Record of the Week

presented by Music Direct

Mastodon – Blood Mountain

Mastodon - Blood Mountain

Released nearly a decade ago, Mastodon’s landmark concept album about scaling a bewildering peak—and encountering bloodthirsty wolves, unified tree-people colonies, and ice gods—has been recently reissued and remastered on colored vinyl befitting the record’s chromatic characteristics. While the Tolkien-esque premise would flounder in the hands of a lesser band, the Atlanta metal quartet responds to the thematic and musical challenges with aplomb.

Weaving together a web of thrash, prog, psychedelic, and blues disciplines, Mastodon approaches pace, contrast, and angularity with idiosyncratic discipline. Brann Dailor’s ultra-dynamic drumming and jazzy faculty for off-kilter spacing and color functions as the anchor. Manhandling complex rhythms, his arm-twisting rolls launch soirees and double-bass thunder ignites percussive landslides. Dailor’s mates are equally proficient, their instruments doubling as lances that carve fills that, akin to the songs’ breadth, stem from a classical school of thought.

Blood Mountain remains as fresh today as it originally sounded in 2006. Shredding passages mutate into a shoots-and-ladders series of harmonized solos on “Crystal Skull.” Acoustic passages and fluid notes lighten the load of the alternately crushing, alternately consoling “Sleeping Giant.” Bench-pressing riffs and vocoder effects recreate the alien life forms of “Circle of the Cysquatch.” On “Siberian Divide,” grinding turns respond to tales of hypothermia and cannibalism. Mastodon embraces a cosmic sensibility throughout, turning to Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme to supply hallucinatory background vocals for “The Colony of the Birchmen” and delving into fractal folk on the reverb-misted “Pendulous Skin.”

Producer Matt Bayles preserves Mastodon’s thickness while allowing songs to breathe. Dailor’s floor-shaking beats and firm drive illuminate the spacious midrange, and the background vocals fight for transparency, it doesn’t subtract from the forceful footprint and solid tonal balance that account for the involving reproduction of the arrangements’ seemingly indefatigable structures.

Reprise’s new $20 pressing is relatively quiet and, with custom-swirled yellow and green wax,  affirmatively psychedelic. It marks the first time Blood Mountain has been available on LP since a 2010 black-vinyl version, and there’s a reason why the band’s studio catalog keeps going out of print. Namely, Mastodon sounds aptly muscular and burly on vinyl. While this edition doesn’t register the dynamic impact and three-dimensional forcefulness of 2010’s collectable Record Store Day 180g 45RPM pressing—limited to 2500 copies and now fetching upwards of $150—it’s well worth the time of any analog lover that values elite musicianship and hair-raising intensity. Bob Gendron

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