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Mastodon - Leviathan CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.88 | 325 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Leviathan' - Mastodon (8/10)

After seeing MASTODON live in concert with OPETH a couple of nights ago, it persuaded me to return to the band's music. It was not that I had been particularly impressed by their performance- on the contrary, I had found myself incredibly underwhelmed, and was left wondering 'what' it was about them that held me at bay. I suppose curiosity is as good a reason as any to revisit a band's music, and completing my MASTODON listening experience with their sludge opus 'Leviathan', I can see why the Atlanta-based act has enjoyed such heavy accolades in recent years. Although it holds par relative to other records MASTODON has released before and after this one, 'Leviathan' may very well be the most consistent, consolidating the primordial mass they conjured with 'Remission' and harnessing it with a fine technical edge. The result is an album that's both complex and fun as hell to listen to.

Although the solid balance between crushing riffs and progressive flair does give 'Leviathan' the sense that it's the only album in MASTODON's catalogue reaping the best of both worlds, it's impossible to call this one better or worse than any other of the band's albums. Each of them fits a mood, and in the case of 'Leviathan', the mood is that of sophisticated aggression. Although I may not have gotten the impression seeing some of 'Leviathan's songs performed live, the band's performance is impressively technical by sludge metal standards. Although it's easy to look at the so-called epic 'Hearts Apart' as an indicator of the band's increasingly ambitious approach, the band's strength lies in the quality of their riffs. 'Blood And Thunder' opens with an instantly memorable piece of guitar-crunch that gets the blood flowing from the start. Contrast that with the ferocious tech riffs in 'Aqua Dementia', and it's clear that MASTODON are drawing from both wells with regards to their guitar work.

The technical stuff is arguably the more impressive, but largely because it is kept in such moderation, only popping up when it's effective. MASTODON would later go on to take this sort of frantic bluegrass-style lead picking to new heights with the next album 'Blood Mountain', but the band uses it brilliantly as a counterweight here for the more primordial of the riffs. Of course, it's impossible to speak of a MASTODON performance without at least mentioning the drum work of Brann Dailor, who is by all means the star of the show, both on record and in the live setting. Although the odd time signatures most readily attributed to progressive metal are not in full force on 'Leviathan', Dailor gives himself plenty of room to explore the kit, and it never once feels like the man is settling for a conventional drum beat.

'Consistency' really is the word that describes 'Leviathan' for me, for better and worse. The songwriting is solid throughout, and while there is not a single weak point here, I cannot point out a particular song that steals my heart. Although later albums would go to solve this issue, the songs often sound quite a bit alike one another. The sludgy riffs, crunchy tones, gruff vocals and aggression is constant throughout, save for the brief and mellowed epilogue 'Joseph Merrick', which also happens to enjoy the distinction of being apart from the album's famed 'Moby Dick' concept. Even so, the piece feels more like an 'exit music' tack-on rather than something the album would weep and suffer PTSD over if it didn't have it.

Although MASTODON is still somehow not a total sell for me, each of their albums is impressive in their own way, and 'Leviathan' is no different. Although the riff-fuelled energy appears straightforward at first, there is a sophistication in this band's work that I would not normally expect from their style.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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