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Dear Mastodon: Shoot the drummer! - 61%

JamesIII, January 19th, 2010

Though hyped up something big by the mainstream media, I have taken Mastodon for what they are: a sludgy metalcore/groove metal band in the 21st century. Naturally, since they do lean in the realm of technical music and sound slightly better than most of the metalcore scene today, they've been hyped as some kind of metal messiah in the new millenium. We pretty much heard the exact same thing over bands like Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God a few years ago, both of whom have yet to live up to the hype.

I've spent some time collecting my thoughts on this band, taking them at face value and ignoring their overrated status. My conclusion is the same so many already have come to, and that this band managed to find an audience in the mainstream media, apparently coming in with a slightly different variation of the modern metalcore scene. While nothing about this is ordinarily bad, it won them unnecessary praise. They did this by securing a niche of mainstream listeners whose minds were so malnourished by the saturation of cookie cutter metalcore that the slightest change of pace instantly became a hit. Some could argue the exact same thing occured when The Sword became a new "pioneering" force in the world of stoner/doom metal with "The Age of Winters," despite being little more than a middle of the road album in that genre.

In the case of Mastodon, I have little use for their material, this including taking a few spins on "Crack the Skye," which was money horribly wasted on my part. This band's other albums have come and gone in my collection, the only one I decided to keep was this one in "Leviathan." This album manages to save itself from the gritty metalcore wasteland that this band has built themselves on by actually moving away from what made "Remission" as pleasing as surgery without anathesia. For one, Brann Dailor does tone it down a little on his carefree drumming extravaganza. He does manage to pull a straight beat out of his ass on occasion, but this is still the exception rather than the rule.

As for the vocals, they can be downright nerve racking at times though I'm not overly offended by whats going on here. This isn't a vocal driven album, which works all the more to Mastodon's advantage, giving way to some memorable riffs here and there leading to some memorable songs. Songs like "I am Ahab," "Aqua Dementia," and "Iron Tusk" are actually quite enjoyable, minus the nonsense behind the drumkit, and "Megalodon" throws in some halfway decent up-tempo work. Naturally, there are some songs here that are mostly forgettable to downright grating. "Seabeast" is a good example, which some have alluded to as a messy collage of meandering ideas and I'd have to completely agree. The other serious downer is "Heart's Alive," a song I may be uncertified to actually comment on as I cannot sit through this song in its entirety. Its been said already, but it bears repeating that a band like Mastodon has absolutely no business writing long winded songs in an attempt to score an epic.

While its mired by the usual flaws of this highly overrated band, "Leviathan" is still pretty enjoyable at times. I tended to like about half of these songs, and they remain the only songs I can really tolerate from this band. They've already put out two albums since this release, and both of them show no signs of recreating what enjoyable elements are present here. As far as I'm concerned, Mastodon have long worn out their welcome and have reduced themselves to a slightly more tolerable version of modern metalcore, and given the crap-tastic state of that scene, this isn't saying much. Anyone interested in this band either needs to hang up their hopes on these guys or look into this album, and this album alone. Simply forget the others exist, as this is only one worth your time. If you must get a hold of some Mastodon, I picked up "Leviathan" for $6 and thats about as high as one should go.