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Mastodon: Leviathan

Damn. Nothing prepared me for the crushing assault that is the latest release from Mastodon. Leviathan is a brutal, thunderous, sonic hurricane, showcasing a band that has all the chops in the world to go along with their deft yet aggressive songwriting skills. One look at the gorgeous cover painting reveals a band that has something "epic" in store for the listener, and the music more than lives up to that expectation.

To call this music raging and unrelenting is a severe understatement. Mastodon have all the muscle of early Metallica, the attitude of Motorhead, the exploratory nature of King Crimson, the pomp of Manowar, and the technical texterity of Rush. Think of them as the worlds greatest metal/prog/hardcore band, as they combine all these genres into one churning, mindblowing sound that is like nothing you have ever heard before. Songs like the near 14-minute "Hearts Alive" juggle between atmospheric metal and juggernaut thrash riffery, while "Blood and Thunder" just flat out pounds you into submission with lethal vocals, sledgehammer rhythm section, and brutal guitar riffs. Elsewhere you will find other killer tracks like the intricate "Megalodon", the pummeling "Seabeast", and the progressive doom of "Iron Tusk", complete with dinosaur guitar dirges that would make any fan of Black Label Society happy. Complex time changes run rampant throughout the albums ten tracks, so be prepared for a wild ride that never lets up. One twist is the spacey, Pink Floyd influenced instrumental closer "Joseph Merrick", a real testament to the bands statement that many of their heroes do not necessarily lie in the metal genre.

Metal's next big thing? Mastodon very well could be, judging by all the positive press they have been getting. But the proof is in the pudding as they say. Leviathan is a bold and mature statement that will no doubt turn heads in both the metal and the prog community.

Track Listing
1) Blood and Thunder
2) I Am Ahab
3) Seabeast
4) Island
5) Iron Tusk
6) Megalodon
7) Naked Burn
8) Aqua Dementia
9) Hearts Alive
10) Joseph Merrick

Added: November 2nd 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Mastodon Website
Hits: 4599
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Mastodon: Leviathan
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-11-02 15:55:15
My Score:

This is brutal death metal heavy, hardcore and aggressive. Yet at the same time it is melodic and musical. If that sounds like a contradiction, you need to hear the album perhaps many times to see how those contradictions live comfortable together in Leviathan.

The standard dreary black metal chord progressions are at the root of almost everything here, along with the growling which is almost sung, in a sort of gruff bellow, and consequently more palatable than most death metal vocals. There are passages that would be at home on any extreme metal album, and after the first spin they may be all you remember. But that is just the starting point and the intelligence and the musicianship become apparent with repeated listens. There are heavy riffs, there are progressive metal styled dual guitar attacks, there are time signature changes and tempo shifts, and arrangements that are watertight. Much of the music is driven by the drumming, which is simply stellar.

The theme behind the album bears references to classic literature, most particularly Melville's Moby Dick. There's a nautical theme to Leviathan, and although it isn't a true concept album, track titles like "I Am Ahab" and "Seabeast" are clear references to that novel. Their previous album Remission ended with an acoustic piece called "The Elephant Man", and this one ends with "Joseph Merrick" which was the actual name of the elephant man.

Of the 11 tracks played over less than 50 minutes, the 13+ minute epic "Hearts Alive" dominates this short album, and is an outstanding piece. It flows effortlessly from atmospheric metal to experimental hardcore, progressive rock to thrash, Sabbath-styled riffs to classic extreme metal.

Leviathan is a contradiction in so many ways. Hardcore but melodic. Simple black metal at its heart yet complex. Heavy, yet brutally elegant. This style of music is virtually owned by the Scandinavians and the Nordics, so it's a pleasant change to see an American band bring this kind of class to the genre.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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