Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mastodon - Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain

Here it is, the new Mastodon record. The dreaded, sell-out major label debut. More on that later. Ethics aside, the music rocks.

The Mastodon style, which fully took shape on the “Remission” album, has been perfected on “Blood Mountain”. Their order-from-chaos guitar noodling, Thin Lizzy-meets-Metallica riffs, dueling vocalists, fearless rhythm section, and adventurous lyrics are all represented here.

Long-time Mastodon collaborator Matt Bayles has produced their best sounding album to date. “Blood Mountain” has all the complexity of Tool (more actually), but with the heaviness of classic Metallica. The guitar tones are godly and Troy Sanders’ bass is actually audible this time.

Brann Dailor has slightly toned down his manic drumming with positive results. By not gravity-rolling every piece on his kit simultaneously, as he has shamelessly on past records, the percussion on “Blood Mountain” is more powerful and has room to breathe. As a result, the sparse, spastic mashing of his drum set is used to greater effect.

Mastodon is fast proving that they can out-play any band on the planet. The two extended, instrumental portions of “Capillarian Crest” seem otherworldly. Can humans really play this well? It’s not all progressive indulgence on this album. “Hand of Stone” cranks up the Motorhead quotient.

The use of guest vocalists on “Blood Mountain” is not employed in the hip-hop sense, so as to raise the record’s profile. Instead, the singers (Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and Cedric Bixlar-Zavala of The Mars Volta) are all like-minded creators that share Mastodon’s sensibilities.

For all the hype this year about retro-metal jam bands, Mastodon schools them all by simply playing their own style. Other acts like The Sword, Early Man and Priestess can’t hold a candle to tunes like “Bladecatcher”.

It’s weird to see a Reprise logo on the CD case. If you’re reading this, you hopefully know on which side of the major label debate to be. If you don’t want to support Warner Brothers, then buy the vinyl from Relapse. If Relapse has pissed you off lately, then burn it. Just don’t discount the music on “Blood Mountain” because MASTODON signed with a big corporation. The record is good and they’re the most interesting major label act since MR. BUNGLE.

I, too, wish that they had stayed independent, but here’s the reality of the situation. Mastodon made a great record, even if you don’t like their ethics.

UPDATE: I got to see Mastodon play at SXSW in Austin last month. It was my first time seeing them play the new stuff. It was, without a doubt, the best Mastodon show I'd ever seen. They're still the most interesting major label band and even MTV is now playing the "Colony of Birchmen" video. The Blood Mountain saga isn't over yet. Here's what you missed:

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