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Mastodon:: Blood Mountain (Album Review)

Music journalism is (or at least should be) a constant struggle to keep control of the superlatives. It is hard to resist getting into the habit of comparing everything to Nirvana or The Smiths. So that’s why it’s such a treat when you get a truly mould-shattering band like Mastodon – you really don’t have to watch your step at all. They’re that good. Their second full-length album ‘Leviathan’ (a take on Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’), announced their arrival as the most important metal band since Pantera and the most forward-looking mainstream act since Metallica. So ‘Blood Mountain’, another concept album of sorts, makes another massive leap forward, retreating even further away from their quasi-hardcore inception as it heads Mastodon into the realms of the progressive.

The concept this time is so true metal that even Manowar would be proud of it. The Atlantan four piece are ascending a mythical mountain and encountering all sorts of creatures on the way up, including a Circle Cysquatch and a Colony of Birchmen. It is this unashamed lack of bedroom tidying angst and naval gazing emo self-obsession, in conjunction with a brutally elemental sound that marks them out as true visionaries. Talking of the elements, Bran Dailor, drummer extraordinaire is still the most stunning thing here and is definitely the representation of water. His technical jazz drumming skills, complemented by a looser, more instinctual talent sees his sticks rolling around the kit in and out of tempos like the broiling sea itself.

‘The Wolf Is Loose’ makes an impressive bridge from the ferocity of the last album to this but then almost immediately ‘Blood Mountain’ becomes progressive (with a lower and upper case P). The twin guitar assault of ‘Crystal Skull’, and complex song structure, is somewhere midway between ‘Seventh Son’ Iron Maiden and ‘Ride The Lightning’ Metallica. The diversity of influences range from Slayer and Isis (their producer Matt Bayles is on knob twiddling duties here) to Rush and Jethro Tull. It would be wrong to say that prog metal is going to become the standard for the next five years or anything daft like that, but tellingly enough Cedric Bixler and Ikey Owens of those other forward-looking intranauts The Mars Volta guest here too.

Put simply: there isn’t a bad track on ‘Blood Mountain’, which will be seen as the metal release of this year, on whichever level you care to mention.
(John Doran)