose and delivers a chaotic, frenzied experience complete with memorable riffs and melodies. "Crusher Destroyer" is an absolute fucking monster of a track, as are "Burning Man", "Mother Puncher", and "Workhorse", and they contain some of the most memorable riffs of the entire experience (topped only by the more crushing, mid paced number of "March of the Fire Ants"). Unfortunately, they also stand out the most because the long tripped out songs are pretty fantastically dull.
Yeah, "Ole' Nessie", "Trainwreck", and "Trilobite" do a decent job of keeping the flow of the album going, but as tracks themselves they're just needlessly boring. I get a feeling that the "progressive" part of their genre comes from tracks like this, the long ones that drone on endlessly with jazzy percussion and long sections of harmonized lead lines. They don't make the entire album boring, thankfully, and they're each spaced out by putting a fast, catchy song in between them all, but if you're not leaving the album on in the background or something (like say... reviewing it), they can be really tiresome and frustrating. The band's strength lies in the fast and the midpaced, and most of these songs are indeed midpaced, but when their ideas are stretched out for too long, they tend to lose their luster, and that sucks because it means the album periodically loses steam after the first four tracks finish. They're just... not very interesting to listen to, and when you couple that with the completely inconsequential vocals, you find yourself listening to drum fills for seven minutes at a time. Yeah, the band would be better off in the future when they dropped the idea of putting multiple long droning tracks on each album.
Overall the first four tracks are all great, with a strong High on Fire type stoner metal vibe, mixed in with healthy amounts of noisy hardcore and a very subtle southern sludge flavor, with "Burning Man" and "Mother Puncher" doing the same on the latter half of the album. The more progressive songs, on the other hand, are kinda lame. You can do without the five tracks that aren't the six I just mentioned, as they're really inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. If nothing else, it's a very dense and suffocatingly heavy album for most of it's duration, even during the boring songs, and it serves as a neat reminder of the band's roots in hindsight, because they never got heavier than this. I most certainly would not have expected Mastodon to become one of the biggest and most popular ambassadors for heavy music in the media's eye based on this inhumanly thick and impenetrable album, that's for sure.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
Mastodon's "Remission" is certainly one of the most criminally-misunderstood and underrated heavy metal albums, although with the band's newly garnered popularity and expansion of its fan base, it's certainly gotten a lot more attention at this point. I remember first listening to this album some 10 years ago when I was looking for something new, fresh, and that wasn't death metal/Pantera or anything like that. I came across this beast and couldn't put it down for about 6 months. I decided to pick it up again recently and give it a listen and boy, have I been missing out.
First of all, Mastodon is far, far from your average heavy metal band. This album is full of riffs of all sorts, nothing virtuoso, but they're still fairly talented. That being said, a lot of the leading comes from the drummer, Brann Dailor, who has already brandished himself as one of the best heavy metal drummers in the modern era. This is an immediate turn-off for many heavy metal fans and reviewers, but I find it quite refreshing and a new idea that has never been tried or executed as appropriately. What you get is that a lot of the riffs either repeat themselves or move to a different octave and you always get some kind of capitulation - classic, right? Except it doesn't sound this way with Brann Dailor. I would say he's the mastermind behind this album.
Now, the vocals are a little strange and I am fairly certain no one can sing like that live, and based on what I've seen, that's definitely true. The vocals are very powerful, although nearly incomprehensible for the most part. This is perhaps a second reason why this album has received less praise as it should, because the vocals sometimes border death metal, although this album is not an extreme metal album. While modern Mastodon vocals are characterized by a lot of clean, harmonious singing, this stuff is full of grind and grit, therefore fans of the more commercial stuff have been warned.
The songs are genuinely well-written and the riffs are extremely catchy. I would say Brent and Bill have really showed the signs of their riffing genius early on as a lot of the riffs on this record are very catchy and very well-phrased. Again, it's the drums that really take control of the record, but do not overlook how well some of these riffs are played. My only qualm with this album is that, unfortunately, Mastodon aren't great soloists. While classic heavy metal bands like Metallica, Pantera, Megadeth, and hell, even Slayer have come up with some great solos (especially the first two bands), this album doesn't really have any good solo work at all, not even mindless shredding like you'd expect. I also must say the bass is almost inaudible, which is to be expected given how distorted the guitars are.
Overall, this is a classic album. It does have its shortcoming and for the heavy metal xenophobes out there, it can be a little intimidating and, dare I say, pretty sophisticated for the audience it is intended for. But nonetheless, this is a fine debut album by one of the modern greats within this profound genre of music. If you've listened to "The Hunter" and "Crack The Skye", prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Mastodon has certainly become a different band over the years, developing from this sludge trash combo band into proclaimed “Hard Rock Masters”, as the label on Crack the Skye tells you. The two bands are hardly related aside from the band members, name, etc., and both of them are good bands. However, it is important to know where these globally recognized musicians began their careers together.
