Mastodon - Blood Mountain
Reprise Records
Technical Sludge Metal
12 songs (68'09")
Release year: 2006
Mastodon, Reprise Records
Reviewed by Adam
Album of the month
Major label debuts can be tricky. Usually, there is fairly good chance the band in question will spruce up and/or change their sound for reasons known only to them and their label management. Undoubtedly, this leads to numerous cries from disgruntled fans that the band are “selling out” to attract a wider audience. For this reason, I approached Blood Mountain, the newest effort from Atlanta’s Mastodon, with a small amount of trepidation. Although some would consider their former home label, Relapse Records, a near major label, the partnership of Relapse with Reprise Records for Blood Mountain was sure to lump higher expectations and more pressure on the guys. Well, if you’re like me and felt both excitement and fear for this album, let me assure you that your fears are wholly unwarranted.

Mastodon have generally progressed as a band in the course of their releases. Their full-length debut, Remission, is a very aggressive and somewhat raw sounding album. The follow up, Leviathan, has a more mature sound showing different sides of the band while taking an overall more progressive approach to their sludge sound. Blood Mountain continues this progression of Mastodon’s attack with interesting and welcome results. There are small nuances all over this album, and it took me numerous listens to notice all of them. The first and most easily noticeable additions come in the form of three guest vocalists. Scott Kelly of Neurosis guests on Crystal Skull, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age shows up for Colony of Birchmen, and the unique style of The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala makes a cameo on Siberian Divide. While all three make good contributions, the key for me is that these contributions are subtle and leave the songs with an undeniable Mastodon sound. Since Neurosis are an obvious influence for Mastodon, the safest guest is Scott Kelly, and, sure enough, his track works best. Indeed, Crystal Skull is the stronger of the two lead single tracks. The other, Capillarian Crest, with its numerous time changes and frenzied pace, just seems a little disjointed. Normally, I enjoy this style, which is often employed by Mastodon and Meshuggah, but here, it just sounds forced and overdone. In contrast, Crystal Skull is an engaging slice of progressive sludge where every piece seems to be perfectly placed.

As always, the technical skills of the band are second to none. Brann Dailor is an awe-inspiring force on the drum kit, and the interwoven guitar lines of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher sound better than ever. It won’t take long to notice either, as the opening track, The Wolf is Loose, just might be the best example. Multiple time changes are pulled off flawlessly led by Dailor’s jazz inspired snare heavy rhythm. Towards the end of the song, a cascading waterfall dual guitar harmony riff just might be the high point of Blood Mountain. Another prime example is Circle of Cysquatch. If you're like me, you have no clue what the hell a Cysquatch is. Well, according to Dailor, it is a one-eyed sasquatch that can see into the future. Thanks for that Brann. The song begins with a piercing guitar line and explodes into a full speed thrash/sludge hybrid complete with a strange vocal effect, which sounds as if Troy Sanders is grunting his voice through a wood chipper. Speaking of Sanders’ vocals, they have been maligned in the past by fans and detractors alike. On Blood Mountain, they have taken a definite step forward. Aided by backing vocals from every other member of the band at one point or another, Sanders’ yowl sounds more refined than ever. Maybe Scott Kelly gave him a few pointers.

Despite my reservations, Blood Mountain is anything but a disappointment, and it is highly unlikely that anyone who liked Leviathan will feel differently. My only complaint besides the slightly under whelming Capillarian Crest is the long period of time I waited after the close of Pendulous Skin (around 15 minutes) only to hear a goofy spoken message to the band from Josh Homme. Let me save you the trouble, if you really wish to hear said message, fast forward Pendulous Skin from around the six minute mark when the actual song stops until there is about a minute left. There, I just saved you fifteen minutes of your life, make the most of it! Ahem, back to the review, my complaints are miniscule when compared to this album numerous high points. For every moment that doesn’t work, there are five magnificent moments that wash away any sour taste. Ever wonder what would happen if Mastodon added a track to Suspended Animation by Fantomas? Well, come to think of it, you probably haven’t. Seriously, who would? However, in case you’re curious, check out Bladecatcher, an instrumental which employs twisted cartoon sound effects similar to those found in Mike Patton’s interesting concept piece. While Blood Mountain will surely be a polarizing effort due to the overexposure it is sure to receive, a serious look will reveal that this is the band’s strongest effort to date and one of the finest albums of 2006.
Killing Songs :
The Wolf is Loose, Crystal Skull, Circle of Cysquatch
Adam quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Mastodon that we have reviewed:
Mastodon - Emperor of Sand reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Mastodon - The Hunter reviewed by Crash and quoted 90 / 100
Mastodon - Live at the Aragon reviewed by Brian and quoted no quote
Mastodon - Crack The Skye reviewed by James and quoted 97 / 100
Mastodon - Remission reviewed by Nathanael and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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