Mastodon - Leviathan (Cover Artwork)


Leviathan (2004)


When you hear the name Mastodon, you think of a gigantic pre-historic creature that roamed the earth during the Ice Age. It is only logical then that a heavy metal band would harness the pure, raw energy of a beast such as the mastodon. The band was inspired to write a concept album based on Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick. Guitarist Bill Kelliher read the second page, which had a line referring to the whale as a "sea-salt mastodon," and saw it as a sign for the concept of the album.

On the record's strongest tracks ("Blood And Thunder," "Aqua Dementia," "Iron Tusk," and "Naked Burn",) the constant machine gun style drumming of Brann Dailor (arguably one of the fastest and best drummers in rock music today) pounds away and after one listen left me speechless. Vocalist/bassist Troy Saunders' roar and guitarist/vocalist Brent Hind's wail have contrasting styles that make Leviathan unlike other metal albums, and more like a metal-infused prog-rock album (i.e. Queens Of The Stone Age). Guest vocalists Neil Fallon (Clutch) and Scott Kelly (Neurosis) offer vocal support on "Blood And Thunder" and "Aqua Dementia," respectively. The guitar work on this album is nothing but genius as Mastodon's two axe slingers grind out power chord after power chord and add pedal effects that include a country riff on "Megalodon."

The album's one blemish is the brutal, 13-minute long track "Hearts Alive," which probably could have been shortened to add another possibly vicious track to Leviathan's all-star roster of metal songs. If fans were expecting an album more similar to Remission (the band's critically acclaimed 2002 release), this record might slightly disappoint you, as Mastodon trades a more metal sound for a more free-flowing hard rock sound. A new addition to the album is the instrumental track "Joseph Merrick," where guitarist Brent Hind showcases his roots in Southern rock with his beautiful acoustic style playing.

The sea concept of the album is reinforced with a reference to Moby Dick character Mr. Queequeg on "Seabeast," where Hind howls "Dear Mr. Queequeg you have been informed your life's been saved / You are not a black-hearted vicious mess so it has been claimed." I heartily look forward to the followup to this record, which sadly will not be on Relapse but for Warner Music Group. Yet Mastodon promises that they are not out to please major record label execs with a more mainstream album, but to please their fans and themselves. So you can be sure for another masterpiece from this Atlanta quartet.