Remission certainly has an interesting cover, as a horse being eviscerated by some unknown force would catch the attention of many an eye. The sole artwork on the back contrasts that with a faceless man, and the artwork in the lyrics booklet is no less than peculiar, as are the lyrics that they provide the backdrop for. Speaking of which, the band does an interesting job with lyrics, delivering poetic storytelling with but a few words. At other times, such as in Mother Puncher (awesome name for a song, by the way), provide a relatively different set of emotions, to say the least.
The vocals on this album are very different from later Mastodon, when they have some guy doing really whiny stuff. Here, though, we have some guy doing some awesome screaming/shouting stuff. I’m not exactly sure, which band member, they all pitch in on vocals except for Dailor. These vocals don’t always fit the songs, as in Where Strides the Behemoth, and even in Trampled Under Foot it just does not fit with the whole style of the song. They did make a nice choice of presenting the listener with a song free of vocals in the closer track, Elephant Man.
Don’t let this tarnish your view, on almost every other song this guy dominates. Workhorse is the best example of his ability to truly drive the song, and the chorus of March of the Fire Ants delivers with the whole band screaming “Bone grave, bone engraved”. Magic moment right there folks; but not the magic moment of the album; we will get to that later. The previously mentioned Mother Puncher also shows the vocalist really getting into it, and the results of his connection to the lyrics help make the song memorable.
The guitar provides mostly sludge based riffing with some intense thrash influences that help provide chugging riffs. March of the Fire Ants and Crusher Destroyer have really unique riffs that stick with you for the rest of the album, as you, the listener, dare Mastodon to see if they can top themselves. Burning Man also has one of the most bone crushing chugging riffs in existence at the climax of the song (I need not tell you when, you will now when it hits you square in the face).
The solos are also varied on the album. March of the Fire Ants contains one of my absolute favorite guitar solos, and Crusher Destroyer gives you a short burst of extreme thrash complete with that 15 second or so solo. The guitars also do a nice job of slowing things down, with some interesting distortion on the guitars in Ol’e Nessie nicely transforming the song away from the rest of the album. Trilobite, which also features a beastly CELLO part that shows Mastodon going outside of the sludge thrash album conceptualized. More importantly, the guitar part slows down and devastates the listener with brute force, showing technicality and control of their instruments.
The mix does not feature much in the bass department, but if you turn up the bass, you can hear it, and this guy is running on a different bar than any other bassist I‘ve heard (which, granted, is not many, but nonetheless that’s what I think). He is just going all over his bass, and there is little to no audible melody aside from his consistent playing on the string that does keep the pace going as fast as possible. It is from here that you get that ever present thrash element that just keeps moving.
Now, I have been waiting so long to talk about this guy. I love the drummer. Brenn Dailor is an absolute madman and I’m surprised that he does not wreck his drum set after a single song. He is all over that thing the only person that can even possibly be in the same class as him could be George Kollias, so you can see the high esteem that I hold him in. Every song is precisely drummed, yet it retains that sense of absolute chaos. His double bass pedal work is fantastic, never reusing a rhythm, and mixing it up with different time signatures. I can’t even list all of the time signatures he goes through, but I am pretty sure I picked up on 6/8 and 7/4 rhythms, so this guy knows his stuff.
Dailor is the driving force for this band. The entire beginning of March of the Fire Ants is essentially a well timed drum solo that keeps going, maintaining that march intensity that makes me love that song. Even versus the later work that he has put out keeps that same thrash-all-over-the-place atmosphere, even if it does become a bit toned down. Even watching live videos of him, he performs every bit as well live as he does on the record. He also manages to do a great job in providing that intense ambiance in Elephant Man, which is expertly put together.
There are two songs on this album that I felt truly stood apart as amazing and why Mastodon was able to kick start their career when somebody heard how awesome it was and they got more attention. The first is Elephant Man, which is an 8 minute instrumental that closes out the end of the album. The guitars layer on each other with hyper melodic solo licks and a bass part that subtly keeps it together. The drums are slowed down here and are still precise with original beats. This song features solos that are intensely melodic and again show that control and originality that distinguishes this album from typical sludge metal. The song closes out with a long silence and the sound of pouring rain, adding ambiance and they truly make the song complete.
My favorite song, by far though, is March of the Fire Ants. But I think that should be obvious as most of this review thus far has been pretty obvious worship of this song. It is incredibly original with its march style with the drumming and that brutal opening riff. The vocals are all over this song, demanding attention where it is well deserved. The chorus is infectious, yet hardcore, and the guitar takes a backseat during the chorus, creating a nice balance in the song. However, the solos are absolutely amazing. I cannot emphasize this enough. Also, there is an amazing video that you can watch for free online, something rather out of the ordinary for an American band (Grand Funk Railroad reference for those of you into classic rock).
In short, this album is a definitive early work of one of my favorite bands, so it is good to refer back to their roots, which you can’t say they have been true to. But this is a fantastic work of music that does not receive enough attention due to their mainstream reputation. All in all, I recommend checking out this album, regardless of what you may have heard about them. Best songs: March of the Fire Ants, Elephant Man, Crusher Destroyer, Trilobite, and Burning Man. Yeah, that’s a lot, but this is an awesome album.
