Mastodon - _Blood Mountain_
(Warner Music, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (
It would almost be too easy to wax lyrical at the start of this review about the manner in which Mastodon's star has risen over the course of the last eighteen months. Once one of the underground's best kept secrets, they now join the ranks of Opeth in graduating to the big (label) leagues and having the greater music press brand them the next big thing. Yet unlike the aforementioned Swedes' tragic _Ghost Reveries_, Mastodon's latest exhibits none of the tell-tale signs of a band losing their soul. They may have a drastically inflated production budget, a few high profile guest appearances (including one by Queens of the Stone Age mainman Josh Homme) and all the resources of a major label at their disposal, but fans of _Leviathan_ will feel instantly at ease with the material that's offered here.Owing significantly more to the progressive leanings of Voivod rather than a certain Bay Area quartet they are so regularly compared to, _Blood Mountain_ closes the book on _Leviathan_'s sea-faring abstraction and evokes an altogether earthier atmosphere that at times brings to mind Kyuss' _Welcome to Sky Valley_. Clean singing has now all but completely taken the place of _Remission_'s duelling growls; unsurprising, but entirely suited to the new songs and never once entering mainstream-baiting territory. Even a heartfelt moment in "Pendulous Skin" avoids sounding commercial and draws the record to a natural and suitably affecting close.But the Altanta foursome work best when their creativity is being indulged to an almost schizophrenic degree. "The Wolf Is Loose" is a jarring, impactful introduction to the album: up-tempo, aggressive and perhaps best described as the present-day equivalent of "Crusher Destroyer". The references to _ Dimension Hatröss_ are given vivid credence on "Hunters of the Sky" and "Hand of Stone", while on "This Mortal Coil" Mastodon shift gears and bring the extraterrestrial musings of _2112_ kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It's only on an awkward "Bladecatcher" that Mastodon's propensity for self-indulgence gets the better of them and ends up casting a blight on an otherwise sterling piece of work. By that point it's almost irrelevant however.Whether or not the band are destined for the levels of success tipped for them, _Blood Mountain_ is as challenging and eloquent a listen as either of its two predecessors; and if that were to appeal to larger audience, well, then we should be thankful that more people have started to open their eyes to good music.
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