MASTODON Albums Ranked from “Less Great” to Great

MASTODON Albums Ranked from "Less Great" to Great

Over the course of 17 years, Atlanta’s Mastodon have grown to represent the next stage of heavy music’s evolution. If you’ve seen them live then nobody can dispute the fact that for all the technical brilliance of their peers such as Gojira, there’s something so emotive and soulful about whatever the quartet does that makes it seem like Mastodon are in a complete league of their own. With their seventh album released earlier this year, they continue to traverse to further lands that are so eloquently dominant over the ocean of modern metal bands out there.

We’ve revisited the band’s discography and ranked their albums. Check it out below.

Please note that these rankings are based on our opinions, and as you know opinions vary. What is our best may be worst for you, the combinations are endless.

07. Remission (2002)

Remission has undermined sort of a new territory for the industry of grunge. For the men at work here, the overall completion of this album wraps up a decent package that gives you something to chew on if you’re bored. But the composure of this album has explored an interesting passage of land that I feel hasn’t been explored before. The sound presented in this album has taken a major foothold on society, but hasn’t really been crafted into anything that’s revolutionary. But lyrically speaking? Well, it’s a whole different story.

Remission presents itself as it is, soaring above the rest without even sparing them a passing glance. It is a humble work, but if it were flashy and cocky, it would certainly have earned the right. It’s like the subtle beauty of an abandoned mill. It is mossy, moldy, and old, yet it charms in its own way. You know it had its time of usefulness, and now it’s eternally resting, as if waiting for nature to erode the stone and wood.

06. Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)

Once More ‘Round the Sun is a continuation of Mastodon‘s development into a ‘70s prog influenced sludge/hard rock band that was evident on 2011′s The Hunter. The band has made clean vocal melodies the focus of their sound on recent releases, and on this album this aspect of their sound now matches their instrumentals in terms of innovation and quality. The vocal melodies here, particularly from Brann, are haunting, strange, processed and generally wonderful. “The Motherload” has the band’s biggest chorus to date, and “Ember City” and “Halloween” both feature huge, spaced-out interludes with vocals weaving in and out of thick guitar textures.

05. The Hunter (2011)

One can’t imagine it’s easy for a band like Mastodon to constantly deliver something of equal or greater caliber with each of their releases. Fans were drawn in from the beginning with the sludging frenzy of Remission, then astounded by the conceptual Leviathan, bludgeoned by the focused and inventive Blood Mountain, and were finally thrown something of a curveball with the progressive melodies of Crack the Skye. So fans and critics alike could be led to wonder what ground the band could possibly tread upon now to keep their sound fresh, their followers intrigued, and to force the unenthused to become enthused. And, being the imaginative force that they’ve become widely hailed as, they’ve chosen to expand.

There are a few things this record is not. It is not the sound of a band selling out, becoming “radio friendly”, dulling their sound, or treading water. This is the sound of expansion. What I mean by this is simple. Think of this in terms of a simple directional pad: Down being digression, up being progression, and left and right being expansion and exploration. This record is far from a step backward. It’s clear from the opening track “Black Tongue” that the band has all but abandoned their root formula of heavy riffing, busy drum work, driving bass, and melodic shouts. Then again, this isn’t necessarily a step into new territory. The band just takes all of the routes they have previously explored and taps into the notion that they can do pretty much whatever they damn well please and make it their own.

04. Emperor of Sand (2017)

Just like the layered tectonic structure of the Earth, Emperor of Sand has been crafted upon foundations of varying emotions. On the surface you’ve got Mastodon simply evolving their hammering sound into more simplistic rhythms, while sounding just as heavy as before. But, beneath the surface is a natural ebbing progression that lies deep in the roots of the band.

Though far from accessible, the music on Emperor of Sand is just as diverse as ever. Dailor’s drumming is endlessly meandering round each guitar hook that Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds can throw at him and the sound of the bass lines of Troy Sanders -when exposed- can only be described as the echoes of the Earth’s plates grinding.