This album basically lacks everything that "Leviathan" or "Blood Mountain" had. There is no clean singing, and the vocals sound like a cross between hardcore shouts and death grunts, with no melody whatsoever. Melody is one thing that Mastodon have always been good at, and it has always worked, even when vocalist/guitarist Brent Hinds attempts to "scream" and ends up sounding like a Hyena being beat by a caveman with a stereo (see "The Wolf Is Loose" live on Youtube and you'll know what I'm talking about). The only song to contain clean singing is "Trainwreck", and it's very weak, unlike later releases. I'm pretty sure that most of this album is done by vocalist/bassist Troy Saunders, who has always had a more tolerable voice, and who's voice sounds harsher and more angry. However, the vocals are barely in use here, as most of this album is instrumental.
Because the album focuses more on instrumentation, one would guess that the band would be like Neurosis and feature a large repotoire of instruments, or at least attempt to sound like they don't need vocals in order to sound good. Unfortunatly, the riffs, while very clever, sound like they need vocals to accompany them and therefore make them more noticable. The riffs are very well written and very groovy, as well as being very heavy, and bands like Dream Theater make up for this lack of vocals with technicality, but these guys don't have any show-offiness like DT does. It's all simple riff after riff. Fortunatly, the drummer makes things interesting by practically murdering his kit. He is fucking INSANE. His drum patterns are all over the place, and he is frequently makes use of fills, thus making him one of the higher points on this album.
The lyrics are my main problum. The lyrics are horrible. They really didn't put any thought into them, and the it's usually 2 words per line, which gets annoying really fast. I mean, seriously, who would read a 3 word sentance and say "man, that was so meaningful!"? Fortunatly the band would stop doing such things later in their career.
My favourite song on this album was "Trainwreck", because it was full of progressive and interesting guitar riffs, and is the most similar to what the band would later do. Another great track is "Mother Puncher" which is the sole song in which the whole "ultra heavy sludge/prog/grind/hardcore/rock" sound works, in that it never bores, and there is always another riff around the corner.
In conclusion, Remission, while not essential, is still a good listen. It reminds me of a mixture of Neurosis, Napalm Death, and System Of A Down. I would recommend "Leviathan" over this anyday though.
Despite a lot of mainstream music outlets giving this album its proper due, there's definitely seems to be a lot of uninformed criticism of this record, especially in the aftermath of the band becoming popular years later. Detractors from the record, and to a further extent, the band fall into two camps; those who admittedly don't get the band and those who malign the band but, keeping in line with having bad taste, posit genuinely overrated bands like Opeth or Meshuggah as superior alternatives.
A shame because, as Mastodon continues on this seems to be the most overlooked and under-appreciated album in their catalog, the opening salvo of a streak that would produce two classic modern metal albums.
The band itself has always been odd, composed of members who had respectively flirted with tech metal, hardcore, grind and hard rock, leaving the band and their common influences into a sludge-y beast that congealed into a mix of 70's rock, 80's metal, the oddly unsettling chorus-drenched guitar balladry of 80’s Metallica, and Neurosis.
Tuned to Drop-A on occasion like the aforementioned sludge influence, the band was never heavier than on this record, though their rock influence, talked up in early Relapse press releases, is prominent in the songwriting, musical hooks, over-driven and noisy Marshall amp sound, and abundant Thin Lizzy-affected leads. "3:30"-"3:46" during "Ol'e Nessie" alone demonstrates some of the quirkiness that made Mastodon stand out in a stale genre burgeoning with metalcore clones, half-baked prog, past-its-prime tech death and hordes of uninteresting and over-produced European bands.
It's an extreme metal record that rocks, something that was rare and oft-ignored until metalcore bands like Avenged Sevenfold would turn that into a successful sales gimmick. The majority of that has to do with its rhythm.
The key to all music is rhythm; it's what differentiates something like The Violent Femmes' "Add It Up" from someone just blandly strumming a B power chord at an open mic. The core of a good riff is never the notes, it's its rhythm. Things like jazz and AC/DC always had a preternatural ability to determine where spaces and rests should go, why you shouldn't rush a phrase, why tremolo picking some C minor scale retread over blastbeats doesn't necessitate good music. Mastodon, from here until "Blood Mountain", understood that concept very well.
There's audible development in song structure, riffs change frequently and keep dynamic (although the band claims this is due to their "musical ADD") lending power to the longer songs which frequently contain dramatic bridge sections or riff refrains, which are frequently the only time Brann Dailor plays with the riffs as a standard drummer would, instead of playing "lead drums" against them. Though an aspect of the record that is criticized, it works because Dailor's actually a very good drummer, and someone who manages to tastefully overplay. This doesn't detract from the songs themselves because the band seemed to be quite aware of this and would occasionally surrender control of the dynamic and shift of the music to Brann as his drumming would take charge with the guitars and bass sometimes being static as he would appear to solo mid-song.
