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Mastodon “Blood Mountain” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Mere weeks after its release Mastodon’s Blood Mountain is being hailed as an epic return to metal’s roots by one of the genre’s modern day pioneers. Not only accepted by the entire gamut of rock fan, but rock critic as well, Blood Mountain’s takes a break from modern prog and clashes with speed, grind and Fantômas as it peaks and sputters through the course of the album’s twelve tracks. The truly curious characteristic regarding the album’s reception is why…why do indie-rock centric hipsters salivate over the album with the same brunt as traditional metal fans?

There is a traditional divide that conquers musical taste, creed and fandom amongst rock fans; typically, being that you either like The Smiths or you like Slayer. Not to say that there aren’t thousands of people who like both of those bands, but the divide is there. It’s what made metal fans what they were for so long, the sense that it was them, and their bands, against the world; and it’s why some still feel betrayed over The Black Album. There was mention in a recent discussion at The Village Voice of how Mastodon’s Blood Mountain could be to metal what Nirvana’s Nevermind was to grunge. But I disagree completely.Blood Mountain will simply be Blood Mountain. Despite the alarming fact that it crosses lines throughout, causing hysteric blurriness between the freakish speedgasm “Bladecatcher” and the traditional blues-metal “Pendulous Skin,” it will be not start a revolution.

Metal is and will always be somewhat inaccessible to the vast majority of listeners, and there within lies the difference between it and any number of albums that have given foundation for bandwagon-jumpers through the ages.

Why then does it make the most jaded metal fan sweat with passion? Part of it is the general hardness and raw grit that the album exhausts, but the partially it can be attributed to its collaborators. The album’s guest performers are thoughtful and demonstrative of the band’s modern musical weariness, including Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and the oddly beamish Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the Mars Volta. Each contributes in a way that is both generic enough to make sense for their own musical paths, yet they are all performing as Mastodon, which warps their deliveries in an unusually unidentifiable way.

There is no real reason for non-traditional metal fans to enjoy this album no more than there is reason for them to enjoy the latest offerings from either Iron Maiden or Slayer. That being said, there is a mystique about both Blood Mountain and the band itself. They represent somewhat of an as-yet untapped mainstream brand that could possibly influence metal for the remainder of the decade; and as we are all aware of, it’s those damn indie kids that are always trying to find the next big thing in music.

Point is that Blood Mountain proves to be a brilliant album, molding itself through not only its members’ influences, but modern music in general. It reminds metal fans of a time before Godsmack hit mainstream success, but delivers with the knowledge that the band has released six underwhelming albums, staying clear of the vast number of pitfalls that were uncovered in the process. While you can’t forget that the last decade or so of hard rock has been tarnished by some unlikely sources, Mastodon try to while justly attempting to produce something far ahead of its time.