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Megalithic Beauty - 99%

Aconite, March 9th, 2004

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.