The guitars are no slouches either, supported by Sanders' distorted bass and employing everything from chicken pickin' to 70's arena rock harmonies to the signature open string arpeggios and interlude riffs the band made its signature. Against the more natural sound Marshall's produce, a lot of the guitar parts sound a lot noisier and more dissonant than they normally would, creating a record with crunch to spare and a lot of heft.
The "groove metal" tag is lazily slapped on this band now, but that seems to come from the vexing that they give some listeners, since there are songs that are blatantly Neurosis-influenced ("Trainwreck"), songs with more blatant rock feels ("Mother Puncher"), songs with a less-odd metered (and better written) Meshuggah feel ("March of the Fire Ants"). There are even a few death metal growls thrown in deep in the mix that, with the hardcore/sludge influence in the band, made them decidedly unique and difficult to categorize. This difficulty also made them appealing to all sorts, since they were never too much of one thing to alienate fans of a particular scene.
In terms of vocals, Troy is the dominant voice on this album, and possesses a gruff/hoarse sort of sludge metal throat that paces itself and is served well by the band's sparse lyrics. Like a lot of metal records, the lyrics are framed in sentence fragments and bandy ideas instead of presenting something fully detailed and literary like other genres. This isn't much a drawback since its a normal concession and a good amount can be determined or interpreted from what little is presented lyrically. As this is more of a guitar and drums record anyway, the lessened focus on vocals (particularly vocal rhythms which are performed well and in proper place but not anything special) and lyrics isn't surprising but doesn't really take anything away from the record as a whole.
This record was a landmark piece of original metal with great songwriting and proficient playing that hadn't yet ("Blood Mountain") bordered on the soulless and rhythm-less wanking of most progressive and technical metal. To tread a tired cliche, this album is just as heavy and crushing as their name, aesthetic, and song titles ("Trampled Under Hoof", "Crusher Destroyer", "Where Strides The Behemoth") implied and is perfect for anyone remotely into sludge but doesn't mind something that sounds this technical. Only hampered by "Trilobite" (which is maybe one plaintive Mastodon track too many and the sole dull entry on a surprisingly catchy album) and the second half of "Trambled Under Hoof" (which drags on a bit into "heavy-for-the-sake-of-heaviness" territory), "Remission" is a majestically heavy 00's metal and strong case that metal isn't quite dead. It's just that most of the bands can't write songs for shit.
Another underrated monsterpiece dying for me to review it!
Here we go: Mastodon's 2002 "Remission", one of the most perfectly accomplished examples of how to create a fresh, inspired, aggressive, intricate and, most of all, NEW approach to metal music. Mastodon does that simply by throwing in the pot all of the inspiration they can get from any source of good music around them, regardless of styles and fashions, and re-reading the whole baked product through the "Mastodon-Filter" (read: contorted drum patterns, crunchy lo-fi guitar sound, indecipherable growls, masterfully arranged melodies, unusual song structures and a minimalist approach to lyrics, which leaves the texts open for personal interpretation).
The result is something so unpredictable that, once you hear it, you simply can't even try and compare it to anything you heard before; and for musicians like Mastodon, this is, nowadays, something to be proud of.
As for individual technical abilities of the band, there's no doubt they are very good musicians. The songs here aren't really showcases of virtuosity, but there's hints everywhere in these songs of what Mastodon is capable of. That goes with the exception of the drummer.
Brann Dailor has got to be one of the most surprising drumming revelations of the years 2000. I remember when I picked the album "Leviathan", my first Mastodon album, I was absolutely stunned by what this guy had done. I mean, never in my wildest dreams I would have thought of playing drums on those catchy songs the way he did; and after a couple of listens, I still couldn't figure the logical pattern that the guy's mind should have followed in order to choose those drum beats for those riffs. After that, I thought he couldn't get any better, but I was happily proven wrong when I bought "Remission".
Somebody might think Dailor is a "wanker" because, in this record, he barely plays a steady beat. But the biggest mistake you can make is comparing him to old-school prog-metal drummers, like for example Mike Portnoy. We are on completely different territory here, on a whole other planet! Dailor's drumming is incomparable to anyone else's in metal music, as personal and unique as it is! The closest comparison I can make is with Mike Giles of King Crimson. Anyway, in the many interviews he gave and which I've read, Dailor NEVER mentioned prog-metal drummers as a source of inspiration. And it shows! But enough about Dailor, let's get to the album...
The opener "Crusher Destroyer" and the following "March Of The Fire Ants" and "Where Strides The Behemoth"(probably the heaviest song on here) make immediately clear the band's intentions: total neurons annihilation. Some odd signatures (the alternate 3\4-4\4 of the opening riff of "March...", the 3\4 of the opener's main riff and the 13\4 of "Behemoth..."'s killer verse-riff), plus the anarchic drumming and the growls that seem to be coming out of a sewer all get together at once and start hitting heavily at you brain. By the end of side A, if you've been really listening, you should be jaw-dropping. If you're not, side B will provide you with the hardcore-influenced "Workhorse", the long, relaxed, imposing, majestic beauty "Ol'e Nessie" and the terrifying high-speed thrasher "The Burning Man", a real kick-ass!
