Thursday, September 1, 2011

REVIEW// Mastodon: Leviathon

     I recently looked at my reviews, or more the lack of them. I then looked at the length of said reviews. I then looked at the length of other websites and their reviews. I then realised that mine were unnecessarily long. This, and my laziness, have contributed to my decision to make the reviews shorter. I hope that, in maker them more concise, you will still get an idea for the album, but I can hopefully get back to writing them more frequently. Today's review is actually of one of Mastodon's earlier efforts, which was requested by way of a comment. I apologise for it taking this long to get round to it. Mastodon are a progressive sludge metal band, for lack of a better label. Now, metal is very much a genre that I don't happen upon very often. That's because, in my opinion, metal, as well as noise rock and mainstream pop, are styles that are pretty easy to record, and to record terribly. When metal bands do it well however, something clicks and it works. Mastodon are one of these excellent metal bands that I adore, simply because of their mish-mash of sound. From punk aggression to death metal guitar work to sludge metal heaviness, Mastodon manage to tie it all together, which in itself is an admirable feat. 'Leviathon' is the quartet's second album, and debut concept lp, based upon Herman Melville's novel 'Moby-Dick'.
     Based around a novel as it is, track names seem to follow that premise. From 'Blood And Thunder' to 'I Am Ahab' to 'Aqua Dementia', these names suit the music. Melville's dystopian world is more evil and frenzied than ever when paired with Mastodon's fantastically paranoid sound. When compared to the group's first album, 'Remission', 'Leviathon' is much more unnerving. Instead of the terrestrial claustrophobia we were treated to then, the band have dived headlong into territory many others fear to tread. This album is a murky world, riddled with mystery and sea monsters that really are as terrifying as they sound. Opening with 'Blood And Thunder', a catchy guitar riff strikes up before being lifted high by the growling vocals we've come to love. Think of an adventure game, leading up to the great boss battle. This is a better soundtrack to that moment. The soundscape is vast and the sound strikes fear into your heart. The lyrics are the words of the captain, roaring at his men, and you feel pumped as you listen. It's a truly brilliant start to the album. The chords and subtle build in 'Naked Burn' work well with the toned down singing. The waves destroying the shore at the start of 'Hearts Alive' are met with a hard gruff melody that's difficult not to admire. Overall, every one of the ten songs here works.
     The very last track however, 'Joseph Merrick', is a beautifully 3/4 bluesy instrumental. When you've just listened through forty minutes of fast-paced, adrenaline pumping metal, this particular song hits you as a true representation of Mastodon. 'Joseph Merrick' (a chap sadly exploited in the late 80s as The Elephant Man), shows Mastodon's musical versitility and ability, which is always a nice touch. This tracks honesty and slowed down speed feels very much like the calm after one joyride of a storm. 'Leviathon' is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best metal concept album to come out of the noughties.
'Blood and Thunder'