Mastodon is an American sludge metal/progressive metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, formed in 1999. The band comprises bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor. They have released seven full-length albums to date, expanding their musical borders from early raw sludgy riffs to later psychedelic multi-layered songs, yet maintaining progressive style with unusual time signatures and odd instrumentation. Read more on Last.fm
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Record Label: Reprise/Relaps
- Current Members
Troy Sanders – bass, vocals
Brent Hinds – lead guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher – rhythm guitar, vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, vocals (on the song “Oblivion”)
1. Oblivion 5:47
2. Divinations 3:39
3. Quintessence 5:27
4. The Czar: I. Usurper – II. Escape – III. Martyr – IV. Spiral 10:54
5. Ghost of Karelia 5:25
6. Crack the Skye 5:54
7. The Last Baron 13:01
According to Bill Kelliher, the album is about an “out of body experience”, looks at the concepts of astral travel, wormholes, Stephen Hawking’s theories and the spiritual realm.”
“This is the record we’ve always wanted to make. I’m really proud of everyone and the job we all did. There are songs telling a story from one man’s eyes. I don’t know if “ambiguous” is the right word, but there is purposeful double meaning. It’s more about what you think it means, so you can form your own opinion. It touches on Rasputin and the Czar and the plotting and murder of him — also stepping out of your body and astral planning“.
Troy Sanders states that “it’s ultimately based on the fifth element of ether. Our other records have touched on fire, water and earth so we didn’t want to just go to the air but go a little further. That allows us to crack the sky and go through a portal to outer space and experience time travel and different dimensions. Fifth album, fifth element – it makes sense. Ether is the central element but there are lots of stories around that concerning out of body experiences, the supernatural, time travelling through space, wormholes, being lost in oblivion. A lot of people believe that ether, the dark matter that dominates the universe, is the initial stuff that creates the soul.”
Brann Dailor said: ‘The first couple of times I heard it through I couldn’t talk for about half an hour. Took me a while to come down from it. This story is a multi-dimensional journey starting in present day. Leaving a crippled body using astral travel, up into outer space, too close to the sun. Ripped into a wormhole and sent to the spirit realm. Convincing sprits that you’re not one of them. Channeling you into a Russian Orthodox sect called the Khlysty in the early 20th century. Into Rasputin’s body for his assassination. Out of his body and up through a crack in the sky and passing through the Devil’s dominion without being dragged to hell and back into present day.”
Brent Hinds also commented on the album:” It’s almost like it could give you a music hangover. There’s a lot of music going on. I’m impressed, even though it came from us. I listened to it and was like, “I’m so proud of these dudes!” I love those guys and am proud of this”.
First, I must say that this album is SURELY Mastodon’s best effort, and I personally expect them to evolve even more in the future. The band is miles away from the style they adopted on previous albums, although they are still writing concept albums, such as their highly acclaimed “Leviathan” album in 2004, which won several awards from Kerrrang, Terrorizer and Metal Hammer. Old fans will notice a decrease in the sheer aggressive attack that Mastodon used to embody, but a different kind of aggression is present on this album, which is mainly a rush of musical complexity which amazed me personally as I ‘tried’ to notice the slightest details in each and every song, and came up with the conclusion that this album is an important milestone in the history of modern metal. Nowadays, it’s becoming hard to spot those ‘different’ bands; the sort of bands which try to navigate away from the trendy genres to identify themselves as innovators in the global metal scene.
The vocals are mostly melodic singing, with less screaming than ever. The songs have this classic rock feel to them and are heavily endorsed by progressive elements.
‘Oblivion’ sets the mood for the album, propels the crippled body into oblivion and hits listeners with a mood shockwave, especially with the powerful chorus that just stuck in my mind recently (“Falling from grace cause I’ve been away too long, leaving you behind with my lonesome song, now I’m lost in oblivion”), and the lovely solos which lay a deep foundation for the song. Drummer Brann sings on the song while laying down his trademark drum fillings. (8/10)
‘Divinations’ starts off with … banjo! A brilliant epic song this is! Progressive fillings starts to really show, the song has passion, feelings, headbang parts, and the perfect flow which had me repeating the song many times, enjoying every second of those 3:30 minutes, and wishing they had added more to the song; this could easily have been a 10+ minute song. 2 minutes into the song, it gets sinister and epic which honestly made me frown for all it’s worth. (10/10)
‘Quintessence” is filled with lovely and odd arpeggios, complex arrangements and some great bass work! This is again a moody kind of song, yet has this strong appeal to it, kind of mind-dazzling actually. The song leaves the listener dizzy when it’s done. I’m sure that few people would enjoy this after the first listen; it just takes more than three times to really appreciate the song. Again, the listeners are advised not to shuffle the album…The order of the songs is very important and essential to the overall album’s flow. (8/10)
‘The Czar’: this 4-part song was inspired by little black lacquer boxes that the band bought while on tour in Russia.
*Usurper: Sombre. It just has moody written all over this first part of the song. Two vocal layers combine to give a lovely atmosphere of a spirit warning Rasputin, telling him to run away.
*Escape: Ah! A great original riff starts this groovy artistic full of excitement second half of the song!
*Martyr: Anyone ordered Rush or King Crimson for dinner? The flow of the song keeps evolving more and more, as the fillings, the creativity and epic musical vibes reach their highest on the album so far.
*Spiral: Adding to the progressive element is a bonus, as the song comes to an end, one feels a bit lost as if a meteor (perhapsa paralyzed body?) had struck down and suddenly ears started buzzing, minds boggled and many people wept.
‘Ghost of Karelia’ comes out victorious after reaching one of the album’s highest peaks on The Czar … The song is lovely and catchy as hell, as Mastodon remind us of some of their earlier releases. It’s filled with graceful vocal harmonies, bass work, guitar harmonies and some extra riffs to glue the song together. One of their greatest songs indeed. (10/10)
‘Crack the Skye’ is a ‘nice’ song; the title song doesn’t necessarily have to be the most unique track on the album, and it surely isn’t. I loved many parts of the song, not the sweet melodic clean vocals part though, since it seemed awkward and in my opinion failed to fit in amongst the raw, weird and passionate vocals on other parts of the song. (6.5/10)
‘The Last Baron’ is my favorite on the album. Clocked at 13 minutes, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, musical creativity, genius composing, fillings and simply an effort to be remembered from the band. They really experimented with this one for sure, as noticed on the 6 minutes mark, when they added the monstrous weird element, dipped with technical work from all members. I truly love the 5:58 to 6:21 parts, I would have never guessed that Mastodon can go into the ‘weird department’ and come out winners: Creativity. (Extraordinary work from the drummer!) The song then returns to its departure site, as the last minutes fade out with guitar solos, signaling the end of the album, a true spiritual journey for the band and the listeners as well. (10/10)
This album was featured in the LebMetal’s top 10 metal albums of 2009!
Overall Album Rating (9.5/10)