The second part of the double record set sees Mastodon delivering their more trippy side but still not forgetting to include a couple of head-bangers here and there. "Trainwreck" is a long, tumultuous sludgey and slightly progressive track, adorned with beautifully original arpeggios that come back to mind every time I hear people talking about this song. "Trampled Under Hoof" is another head-banger with an odd signature and a catchy riff; this will be probably the weaker song of the album. "Trilobite", another trippy, sludgey composition, continues to explore the territories first trampled down by "Trainwreck", consolidating even further Mastodon as the undisputable kings of melodies and making so evident and appreciated the influence that Neurosis had on this band.
Last side of the double-platter opens with a surprisingly twisted song, based on odd signatures, frantic drums and hypnotizing guitar duets: "Mother Puncher". There's a live video shot somewhere in Europe for this song that can be easily found on YouTube; I strongly recommend whoever wants to get into Mastodon to go and watch it. You'll get the idea of what I've been talking about all this time.
Last song is an instrumental, "Elephant Man", dedicate to the homonym figure of Joseph Merrick. Now, this is what I was expecting from an instrumental song since Metallica gave us "To Live Is To Die". I'm not comparing the two, as they are far too different to be put on a level of comparison. But I can compare the feeling of satisfaction I felt upon listening to the two songs. After the last note has faded away I feel like fulfilled inside, as my day has reached his zenith and nothing can push me any higher.
Notable the solo at the end of the song: not much virtuosities, but rather a very bluesy, melodic and tasty solo that gives a magnificent album like "Remission" its appropriate outro.
Final comments: buy this album at sight! You will not regret spending your money!
Mastodon have to be one of the most boring bands I've ever listened to, and this album is clear cut example why. They blend groove and post-thrash riffs with a progressive sense so this album is kind of primitive, and I'll give em that for being original. However, blending genericly boring grooves and screaming/shouting vocals with progressive metal structures isn't exactly the best idea since the outcome will most likely bore the fuck out of you.
Not only that, but there's hardly any decent riffs on this album, and all of the so called riffs on this album sound pretty much the same. Infact, the only decent riffs are on the first song on this album, and that isn't saying all that much. The drummer is talented no doubt, but he chooses technical skills over songwriting. Nothing he does sounds interesting, and as hells unicorn said, he doesn't keep a steady beat which is the main problem that this drummer has. Overall, this band just sounds so boring.
About the only two songs that stand out at all on this album are the first two songs, Crusher Destoryer and March of the Fire Ants. The formal is easily the best song on the album, and while it's only tow minutes long, it contains one good ass riff that carries the song through. It's simple, but oddly enough, it works. The latter is kind of average, it's alright, especially compared to the rest of the album.
As for the rest of this album? Be prepared to take some Nyquil and grab a pillow, because you will most likely be bored to death with some of the most boring songs that you will ever hear. There is nothing interesting here, the groovy chugging "riffs" are boring and generic, and the drummer just goes on random wankery sessions, and while there are solos on this album, none of them save this album from the boredom that you shall experience. To top it all of, the vocalist can be pretty damn annoying at times. All he does is scream and shout throughout the entire album so he really doesn't help things at all.
I really wouldn't recommend this to anyone. It's not metalcore nor is it nu-metal or mallcore, but it still manages to be a pretty shitty album. It's not horrible or anyhting, I've heard worse, but this album just screams boredom. Eh, at least Mastodon would improve on their next album. Avoid this album, unless you're into genericly boring groove metal mixed with random and noisy drumming, or if you want a good night sleep. =P
It is impossible to collaborate with a musician under the age of 23 who hasn’t heard of Mastodon, they have been a media darling of sorts as a token metal band for the masses for a few years now. However, until 2 years ago I was happily ignorant of their existence, then my band was in search of a drummer and we ended up going with a kid who was fresh out of high school and looking for a challenge. Our collaboration with him lasted a meager 6 months and the only real fruit of our labor in trying to get him to keep a steady beat was me receiving this album as a birthday gift, which was quite elucidating as to why we had problems with him.
Mastodon plays a rather unique blend of Groove and Technical Metal, unique in the sense that no one else plays Groove Metal like this because the two concepts completely contradict each other. When music grooves, the drum beats are usually boring straight beats meant to induce the urge to nod your head to the music rather than bang it, but in the case of Mastodon you’d have to have 5 heads coming out of your shoulders nodding in a random overlapping manner in order to be in sync with the drums, which are so steeped with changes and fills that any sense of beat is completely gone.
