This is a repost from my original Blog reviewing Mastodon’s ‘Leviathon’ Album.
Mastodon’s previous release ‘Remission’ grabbed the attention of a vast majority of media outlets and metal fans alike with some stunning songs such as ‘March Of The Fire Ants’, ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’ and ‘Ol’e Nessie’, the problem is when your first album and the band as a whole gets hyped it’s often then impossible to live up to the expectations that are set, Mastodon however not only meet these expectations they surpass them with ‘Leviathan’ and go on to make possibly the most important and brilliant release in the metal genre for the last couple of decades (all the more impressive when you consider it’s a concept album based around Herman Melville’s book ‘Moby Dick’).
Track By Track Guide: –
1. Blood And Thunder:
What an amazing song to open the album with, chosen as the lead single from the album, it starts up with what in all honesty is probably the catchiest riff in metal since Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’, before breaking into a full on metal behemoth of a song. Troy Sander’s vocals in this song don’t so much front the band more back it up, the use of off the wall time signature shifts, a fantastic dual lead break between Brent Hinds and Bill Kelleher, one of the best displays of bass playing heard for years completed with the drumming supplied by arguably the best metal drummer around at the moment in Brann Dailor this song is simply magnificent, and that’s before you mention the pure sing along chorus ‘WHITE WHALE, HOLY GRAIL’ I challenge anyone not to sing when listening to this song!
2. I Am Ahab:
This is a short song topping out at just 2:45, it once again starts with a catchy riff and continues to speed and pound its way through, with no lead in this song the two guitarist do a good job to keep you interested and rooted to your stereo, the highlight of the song being the lightly distorted, arpeggiated bridge.
This song starts off with a slower set of dissonant riffs that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, next it breaks into a more simplistic but heavier riff backed up by some clean vocals which sound almost Ozzy Osbourne like. The song concludes with what is a truly epic well constructed riff that physically forces you to bang your head!
Of all the songs found on ‘Leviathan’ this is the only one that makes you think it would have probably been better housed on previous album ‘Remission’ or possibly that it was even one of the songs left over. The song starts with a fast crashing riff and works its way through in brutal and unrelenting fashion, overall strong song.
5. Iron Tusk:
This was another single taken from the album, a huge riff to kick us off and some great interplay between band members makes this a fun song to listen to. When the song gets into its quieter interlude section, the guitarists know when to play harmonies and when to play in unison. The vocals in this song are somewhat random whilst at the same time being good.
The intro to this song is incredible; once again starting in dissonant fashion with some great interplay between the two guitarists before Troy Sander’s comes screaming in. This song can also lay claim to the strangest lead break on the album courtesy of Brent Hinds moment of ‘Chicken Picking’ in what has to be the most countrified moment in modern metal. After the break the song takes a much more heavier sinister route, great track.
7. Naked Burn:
This song has one of the catchiest vocal lines, coupled with one of the best guitar melodies on the record, this together with the near-absence of screaming makes this song a bit easier to listen to, and a lot more musical in the process, this song really shows the diversity of Mastodon.
8. Aqua Dementia:
Every time I listen to this album, I always find myself happy to reach this track, some really wicked licks open it (one of those truly confusing musical moments with a really tricky rhythm and strange melody) and they are countered by some jazzy fills on Brann’s drum kit. This song, is helped along brilliantly by the guest singer, Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, he contributes some high-pitched shrieks, which Troy follows up obligingly with his unique yell.
9. Hearts Alive:
This is by far and away my favourite song on this album, it is the longest song on the album topping out just shy of 14 minutes, despite the songs length at no point does it become boring, a true testament to the musical ability of the band. A nice mellow start to this song with calming sea sounds leading into some nice slightly distorted chords, before the heavier section with the trademark Sanders growl, the contrasts in tone from part to part in this song not only shows a good knowledge in music theory, but also a large amount of feeling. At about the 7 minute mark the song takes a turn, the chord changes are to die for, the time signatures change constantly, whilst never allowing the rhythm to become impossible to tap your feet to. About 3:30 from the end the song shifts again before we get without doubt the most upfront solo on the album and an amazing solo at that perfectly complimenting the song. Finally the song chugs its way to conclusion as you bang your head along in awe of what is being heard, this song is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word!
10. Joseph Merrick:
A fitting end to this album, even if a little odd, the song displays a lot of emotion and also is the only song on the record to
feature an instrument other than what’s already present in the band, that being an organ. The melody is excellent and is performed on acoustic guitars and is completely instrumental a solemn end to the album.
Lyrics And Singing: –
‘Leviathan’ is a concept album based upon Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece Moby Dick; it tries to capture the story of Captain Ahab’s quest for the White Whale. The lyrics are emotive, stirring and well written and as a result compliment the music perfectly. In terms of vocals, the workload is shared between Troy Sander’s and Brent Hind’s for the majority using equal parts melody, aggression and emotion between them. The guest work by Neil Fallon and Scott Kelly fits well and adds more texture to the album especially in the case of ‘Blood And Thunder’ with Scott Kelly.
Overall this album is the product of 4 musicians, who are truly on top of their game, Mastodon have shattered expectations for 21st century metal and emerged as one of the most important bands in the genre. With the exception of maybe ‘System of a Down’, ‘Opeth’ and ‘Tool’, almost no other band has offered such a unique take on the genre and emerged with both critical and commercial success. On a strictly technical level, this album is an absolute masterpiece of production, much like a ‘Tool’ album, every single note feels as if it was polished to its absolute pinnacle to reach the desired effect. Just as Opeth inspires visions of haunted marshes and lost travelers with its production, just as Alice in Chains creates melancholy moods and despair, so does Mastodon summon up the very sound of the sea on this record.