Like damn near anyone who listens to heavy metal, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the Mastodon's follow-up to the magnificent 2004 concept album, Leviathan. And despite my early predictions that Mastodon had outdone themselves on Blood Mountain, I found myself overcome with one nagging emotion during my first few listens: longing.
I'd love to say Blood Mountain is equally as ferocious as Leviathan or the band's 2002 debut, Remission. I can't. Although several of the album's tracks feature galloping rhythms, they -- like the rest of the album -- meander and toil. The album lacks nearly all of the unbridled enthusiasm of the band's former works.
I'd love to say Blood Mountain is the band's heaviest to date. It isn't. For much of the album, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher have forgone distortion in favor of squeaky-clean tones that only accentuate their lightning fast but nonetheless geeky shredding. (And I own several Joe Satriani records.) The harmonized interplay between the two is impressive, but it's so repetitive and long-winded at times. Even when the two sync up on "Circle of the Cysquatch," it lacks the cyclical changes that previously made the two appear to be such virtuosos.
I'd love to blame Warner Brothers for stifling the band's creativity and forcing Mastodon to make overt commercial decisions. I can't. I actually wish someone had put the kibosh on "Bladecatcher" -- a prog-fest featuring highly fucked-with blips that may or may not be the product of Troy Sander's vocal cords. This stuff should be left to the Mike Pattons of the world.
I'd love to say Blood Mountain sounds bad. It doesn't. In fact, it's so squeaky clean that it's bothersome. When the members of Mastodon decided to make an audiophile's wet dream of a metal album, they abandoned the vein-bulging spontaneity of their former selves. Isn't there a certain point at which each additional overdub does more harm than good?
I'd love to say there aren't any catchy melodies on Blood Mountain. I can't. I found myself humming the chorus from the album's first single, "Capillarian Crest," in the shower. I cannot say the same for any of the songs from Leviathan, Remission or Call of the Mastodon (2006). "Capillarian Crest" is one of several examples of the band's newfound love of vocal melody. But looking to Mastodon for melody is like ordering milk at a bar.
I'd love to maintain that I didn't laugh at (not with) Mastodon during my first listen. I cannot. I giggled myself into a fit when I heard the hyper-processed vocals on "Cysquatch." Imagine Steven Hawking's emulator set to "evil."
I'd love to say I found my hands uncontrollably forming metal horns during my listens of Blood Mountain. They didn't. In fact, they were more inclined to make jazz hands. Songs such as "The Colony of Birchmen" made me wonder if Andrew Lloyd Webber had a hand in producing.
I'd love to say Blood Mountain will prove to be the band's undoing. I can't. Instead, I'd like to invite you to Mastodon's coming-out party. Sadly, I will not be in attendance.