The next symptom of this contradiction is the rather large collection of random riffs thrown together to make a distorted collage of misshapen sounds. In order to realize the groove aspect of the dichotomy, we obviously need simplistic riffs that stick to your cerebrum, mostly by boring the hell out of you and leaving an impression of painful drudgery. But if we are also to be technical, we must have rapid changes, so what we get is a massive collection of unrelated riffs all pasted together, guising as something that can be followed by the human ear. When you combine the ridiculous number of over-developed ideas (yes, it is possible to do this, although Mastodon is the only band I’ve heard that actually pulls it off) with the pretentious drum wankery, you are left with one simple question. Where the fuck is the song in this mess? The truth is, there aren’t any songs on here, there is only 11 tracks with varying time lengths containing noise, albeit noise that took a lot of effort to create.
While the instrumentalists are obviously in possession of technical ability, the vocalist exhibits the exact opposite extreme. At best, the vocals on here can be described as a non-Brazilian version of what you heard on Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D.”, which was probably a fairly big influence on this band. However, whereas on that album you could somewhat understand the lyrics (which were downright idiotic I might add), on here the vocals are so garbled that unless you read the lyric sheet you think your listening to gibberish being screamed by a Baboon with Tourette's Syndrome. When you actually read the lyric sheets, much of what you read is sheer nonsense, having a bit in common with the quasi-Dadaist style of System of a Down.
Naturally, there are some small areas of sound on here where you get something resembling music. Most of these are found on the closing track “Elephant Man”, where we get more groove than we do technical groove, resulting in a redundant though at least listenable ballad with some melodic guitar leads. The added bonus here is that the singer has decided to shut up and let the music go it's own way rather than add some stupid spoken part.
The remaining tracks on here are all interchangeable with each other and can be distinguished only by their time lengths. Whether it’s the short fit of pointless and meandering minimalist riffs surrounded by a 2 minute drum solo guising as “Crusher Destroyer” (what a dumb fucking name), or longer swamps of musical diarrhea such as “Trainwreck” (hence the name) and “March of the Fire ants”, none of it can be recalled by memory after being heard. The only thing you get is an impression, and it fades quickly when you seek out better music.
Now how does one explain the massive following that this band has? Why are they so damned popular? I struggled with this for a little while before remembering where this music came from. Throughout the early 90s there was a rather comical yet pathetic display of monkey see monkey do that resulted in the quick life and death of both Groove Metal and Grunge. Kurt Cobain’s and Sepultura’s success in the 90s was the result of what drives lemmings to commit mass suicide, you don’t question why something is either good or bad, you simply listen because that is what everyone else is doing. The initial impression that anyone is listening is provided by the industry which produces it, and then it snowballs from there.
So to all of my fellow metal heads out there whom are either contemplating buying any releases by this band or questioning why they are so big, let offer some advice, don’t bother with it. This rather massive swamp of decrepit excrement is not worth anyone’s time. Truth be told, I’d rather have my eyes plucked out and then be skull fucked by a T-Rex rather than listen to this again.
"Remission" is a really good album. It's a very surprising album. True, many times it gives a feel of some sort of chaos, but that is just because it's a new type of music and after you start getting used to it you can see the patterns in the music and you realize how brilliant this album is. I tried to define what genre Mastodon are, but failed miserably. Maybe it's the beginning of a new genre. Their originallity brings a new wind to my CD player, and they have the talent to support it.
When the album kicked off with "Crusher - Destroyer" and it got to the fast riff and then solo part I knew this album is gonna rock. Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher take the lead here and the occasional solos don't fail. The riffs are not particularly fast, but they are (all) good and rather in the speed for headbanging. It must be pointed out that there is a lot more to Mastodon than headbanging, and they construct riffs which are both intricate and comprehensible.
The vocals are quite forgettable, which is a good thing. It means that the music stands for itself and there are a lot of instrumental parts. A glance at the lyric sheet shows very short lyrics, as Troy Sanders can find the time to play bass, which is more important, since when he does both the bass sounds somewhat shallow.
On the other hand, when Sanders does not sing the bass is rich, wild and stands for itself, which adds a new dimension to the music. This is true for both the quiet and loud songs, however it is slightly more audible in the quiet ones.
There are four relatively quiet songs in the album. Listening to them showcases Mastodon as energetic and attentive to details. They show that Mastodon are highly talented on both technical and composition scale. They are not as good as the loud ones, but are definately not boring.
Brann Dailor is one of the (many) highlights in "Remission". The drumming is very unique and border breaking. He plays in unusual tempos and breakes beats like a madman. It's like he plays several drum solos in one song. Sometimes he takes it too far and doesn't harmonize with the guitars, but even in these times he shows some excellent talent. Even the quiet songs has the most passionate drums I heard so far, and he should be credited fot that.
Production has made an injustice with Dailor. The album leaves the drumming in the background, and they are fully audible only in the quiet bits. The same goes for the vocals, but in this case it's for the best. The bass, however, receives a lot of attention and the mixing makes sure we all know what Sanders is doing. The guitars sound somewhat diffused and not enough concentrated (which also adds to that misleading feeling of chaos).
