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Mastodon - Hushed and Grim Award winner

Mastodon
Hushed and Grim
by Kevin Lewis at 12 December 2021, 11:47 AM

Atlanta, Georgia based American metal legends MASTODON are back with a two-disc offering of brand-new music. “Hushed And Grim” is their eighth full length album and is one of their most ambitious to date. Filled with typical MASTODON glory, this is a story about death and the afterlife. The story can be heard however you like to ingest your music. The record was released October 29, 2021, via Reprise Records. Blending heavy, doom, progressive and occasionally power metal, MASTODON have been pushing the boundaries since 2000.

We open with “Pain with An Anchor,” a melodic, almost moody tune with subdued guitars and the classic mix of different vocalists throughout to convey different tones and feelings. Brann Dailor is complex as ever, shifting patterns and using quick rolls and fills on drums. Part of the MASTODON signature, this is a familiar and comforting piece of the band’s identity. With the bass running on a different pattern, this is not a standard rhythm section, but rather a two-part foundation for the rest of the song.

Next, “The Crux” turns heavier and gets provides a bit of a darker tone. There is some grit in the primary vocals and fry screams layered underneath, really taking this to a new level of intensity. The melodic bridge with the guitar solo drops the pace down and sets a bit more tension. These first two songs are just a brief glimpse of what is to come over the next 13 tracks. MASTODON fans will be on the edge of their sets at this point, knowing there is so much more to come.

Dropping down a few, we arrive at “The Beast.” There is an almost country guitar style intro that shifts to a sludgy, moody slow burner of a tune. The haunting vocalizations add a creepy tone that adds a hint of fear to the song. This song feels a bit like a RUSH song in places with the prog elements built into it. Again, this is something MASTODON has always done well, shift the tempos and tones in a prog fashion to control the musical narrative of the song.

All of a sudden, the mood changes again and my personal favorite comes along, “Skeleton of Splendor.” I can’t explain why this song hooks me like it does, it just does. The tone, tempo, layered voices, melancholy feel and absolutely smashing solo section are but a few reasons. The keyboard trade-off with the guitar in the solos feels like PINK FLOYD joined the band and became a fused part of this album. I played that on repeat by itself for about a half hour.

Had It All” features a French Horn and a guitar solo by Kim Thayil (SOUNDGARDEN). The song itself is slow and peaceful at the start. Almost like a reflection of the past, knowing life was good. The solo is nothing short of phenomenal. The textures and sounds Kim get from his instrument is amazing. The horns add depth and emotion to the song. This vies for second favorite on the disc.

The record ends with “Gigantium.” More string arrangements, more complex instrumentation, more epic sound captured and delivered with precision and delicacy. It seems weird to describe anything about MASTODON as delicate, but the balance they show here is just that. How they manage delicate and brutal is beyond me, but I love hearing it.

There are so many adjectives needed to describe everything MASTODON is: esoteric, epic, intellectual, adept, eclectic is just barely scratching the surface. This record is all over the place. It is heavy, melodic, peaceful, tense and incredibly alive. This is one ambitious disc that delivers. It has been four and a half years and one pandemic since the last record. The band obviously took some time and got this right. It is impossible to hear this and not wonder how they do what they do.

Many records come together and feel like they fit together well, but this is different. There is a flow through the songs that takes more than just planning. There is a skill set here that few bands will ever master and that is the ability to tell a tale from start to finish and have you get it not only from the lyrics, but from the music as well. All the while, they never lose their identity as MASTODON. There is no doubting who wrote and performed this record. It is quintessentially them, showing why they are one of the most respected bands around right now.

Songwriting:  10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:  10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Pain with An Anchor
2. The Crux
3. Sickle and Peace
4. More Than I Could Chew
5. The Beast
6. Skeleton of Splendor
7. Teardrinker
8. Pushing the Tides
Disc Two:
9. Peace and Tranquility
10. Dagger
11. Had It All
12. Savage Lands
13. Gobblers of Dregs
14. Eyes of Serpents
15. Gigantium
Lineup:
Troy Sanders – Bass/Vocals
Brann Dailor – Drums/Vocals
Brent Hinds – Lead Guitar/Vocals
Bill Kelliher – Rhythm Guitar
Record Label: Reprise Records
     


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