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Now one of the most widely acclaimed and celebrated metal bands of the modern era, US progressive sludgemen Mastodon seem to get most of their attention for the three albums that would trail this debut. For one reason or another, it appears as if 'Remission' ducked under the radar for even some of the band's more dedicated fans. This is made very peculiar by the fact that despite it's rough presentation and imperfections, 'Remission' is quite possibly the band's more enjoyable and rocking outing.
While I do not consider myself a big fan of this Atlanta-based group, I gained a measure of respect for them after listening to their 2009 opus 'Crack The Skye,' an ambitious concept album that incorperated a hefty dose of psychedelic and progressive influence into their gritty metal sound. 'Remission' shows the band at a much more stripped down and feral state, relying moreso on the power of each guitar riff than anything else. While the fact that the music doesn't have a great deal of depth to the compositions or recording could spell weakness when briefly glanced over, the power to 'Remission' is greatly endearing, to say the least. The music here is driven by crunching riff after riff, backed up by some incredible kitwork by Brann Dailor.
On that note, the drumwork really brings the music alive, it feels at any given moment, Dailor is dishing out something interesting with the drumming. The rest of the musicians don't necessarily stand out for each of their respective instruments, but the instruments are generally well orchestrated. Every once in a while, there is even the signature frenetic guitar lead riffs (that would be heard in greater detail on albums like 'Blood Mountain') here which despite taking part on an album that generally exercises intensity over complexity, still sound pretty great.
The production isn't the best, but it's excusable due to the feral, fiery nature of the music being played. Towards the latter half of the album, the songwriting tends to be slightly less memorable, although the last two tracks ('Mother Puncher' and 'Elephant Man') pick things back up again for a satisfying finale. The highlight of the album is the way in which it starts off, however. The first three songs flow together very smoothly, each filled with great riffs that overstay their welcome, interspersed with some surprisingly technical lead work and growls typical of the sludge metal scene.
Although I haven't been fully convinced by some of the later work of this band, 'Remission' has really caught my interest for it's fantastic riffs, energy and display of aggression. It does feel as if the band would lose a little bit of this flame in following albums, making way for a more progressive and musically ambitious feel. Despite lacking the depth of it's musical successors however, 'Remission' is essential listening for the unwary Mastodon fan. Sludgy, angry grandeur.