All hail fucking Mastodon!

This is a piece that I wrote after the Metal Hammer end of year poll in 2006. I still stand by every word. They more than topped Blood Mountain with Crack The Skye. They are also probably the best live band I’ve seen and that list includes the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Slayer, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, The Who, AC/DC, and, as they say, many more.

THERE is probably – quite rightly – a tendency on the part of most readers to take the results of an annual critic’s polls with a pinch of salt. Not just readers of Hammer, or even the music press in general, but every critic’s poll, from magazines that cover movies to those that deal with specialist fishing equipment, should be looked at carefully. People who write about music for a living, who are fed a vast quantity of product every day, tend to have different values from those with more limited budgets, who can afford to buy maybe one album a month – if that – and tend to make those choices very carefully. Pros can become jaded and sometimes fail to hear in a band what millions of record buyers hear. Similarly, the incredibly difficult albums by East European prog stoner jazz black metallers that get some writers hopping up and down – and let me interject a swift mea culpa here – will more often than not be lucky to sell in quantities that make it to double figures.

At Hammer we like to pride ourselves that we usually sort of get it right, that by and large we have an idea of what our readers want (including the half dozen or so extreme cases who will also be equally excited by the latest Lithuanian difficult music ensemble). Usually when it comes to compiling the list, the choices are fairly obvious as are their positions in the overall hierarchy. This year, however, it was a real bastard.

This has been an amazing year for music. Barely a week of 2006 went by without some absolutely earth shattering new album arriving on our desks. There was one particularly stupid day when we had the new Lamb Of God album, the new Iron Maiden album and ‘Blood Mountain’ all at once. We were like dogs in a circular room looking for a corner to piss in. And that made the choices in this end of year poll extremely difficult. Without getting all bland and banal about it, nearly every album on this list could have been ranked at number two.

But then only Mastodon’s ‘Blood Mountain’ could be at number one.

The editorial staff, writers and contributors at Hammer are a very diverse group with very different musical tastes and specialities. Yet ‘Blood Mountain’ was way ahead of its nearest competitor by a really sizable majority of votes.

You’d probably find that everyone who voted for it had their own reasons and that no two were in complete agreement. I can only chuck in my own personal tuppenceworth as to why it was my number one: for me, ‘Blood Mountain’ is up there with Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’, Black Sabbath’s ‘Master Of Reality’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Deep Purple In Rock’, Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ and Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’. This might sound like the usual vacant hyperbole that you hear from critics all the time – such as the tosser who recently said that Razorlight were as important as The Beatles – but it is meant in all sincerity and with a certain amount of embarassment because these aren’t comparisons that should be made lightly.

In my heart, I know that this is an album that I will still be listening to in another decade (assuming that I’m not dead, deaf or otherwise incapacitated) which isn’t something that I would necessarily say in all honesty about any of the others on the list.

The album sold well, though admittedly not in the sort of quantities that the likes of Green Day are used to, but while msot albums are dead and buried within a few weeks of release, ‘Blood Mountain’ is the sort of album that will continue to grow and to sell for a long time to come. Mastodon are a band who win converts easily, particularly when they play live. They are the only band who broke through the painful conservatism of a Slayer audience when they toured with them. No, they didn’t blow Slayer offstage, but then they are still a comparatively new and young band.

They appeal across genre gaps and generation gaps. And what’s not to love? Mastodon is what heavy metal music is supposed to sound like.

Occasionally we find old issues of Metal Hammer from back in the day and are amused and embarassed by the bands that the magazine went apeshit over. Most of them you’ve – mercifully – never heard of. Some of them you really don’t wanna know. And others we’re not gonna tell you wahat they are. History will judge – with equal cruelty – whether we got it right in 2006. Maybe there’s an obvious album that came out that we have completely missed. Maybe others high up in the poll will be regarded as utter mooses of ‘St Anger’-like proportions in years to come. But Mastodon? Hand on heart, swear on all that’s unholy. We are right. Anyone who disagrees is wrong. It’s that simple.

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