Mastodon - Blood Mountain
Reviewed by Ben on 21st August 2006
Where do you begin with Mastodon? Three albums, one critically and commercially acclaimed concept album based on Moby Dick. Signed to a major record label, and having gigs while they were on the up and up relocated to bigger venues, and I mean, bigger venues (their tent at Download 2005 was rammed). Bear in mind all of this was coming of their third album, "Leviathan" - a mix of progressive rock, mathcore and good old heavy metal. Like a juggernaut steaming through your stereo at times, there were very calming, acoustic like moments sporadically displaced on the album. It won rave reviews, the little band from New Jersey became superstars overnight and the world at that point in time was at their feet.
However, then came one problem. A simple enough one that every band at some point in time comes to. How do you write the follow up album to something that was in itself a masterpiece that surely can't, nee mustn't, be tainted.
"Blood Mountain" is very much a daunting affair. From a personal viewpoint, I couldn't find fault with "Leviathan", despite how much attention it got from the metal press, who continually use hyperbole on impending releases from flavour of the month artists; Trivium, God Forbid, Opeth, anyone? However they actually got it right with the last album, but it wasn't hyped as much in advance as "Blood Mountain". Would the formula be followed, or re-written?
I didn't have high hopes after listening to the album opener, The Wolf Is Loose as it played almost as if Minor Threat had a guest spot on the album. It came out of that chicane with the second track, Crystall Skull, which had the hallmark Mastodon sound - complicated, heavy, melodic. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of tracks that deviated from simple screaming/grunting lyrics that you'd expect from the band, with an almost Ozzy Osbourne vocality to both Sleeping Giant and Colony of Birchman, both intricacies in their own rights.
There were, however, a few tracks that had you ponderous on what the band are building upon for future releases. Circle Cysquatch at times sounded like a Slipknot B-Side while the album's final track was more stoner rock you would associate to Monster Magnet than anything else.
It IS a good album. That's the problem. It's good - it's by no means great. It has it's share of fantastic crushing metal moments (This Mortal Soil I am hoping is one of the singles they release off the album), but it has it's moments where you just find yourself skipping tracks - not one, but maybe sometimes two at a time. It suffers sadly from the same affliction many follow ups in all media circles stumble over... I'll put it to you this way; Alien3 was a very good movie. But it wasn't Aliens
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