Album: Leviathan by Mastodon
Released: August 31st, 2004
Mastodon is a progressive metal band from Atlanta that was formed in 2000 from the ashes of two disbanded acts. The group has had the same lineup since its formation which consists of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and drummer Brann Dailor. Mastodon has released seven studio albums to date; four of these have been concept albums. Initially known as a stoner and sludge metal band that used growling vocals, Mastodon has sought to expand their musicianship and genre with each record. Each musician brings a masterful and unique style to their instrument and Mastodon is noted for having three vocalists (Sanders, Hinds, and Dailor). Though the band that recorded on 2017’s Emperor of Sand sounds very different than the one which released Remission in 2002, the same four amazing musicians continue to persevere and carve their own unique place in music history.
The Story and the Songs:
Leviathan, Mastodon’s second album, is inspired by the famous novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Possibly the most well-known Mastodon song among their fans, “Blood and Thunder” sets the tone for the album with chugging guitars and the growling vocals of Hinds and Sanders. With references to Ahab’s ivory leg and cries of “White whale, holy grail”, this has become a staple in the band’s set list since the album’s release and gets the blood pumping for the songs to come. “I Am Ahab” picks up with intense drum and guitar-work with Sanders’ bass doubling the riffs and creating a heavy foundation upon which the song is built. “Seabeast” emerges from an ethereal fog to switch things up with a 5/8 time signature during the verses and ends with some of the heaviest guitar chugging on the album. This change of pace is shattered by the punk-rock riffage and charging vocals of “Island”, a song which was used to comedic effect in the film Monster’s University when a mother monster sits in her minivan and listens to her “tunes.” “Iron Tusk” contains more headbanging material with Dailor showing his mastery of the double-pedal bass drum and duel rhythm guitar parts.
“Megalodon” begins with open chords and less distortion before having the waves of sound breached by thrashing guitars like the prehistoric sea monster that lends its name to the song; this track evokes the feeling of being chased by the giant shark and wishing you had a bigger boat. The syncopated hi-hat and sliding chords of “Naked Burn” move into the sludgy yet up-tempo rhythm of the track. “Aqua Dementia” is a tour de force of guitarwork performed by Hinds and Kelliher, with hybrid picking that comes from outside the groups’ assigned genre before leading into the heaviest breakdown of guitar chugging on the album. “Hearts Alive” showcases the band’s mastery of creating longer songs that don’t become boring; reminiscent of early Metallica, “Hearts Alive” crashes in with the sound of waves to bring back the mysterious feeling of earlier songs like “Seabeast” before returning to the heavy guitar and dominating drums that Mastodon does so well. The final track of Leviathan is “Joseph Merrick”, a melancholy song that takes its title from the given name of the famous Elephant Man.
Leviathan stands as a fan favorite and is considered one of the pivotal metal albums of the 21st century. Though there isn’t a story told directly through the lyrics, the album’s artwork and lyrical content are heavily influenced by Melville’s story of man and beast; the songs are able to conjure up the dynamic changes of the sea while remaining true to the inherent heaviness of Mastodon’s songwriting and metal roots. Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds were the only two vocalists at the time of the album and their voices are anything but the cookie cutter mainstream ideal; that being said, Leviathan may not be the easiest introduction to the band for many lovers of music, but it is a seminal work of heavy metal and retains its influence and power 14 years later.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: “Blood and Thunder” , “Seabeast” , “Naked Burn” , “Hearts Alive”