In an overall look, little things, but mainly the quiet tracks, keep the album from being scored 100, yet none of them overshadow the great talent and potential, the original music, the heaviness and the overall excellence of "Remission". My personal favorites: "Crusher Destroyer", "Workhorse", "Burning Man", "Trampled under Hoof".
This label seems to be stuck to so many bands these days. In magazines like Metal Hammer, bands like Soil are considering "genre defining" - and, as of late, in Terrorizer and other popular underground magazines, this band (Mastodon) has been hailed as one of the most extreme bands today, and the most original. Due to all the hype about this band, I though I would give them a listen.
Before I get into this review, I'm more into the Black Metal side of things - I won't say no to Death Metal, but I put my foot down at all these "core"'s they are coming up with to label medicore music these days. I don't mind a BIT of hardcore (Tragedy is above average in those stakes) so I'm not out to review an album of a genre I don't appreciate - and then just end up bagging the genre in broad, general terms.
The album starts with "Crusher Destroyer". The guitar is attempting to sound chaotic I gather, with the "hectic" drumming making it sound "all over the place". The guitars aren't really working all that hard, and the drummer is being technical for the sake of being technical, as it's not really lending to the flow of the song. But then again, I guess they aren't striving towards "flow".
Then it's "March of The Ants". I actually thought it was still the first song, but obviously not. (It's a good thing I looked at the display while I'm typing this.) I give the drummer credit, he can drum, but I don't hear anything original here. It goes on with the typical DM "squeal" of the guitar until it goes into a... punk riff! Or Emo, depending on how bitchy you want to be. I would have been more delighted it he started signing above this with "why... did you leave.. me" because it would be so befitting with the melody line, but to no avail. I never realised that repeating unemotive, banal riffs was genre defining.
Now it's into "Where strides the Behemoth". Where strides the originality? I'm really confused as to why people think this band is so special..? Being a guitar player myself I don't see the greatness in their guitar work. Maybe it's the whole stop, start, stop, irritating rhythm, lack of structure that draws in such devoted fans? Or is it the reviews in magazines?
Workhorse: this intro riff is boring. And ooh, surprise, its some awesome rhythm changes and quirky little beats. This next riff is a little Black Metal sounding I guess. This guy's voice doesn't change at all. Neither does the guitar. Overall, a boring, background music kind of song.
Ok, I can't even be bothered going into the rest of the songs on this album. For reviews of the next songs, just look at the reviews of songs above, they are pretty much identical.
I must say the drummer can drum. Unfortunately, he does the same patterns throughout the whole album. Don't get me wrong, Black Metal is full of continous blast beats, but noone really gives it more credit than it's due. I don't see why some guy changing the timing every 30 seconds, doing special/quirky little things here and there (sequences) is so fascinating/new. Perhaps all their fans are drummers. (This is why I gave the album 25%).
The guitarists of this band are average, I found none of the riffs inspiring, emotive, aggressive to the point of making me go "Now here is a angry riff" or original. They are technical, but not talented in a creative/expressive sense. What's the point in being technical, if you can't capture the listener in any emotive way?
The vocals are pretty average, so I can't really make a good metaphoric insult about them that would make me laugh. Pretty damn uninspiring and boring... which sums up the album really.
You'll be familiar with the scenario by now: Band X releases their album and, eager to get your hands on a copy, you rush down to your local record shop or stand by the door, waiting for the postman. The record is well received by the music press, gathering 'album of the year' nominations by the bucketload and everyone's happy. Until, that is, six months down the line, when some goon at the record company decides that it would be a great idea to re-release the album with a couple of bonus tracks tacked on to the end in an attempt to squeeze a few more bucks out of the record buying public. The bastards. And they wonder why so many people use Kazaa...
My reaction upon reading that Mastodon's megalithic first album, Remission, was to receive this treatment was a predictable mixture of incredulity and frustration. However, having missed Mastodon when they toured the UK, the lure of the bonus live DVD bundled with the album proved too great for me to withstand...
The album in its original form was as good as it gets, alternating between overwhelming brutality, see “Crusher Destroyer” or “Where Strides the Behemoth” and haunting beauty - “O'le Nessie” and “Trainwreck”. There is not a bad track on show. Each time I listen, I find something new and exciting.
And then there's the playing... Words cannot describe how good these men are, suffice it to say that they are worthy of their name and must be seen to truly be believed. The sonic equivalent of a runaway freight train...
Standout moments: the glorious feeling of anticipation during the introduction to “March of the Fire Ants”, the furious riffage and crazed drumming of “Burning Man” and the sheer metallic beauty of “O'le Nessie”.
Unusually for a re-release, there is only one bonus track; “Emerald”, a Thin Lizzy cover. While it doesn't really fit very well with the brutal prog-metal that makes up the rest of the album, it is a great song. I've never heard the original but Mastodon carry it off well and it's pleasing to hear that Troy Sanders can sing as well as howl.
