Sammy’s album of the day today is 2004 landmark album “Leviathan” by Mastodon. This is one of the albums that really blew the hinges off of the new wave of american heavy metal movement that saw its start in the late 1990s and built up with fury to peak in the mid to late 2000s. The success of “Leviathan” even got Mastodon to leave Relapse Records in order to sign with major label giant Warner Brothers Records. Mastodon remain one of only a handful of metal acts on major labels today. So what makes this album so special? Let’s dive in.
The first thing I noticed about this album upon first listen was the riffs. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds make their instruments sound like a prehistoric dinosaur coming back to life and climbing its way out of tar pits. No wonder the band gets the moniker “sludge metal”: sounds like some serious snot is running through these amplifiers. The opening track, “Blood and Thunder”, kicks off with one of the most iconic guitar riffs in all of metal, and quite possibly the single best riff of the 2000s. I remember being blown away and immediately pulled into this band after hearing this track. Amazing stuff.
What really sells this album for me is the drumming. Brann Dailor is one of my favorite drummers because he has a very unique approach to metal music. He utilizes a hand intensive, tom heavy, style of jazz drumming in the vein of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa that mashes up quite well with Mastodon’s songs. Dailor plays the drums in a very musical way, often adding to or even being the focus of a part. Here is one of my favorite examples of this type of playing:
One last important thing to mention about this album is that its a concept album based on “Moby Dick” (yes metal musicians also read occasionally). The album goes through the storyline of the novel track-by-track, with choruses like “White whale, holy grail” and song titles such as “I Am Ahab” and “Seabeast”. The only exception to this concept is the instrumental closer, “Joseph Merrick” which pays homage to Mr. Merrick, otherwise known as the Elephant Man.