Mastodon is on a major label. Does anyone else think this is weird? Good for them, I just think it is strange. So what do they have to show for themselves with their first record for Warner Brothers? Blood Mountain might be the perfect major label debut, well, at least it is for this band. While it is not one of the greatest metal albums of all time, it is an accessible record that mainstream metal fans will be able to get into and enjoy.
Blood Mountain has a couple of noticeable changes. First of all, Brent Hinds is singing more than he did on their previous albums. In addition, some of the songs seem much shorter in length when compared to their back catalog. Which leads me to the biggest question I have with this album. Why isn't "Sleeping Giant" the lead off single for the record? Yes, it is over five minutes long, but who cares?
Mastodon keeps up their modus operandi with another story driven concept album presented with excellent artwork provided by longtime Mastodon artist Paul Romano. "The Wolf is Loose" opens the album in a furious explosion of drumming just prior to the band laying down the opening salvo of this album. By the time the melodic section hits at around a minute into the song, one begins to realize that this is a band with an expanded repertoire. The track is quick as the band shuttles from one section to the next. It has more of a short story feel to it than a song. The melodic vocals that pepper the composition contrast very well with the more traditional sound that we have come to expect from Mastodon.
"Crystal Skull" also begins with a drum introduction, but this one has a definite tribal vibe. The band then joins in with a crushing, big sound. It is a great opening to the track. Melodic guitar lines that show a further maturity in the collective songwriting of the band further propel the song. The vocal pieces that Mastodon is producing are different at times, but effective. Scott Kelly of Neurosis once again guests on the album; his part is a powerful section of the song. There is a very brief 70's rock sounding guitar solo right before the close of the song.
"Sleeping Giant" is great. It opens with an almost majestic and ominous feel. Mastodon takes their time with building the tension of the song. When the music hits hard, Hinds' sung vocals make an enormous impact. The vocals match the music all too well. During the progression of the song, the moods, tempos, and overall feel breathe with a humanistic rhythm. It enhances the melodies that the music showcases very well. It is easily my favorite song on the album.
"Colony of Birchmen" is another excellent track. It features a guest appearance of Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. The vocals again really make the track. The chorus is really good and has a southern church choir feel to it. The song itself is heavy but it maintains its melodic qualities regardless.
The low point of Blood Mountain comes in the form of the song "Bladecatcher." It is a mess. They could have easily left this off the album, and it would have been better for it. It's fast and the vocal arrangement is just bad.
One thing that I do know, Blood Mountain will be one of, if not the biggest major label affiliated metal album this year. It is not some grand new musical statement, nor does not break any new musical ground. It expands what people came to expect from the band. They incorporate more rock and roll elements (especially in the vocal arrangements), and they do not rely on heaviness so much musically. Old fans of the band relax. It is a Mastodon record.
7.0 / 10
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