As for the DVD, superb is the word that comes to mind. Containing seven songs from Remission and two from their debut EP, Lifesblood, but sadly not “Emerald”, this DVD captures the raw energy, passion and excitement of a gig as well as any recording could ever hope to. The performance is phenomenal and Brann Dailor's drumming is the best I've ever seen, bar none. The only fault is that the backing vocals are a bit low in the mix but they're not that important so this doesn't really detract from the performance.
It amuses me that this was released at roughly the same time as the Linkin Park live DVD. As far as I see it, you have a simple choice: intelligence and talent or bluster and boy-band 'metal'. Your call.
They obviously employ a higher calibre of goon at Relapse.
Where did these guys come from? Remission is Mastodon’s first full-length album, and it instantly made them one of my favorite bands ever. Their style, which mixes death metal with some stoner, grind, grunge, and even a little jazz, is totally original and completely unprecedented.
Remission is filled with some super-fast and thrashy numbers (namely “Crusher Destroyer”), but at the same time, it isn’t lacking in slower, more acoustic “ballads” (“Elephant Man,” and it’s not a ballad, but it’s slower and softer than anything else on the album).
What I’d really like to point out about Remission is the absolutely amazing drumming. Brann Dailor is a veteran to the metal drumming scene and it really shows here, with seemingly sporadic but masterfully placed rolls and sharp accents. Mr. Dailor doesn’t do much cymbal work (or it’s not prevalent in the mix), but he’s a veritable wizard on the double kick and snare. The rest of the band’s members have substantial talent and they do their job, but they’re nowhere near as astounding as the drummer. The vocals sound more grind than death, and it can get grating, but it fits. (They’re the reason I took off one point.)
Another notable thing about Remission is the production. It’s raw and organic, making for a rough sound while still being very crisp and retaining the audibility of each instrument.
Overall, I’d say this is one of the best albums of 2002, and any fan of great drumming or something different in metal should definitely seek this one out. It’s a sublime experience.
Relapse Records seems to have it's finger of the pulse of everything that is pushing the boundaries of intensity in today's metal scene. From the over the top grind of PxDx and Agoraphobic Nosebleed to these guys, the aptly titled Mastodon, they sure know to pickem.
One part Dillinger Escape Plan, the other part Kyuss, Mastodon are uncomprisingly heavy, yet they still manage to make dynamic and memorable music. "Dynamic" is the key word here... "aesthetics" would be another one. Mastodon shift from texture to texture flawlessly, creating soundscapes that bring to (my) mind cosmic planes, windtorn deserts, and other such imagery. Musically, they use dense riffage and intricate signatures to the fullest, without sounding too frenetic... in fact, it is possible not to notice their technicality on the first listen, a result of their ace songwriting.
The most extraordinary thing about Mastodon, however, is their drummer, Brann Dailor. Holy shit, this guy tears up the kit on this one, dropping mind boggling fills and snare tricks almost every few seconds. The Remission is one of the only albums I own (tool's lateralus is another..) where it's easy to pay more attention to the drums than the band as a whole . THAT is how good this guy is... his cymbal work is commendable as well.
I don't know if I would use "stoner rock" to describe Mastodon, but the droning guitar tone and penchant for ear candy does nothing to revoke it. If you dig on the whole Relapse scene you should have no trouble falling for Mastodon... excellent band.
I’m not sure how I got into these guys but I am sure glad it happened. I first downloaded March of the Fire Ants and truthfully I wasn’t really overwhelmed. I checked around to see what people had to say about this band and since this was their first full length there wasn’t a whole lot to be found. From the small amount of opinions and reviews, I gathered the same overall feeling from them, “this album rules,” simply translated.
The best way I can describe their sound is a rock feel (southern), added with metal heaviness, up-tempo for the most part and hardcoreish vocals but with a flavor of their own. Play the first track and you start out by feeling the intensity Mastodon can accomplish. Midway through the song great melody is displayed with an almost bluesy type feel on the break. Throughout the first four tracks they use the same intense feeling while mixing them up quite well.
I can’t go on further without mentioning Brann Dailor’s drumming. This is some great technical drumming with excellent fills without over taking the rest of that band. I believe that this is a key element to Mastodon’s genre escaping sound.
After four tracks of intensity I was starting to hope they wouldn’t stick to that formula the whole album. It was good but just not what I wanted on a whole. Much to my delight and surprise, Ol’e Nessie was next. This song is much slower with some clean guitar but intertwines well with a louder more aggressive feel and then clams back down again. The rest of the songs have alternate feels as you can probably guess by the song lengths at this point in the album. (Short = fast || Long = slow/fast) It also ends with a great closing instrumental that is one of my favorite songs on the album, albeit there really is no weak song on Remission.
In the end Mastodon has a remarkable sound and album that is nicely put together. Although the vocals could be bothersome, I think Mastodon can be relished by fans of many different tastes that are able to handle some intensity and enjoy something that is distinct and quite unique.