03. Leviathan (2004)

Leviathan might seem rather vanilla at first to a prog fan’s ears. If you’re a diehard fan of the genre, you won’t necessarily enjoy this. On this album, Mastodon is actually surprisingly unpretentious. Song forms are for the most part, short, with no extended soloing, or really any soloing at all, for that matter. The songs are composed of big, simple, crushingly heavy riffs and grimy, ugly, “clean” interludes, backed by Brann Dailor‘s spastic, fill-laden drumming. If you listen closely, you’ll hear some really interesting, sputtering double-bass patterns as well. He has a very simple kit, but he plays it for all it’s worth. Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds share vocal duties. It’s clear these guys aren’t the best singers in the world, but this is primitive, heavy music. It works very well in the context of the album; their tortured barks perfectly complement the images of the sea and the infamous white whale Mastodon evoke.

02. Blood Mountain (2006)

Rooted by the frantic, jazz-influenced, and always inventive drumming of Brann Dailor (surely one of the premier sticksmen in metal today), and characterised by the varied guitarwork of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, Blood Mountain is equal parts uplifting and confusing. At various points during the album we are treated to Thin Lizzy-esque harmony riffs and crushing grooves (notably the intro riff to “Crystal Skull”), thrashy rhythms (“The Wolf Is Loose”), epic, haunting build-ups with hints of acoustic guitar (“Sleeping Giant”), effect-laden spazz-outs (instrumental interlude “Bladecatcher”), and beautiful laid back pieces (the sublime guitar harmonies which usher in “This Mortal Soil”). Also notable is the addition of solos and more prominent lead parts, which weren’t as pronounced in the band’s previous output, but only add to the insane melting pot of sound found on Blood Mountain.

01. Crack the Skye (2009)

By 2009 Mastodon has done the thing every self-respecting band should do, and slowly evolved towards a more unique and definitive sound, even if they are now drawing in equal measures from bands such as Pink Floyd and Genesis as they are from The Melvins and Neurosis, or even Slayer. And though their road to the top is still fraught with a few small hitches, and succumbs to a few cliches, musically they have found a niche where they can reside and explore; they have found a good stable starting point for future endeavours. With Crack the Skye, they’ve become the art-metallers they did not set out to be; but that is a good thing, in Mastodon‘s case, as their newfound influences here seem to suit the band like a glove.

Mastodon’s progressive tendencies have grown with each successive album, tipping the scale of extreme metal and progressive metal towards the latter side with this record. The explosive technical blasts found in Leviathan and Blood Mountain, while not missing by any means, are rarer here, instead being complemented with atmospheric riffs and vocal harmonies. The harsh vocals of previous albums have also been refined into actual singing by a number of the band members, with demonic voices and wrenching cries populating the seven songs on the album. Album opener “Oblivion” is a great showcase for the band’s new-found singing aptitude, trading vocal responsibilities between Sanders, Hinds, and Dailor. The harsh vocals are not entirely gone, as they provide a chilling accompaniment with the title track’s atmospheric riffs. The raging beast that was contained inside their former albums has been transformed into a lumbering, Lovecraftian demon; slower, but more frightening and fiendishly malevolent.

Continuing their tradition of “elemental” albums (Remission - Fire, Leviathan - Water, Blood Mountain - Earth), Crack the Skye is the album of “ether”, the element that supposedly makes up the cosmos. On this album, Mastodon take their far-fetched fantasy concepts to space, telling a fractured tale about a paraplegic who travels out of his body and into the spirit realm, only to be summoned by Russian occultists. Like all of Mastodon’s concepts, the story and lyrics are not Shakespeare or even that easy to follow; the lyrics have always taken a backseat to the furious music. Conveying emotion has been left to the instruments to achieve thus far. However, parts of Crack the Skye exude a sort of frustrated sorrow, due to the album’s dedication to Dailor’s little sister Skye’s suicide at age 14. In “Oblivion,” the sorrowful Dailor sings “How can I tell you I failed?,” a simple line that nonetheless gives an extra emotional aspect to the song.

With Crack The Skye Mastodon showed that they matured as a collective unit, revealing marked improvements in song writing and a more restrained performance whilst still keeping the raw passion and eccentricity that has got them to where they are today.

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