Written Before Listen
Mastodon is back and here with a new album. Mastodon has to be one of my favorite metal bands of all time. Albums like Crack The Skye and Leviathan are among some of my favorite metal albums and their concepts, song structures and musicianship are all great. On the other hand, I’ve kind of skipped on their newer releases, until today. Here we are with a new album and without further ado, let’s get into it.
With Mastodon being known for good production, and David Botrill (King Crimson, Muse, Tool) being the producer, it must be a recipe for success right? Not really, There are some moments where the production steals the show, and somewhere the production could’ve improved so much more. For example, the opening track is quiet in comparison to the perfectly produced “The Crux”. I think the production is great, but in comparison to the Mastodon classics, this is nothing.
I don’t think Mastodon has ever dug deeper into their influences. Is that a bad thing? Not in particular, Mastodon always took influence from good artists. Dream Theater, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Metallica are some notable names. I would say that each musician has their influences. Troy Sanders takes a lot of influence vocally and instrumentally from Lemmy. Bill Kelliher takes influence from the pioneers of 80s metal guitar like Randy Rhodes and James Hetfield. Brent Hinds as a vocalist always reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne but as a guitarist, he takes influence from a lot of greats. Tony Iommi, David Gilmour, John Petrucci, and Eddie Van Halen to name a few. Brann Dailor as a drummer takes a lot of influence from Ulrich and Lombardo and to an extent, Neil Peart comes to mind, but I think his biggest influence is John Bonham. As you can see, numerous styles of rock music vary in this one band and the combination of bands is just something completely different. On this album, the Pink Floyd and Dream Theater influences get turned up a little bit Alongside King Crimson and Opeth. I think the way that they take influences got weaker, but the experience and musicianship distract that in a pretty major way.
I always thought Mastodon are strongest as musicians. The progressive song structures, odd time signatures, vocal tradeoffs, solo chemistry, and everything in between. Mastodon has mastered all of it like the great rock and metal bands before them. What makes bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath so revered in metal is not only their influence but their chemistry as musicians. Mastodon has both the influence and chemistry to solidify themselves as one of the best metal bands of all time. On this album, the musicianship continues. Every aspect of having good band chemistry applies to this album.
Now, on to the big problem, This album is 86 minutes long and not super versatile, This album Is mainly just a prog metal album. Luckily there are some slight exceptions. “The Crux” is a very sludgy take on the modern Mastodon sound as it sounds like a mixture of their old and new style. “Skeleton Of Splendor” is a Prog Rock opus with a Rick Wright esc synth solo and a melodic and anthemic guitar solo. “Teardrinker” is still, a metal cut but the tambourine and riff lean more towards the rock category. Other than that, Mastodon doesn’t vary that much or even develop into something bigger.
Other than the length, sometimes the production could be a little bit underwhelming or wonky. I also think the solos get overly flashy around the back end of the album. What I will say is that 86 minutes of Mastodon has its pros and cons.
Overall, I highly recommend this if you’re a Mastodon fan and if you’re not, still give it a fair try. It’s a good album with some great Mastodon tracks, it’s just far from their best.