All hail fucking Mastodon II!

This is the review of Blood Mountain written for Metal Hammer in 2006.

Mastodon

Blood Mountain

Reprise

Strong contender for album of the decade

Mastodon_-_Blood_MountainIT’S always hard to see where history is going when you are in the midst of it. When ‘Leviathan’ came out in 2004, it was universally recognised as a great album but right there and then nobody quite knew how great it was: ‘Leviathan’ was, as we can clearly see in hindsight, was one of those albums that changed everything. In the history of metal, it was as important as ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘British Steel’, ‘Reign In Blood’ or ‘Lateralus’. It was the album that other bands measured themselves against and usually found themselves wanting. ‘Leviathan’ really marked the end of the decade-long dominance of so-called nu metal: after Mastodon, Linkin Park and company sounded anything but nu. It was like a reboot of the whole heavy metal genre, a chance to start over and get everything just right.

‘Blood Mountain’ opens with Bran Daillor’s rolling drum attack intro to ‘The Wolf Is Loose’. Few drummers are as distinctive, as immediately recognisable. Even fewer are capable of sustaining Daillor’s level of inventiveness and skill. It’s a magnificent opener, one that links ‘Blood Mountain’ to the ferocity of ‘Leviathan’, but takes us forward to new and even more magnificent vistas of noise. Running through the albums highlights, well, you may as well just read the tracklist: this is the perfect hard rock album. Not only is there not a single duff track on the whole record but there is not a single track that falls below the status of ‘classic’. Just when you think that the standout track is the furious prog boogie of ‘The Crystal Skull’, you get wrapped up in the magnificent Voivod-like complexity of ‘Capillarian Crest’.

‘Blood Mountain’, like its predecessor, is more than an album of great standalone songs: it’s an album that is collectively much more than the sum of its parts. The fact that there is not one single moment of this album that is anything short of magnificent adds up to a very superior album.

Having lived with this album at the time of writing for only a week – that’s blasting it out on the surround speakers at least once a night at home, drilling it into my skull every day on the tune on the way to work and forcing friends and colleagues in the office to listen to it from start to finish – it’s hard to make a lasting definitive judgement about it other than it’s obviousoly a great album. Just how great an album is for posterity to decide.

But right here and right now, whether your tastes run to new bands like Avenged Sevenfold and My Chemical Romance or to battle-scarred veterans like Slayer and Metallica, this is an album that you have to own.

[11]

This is the review of the same album written for Classic Rock magazine.

MASTODON
Blood Mountain
Reprise

Blood Mountain might just be the best metal album released so far this decade.

Any feelings that metal – or indeed rock’n’roll – has run its course at last, that everything that you can say with loud guitars and brutal drums has been said, evaporate with the first pounding beats of Brann Daillor’s rolling drum attack intro to The Wolf Is Loose. The song is magnificent, a pulverising hard rock punch in the face that knocks us into new and even more amazing dimensions of rock’n’roll. Daillor plays drums – normally the dullest of instruments – like a lead guitarist, more Hendrix than Bonham, weaving fantastic high-speed patterns that burst around you like fireworks.

Mastodon have a collective telepathic bond that allows all of them to go off on intricate voyages of discovery while everyone else holds it all together. It’s that style of hive-mind playing that history’s great bands have always had, the ‘x’ factor that elevates them above the ranks of the lumpen plodders and also-rans. This is the perfect hard rock album. Not one track falls below the status of ‘classic’. Just when you think that the standout track is the furious prog boogie of The Crystal Skull, you get lost in the Voivod-like sonic mathematics of Capillarian Crest.

This is an album with a central theme about getting lost on a mountain, a sort of psychedelic Jack London story complete with wolves and demons. It’s definitely an album of such richness and staggering intricacy that it has much in common with a great novel of ideas like The Call Of The Wild or Melville’s Moby Dick, which inspired their last album Leviathan.

Mastodon are both classicists and innovators: there’s nothing you haven’t heard before, you just haven’t heard it this way or this good. This is metal that cuts a swathe through artificial divides like generations and genres. Whether your tastes run to newbies Avenged Sevenfold and My Chemical Romance or to battle scarred ancients like Slayer and Metallica, or the glorious complexity of King Crimson and Pink Floyd, and whether you are 14 or 40, Blood Mountain is an album you must hear.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s