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Go to the Mastodon website  Mastodon - Leviathan [Relapse - 2004]

When you come to think of it, Mastodon’s rise has been meteoric. When they released Remission, their first full-length, two years ago, they were a band featuring two ex Today is the day members. Right now, it’s more like Today is the day has become the previous band of two Mastodon members.

Of course, this “rise” doesn’t come out of nowhere. Remission was one of the best hardcore/metal album of the year, and those who witnessed their live performances where instantly turned into fans. And their fans can come from any metal subgenre: they toured with High on Fire and The haunted and will soon support Slayer

September 2004 sees the long awaited release of Leviathan, Mastodon second full-length. Questions were aplenty. Did they manage to top their previous effort? Did they sell out? Where will it take them? And you could see doubters smiling from miles away, sure that they were going to find plenty to criticize. And criticize plenty they did, although it’s quite difficult to understand how a semi-intelligent, semi-honest metalhead might not even remotely like this.

Remission, one hell of a straightforward album, hinted at it, but here we get the confirmation: Mastodon is a punishing, epic hardcore band whose aim is to rock like hell and likes nothing more than twin guitar leads à la Iron Maiden or Thin Lizzy.

Leviathan is a concept album inspired by great American classic, Hermann Melville’s Moby Dick.  And for sure, the metal lovers will find it easier to get than Ahab did regarding the great whale. Mastodon has everything a band could dream of: a singer at ease in both screams and clear vocals -although he is helped by a few guest vocalists, an amazing duo of guitarists, and a drummer that is probably out of this world (fills over fills over fills over fills). Their songwriting is the best in metal since Steve Harris or Metallica classic era, without ever giving the aggression up, or indulging in pomp. And the production is top-notch.

A song like I am Ahab makes it very clear that Mastodon is a force to be reckoned with: insane drumming, beautiful guitar harmonies alternating with vicious riffs and some very nice atmospheric bits. Iron Tusk could be a single: it’s short and incredibly catchy (in a headbanging way). Incredible groove, superb twin leads, Maiden-esque break, Zakk Wylde and Adrian Smith in one fucking person. Megalodon is a bit in the same vein, although the grooving bits are faster and the melodic, acoustic passages are longer. Difficult not to be amazed. And it goes on, Naked Burn, Aqua Dementia up to acoustic instrumental Joseph Merrick. Special mention for Hearts Alive, the most epic track on the album, with it’s acoustics foray, very melodic chorus, almost mathrock break and very “ornate” twin leads.

If there is one band in metal today that’s going to make it big, it’s Mastodon. They have everything needed to become the new Maiden or Metallica without giving up on anything. Their meteoric rise has not ended yet. And it’d better not: if they could create a whole new genre, with a lot of heirs, we could get ourselves some better metal on MTV than Korn and assorted bagels.

Photo: J. Hubbard

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

François Monti
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