Review of Mastodon's "Leviathan"
Recorded at Robert Lang Studios and released in 2004, "Leviathan" is the second studio album of sludge metal band Mastodon. After "Remission," this was their most critically acclaimed success at that point. Multiple magazines awarded the album, and band, top spots on their "Top Ten" lists, and most reviews on websites were favorable.
Track Listing (writing credits to Sanders, Hinds, Kelliher, and Dailor)
1. Blood and Thunder 3:49
2. I Am Ahab 2:45
3. Seabeast 4:15
4. Island 3:27
5. Iron Tusk 3:03
6. Megalodon 4:22
7. Naked Burn 3:43
8. Aqua Dementia 4:12
9. Hearts Alvie 13:29
10. Joseph Merrick 3:33
As a metal fan always wanting to expand his horizons, I got into Mastodon about a year ago after hearing Colony of Birchmen from their “Blood Mountain” album. I liked the weirdness and melody of what I heard, so I checked out what I read was one of their best, “Leviathan.” It takes a while to get used to the sound and start recognizing the songs, but the musicianship is incredible. The first song, Blood and Thunder, is reflective of what the whole album contains; distorted guitars(the genre's called “sludge,” after all), deep and rough vocals, and an impressive mix of high and low notes that work very well together.
The composition of the songs are also notable; some songs have four distinct riffs that are all impressive and complement each other. Mastodon is like a more progressive form of Tool, but slightly less complex. The moments of the album that bring the most headbanging are 2:00 and 2:40 minutes through Seabeast, the entire song Island, 1:24 of Megalodon, and 0:46 of Aqua Dementia. The latter song features Neurosis' singer, who has sang on at least one track from every Mastodon album. The drumming on the songs is not the most technical, which could be seen as more of a positive than a negative.
Similar to other Mastodon albums, “Leviathan” is a concept album; the whole album is united in the same themes or messages and they are all related to each other. The lyrics, while definitely metal, could raise an eyebrow here and there. Island is the only song I've heard that had the sentence, “Beware the Hammer of Thor!” in it. So kudos to them.
So what is bad about the album? Well, some of the tunes could do with a bit of tweaking; you occasionally hear riffs that would be perfect if slightly changed, but that's more of a personal preference. It also takes a bit of getting used to, more than other albums, especially if you've never tried these guys out. Sometimes you get the feeling a song or two could be a bit longer, particularly when a section is so badass you want to hear it over and over again, but it only lasts two minutes or only appears twice in a three-four minute song.
Even though it is a key characteristic of the genre, the guitars are sometimes too distorted; it takes a keen ear to decipher exactly what notes they are hitting and how the song really goes. The comparisons other reviewers have made of Mastodon with Frank Zappa are pretty accurate; the time signatures are unique and the weirdness, or originality, is something rare.
Overall: 8/10 Definitely worth a listen for any metal fan looking to expand their horizons, or even rock fans looking for something a bit unique. This is, like most albums, something to listen to multiple times in order to gain the greatest appreciation one can. I've been listening to it for 5 months straight and still feel that the music is fresh, which isn't a characteristic every band has.
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