It’s amazing how time has flown by since ten years ago. 2006 was a time when ‘Emo’ was all the range and Arctic Monkeys began their journey to take over the British rock scene. But it was also the year when certain heavy metal bands were starting to come into their own, including Lamb of God, Trivium and The Sword. Around that time, another band were about to stake their claim as the new monsters of rock. That band was Mastodon. There was already a lot of hype for them at the time – their previous two albums (2002’s Remission and 2004’s Leviathan) stood out in their own right for incorporating progressive rock into their sludgy surroundings.
But then came Blood Mountain; an album that has stood the test of time in regards to combining melody and rage whilst digging deeper into the prog-metal realm of storytelling. It’s a 12-track concept album about “A quest to place the Crystal Skull up on top of Blood Mountain”, and the songs on here takes the listener on a journey through the perils of what lies ahead. Drummer Brann Dailor kickstarts the album with ‘The Wolf Is Loose’, unleashing a blood-pumping intro to set up guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher for a three and a half minute foray to insanity and back. The following tracks ‘Crystal Skull’ (featuring a tribal drumming intro and a guest spot from Neurosis’ Scott Kelly) and ‘Sleeping Giant’ shows off the band’s newfound liking for all things progressive, often going through rhythmic and tempo changes in the space of a few minutes. ‘Capillarian Crest’ defines Blood Mountain in terms of pure musicianship and emotion. Beginning with an off-centered, hesitant riff lead by Hinds, the song ventures abruptly into a pulsating rhythm that plunges into syncopated and polyrhythmic lead guitar work, courtesy of Hinds.
‘Bladecatcher’ showcased a new concept for Mastodon; a dynamic instrumental in under four minutes, relying purely on Dailor’s chaotic drums to bring the band to the conclusion of the tune. ‘Colony of Birchmen’ (which has Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme on vocals), proves to be the most straightforward track on the album. Consisting almost entirely of clean vocals, it reaches new emotional crescendos one might have never thought possible when listening to Remission or Leviathan. ‘Hunters of the Sky’ and ‘Siberian Divide’ (which has Cedric Bixler-Zavala from The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In wailing in the background) harkens back to the band’s sludge metal roots with slow and extremely heavy rhythms, with the latter aligning itself towards psychedelic realms, something which the band would head towards on future albums.
‘This Mortal Soil’ gives the listener a bit of a breather by providing a mellow electric-acoustic intro before its signature guitar melody kicks in over a steady groove. The song relies on Hinds and Troy Sanders‘ clean vocal talents, something which is more prominent on this album than ever before, even though the growls and shouts from past albums are still there. Much like previous albums before, the final track, ‘Pendulous Skin’ ends Blood Mountain on a slow, acoustic note that feels like a power ballad with gorgeous guitar soloing, and eventually takes you away from the chaos of the previous tracks with ease.
Like Remission and Leviathan, this is an album with great individual songs that are even more rewarding when taken as a whole. You feel at times like you’re not even listening to a work of music, instead listening to a perilous adventure story like the ones your father or grandfather used to tell you as a child. Each song contains flawless guitar work, progressive instrumental sequences, and the clear production that’s needed to emphasize the complexity and duality of percussion versus melody and harmony. Blood Mountain is what Mastodon had been building towards since their inception, and it just reached its peak here, as it clearly showed an evolution in musicality and maturation of the band as a whole.
- The Wolf is Loose
- Crystal Skull
- Sleeping Giant
- Capillarian Crest
- Circle of Cysquatch
- Colony of Birchmen
- Hunters of the Sky
- Hand of Stone
- This Mortal Soil
- Siberian Divide
- Pendulous Skin
Mastodon – Blood Mountain line-up:
Troy Sanders – bass, vocals
Brent Hinds – lead guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, backing vocals