Mastodon is probably the most exciting metal band of the past five years. Here’s a band that hits heavier than a sledgehammer but sprinkles the assault with serious progressive and psychedelic flourishes. It should never work in such a forceful manner, but it does.
The band made a major statement with 2004’s “Leviathan,” a concept record based on “Moby Dick.” “Blood Mountain” is another concept record – the Georgia quartet doesn’t shy from its progressive influences – but it’s looser this time, involving a quest to find a crystal skull that will allow band members to enter the next phase of human evolution.
Huh? The story isn’t really important. What’s bound to grab listeners is the endless supply of pummeling riffs, enough time changes to make a jazz musician grin and the ceaseless percussion of Brann Dailor, who might be the most impressive metal drummer since Dave Lombardo emerged with Slayer in the 1980s.
Taken as a whole, “Blood Mountain” is a triumph. That’s not to say several tracks don’t stand on their own. “Colony of Birchmen,” with some help from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, is probably the most accessible tune of the 12 but doesn’t take a back seat to musicality. “This Mortal Soil” sounds like Pink Floydian space rock if Roger Waters had been influenced by Black Sabbath and Rush.
A large part of Mastodon’s sound is due to the nonstop riffing of guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, but it also has distinct vocalists in Hinds and bassist Troy Saunders. There’s plenty of talk recently about how healthy heavy metal currently is. A band such as Mastodon is a big reason why.