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Overlooked Mastodon's First Effort - 100%

mastodon_t, December 1st, 2008

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 34-44 of the opening riff of "March...", the 34 of the opener's main riff and the 134 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!