In the early 2000s there was a new, exciting voice in the heavy metal scene with Atlanta’s Mastodon. They made heavy metal music that morphed together thrash, sludge, and death metal into an almost progressive metal jumbo. They appealed to those that wanted their metal hard, fast, technical, and also smart. In fact, the band’s first four albums are still hard to beat these days.
But with 2011’s The Hunter the band got a little less heavy and started displaying what I like to call “ZZ Top-isms”. It’s something that happens to a lot of heavy bands that seem to morph into a more comfortable southern rock strut with the occasional break beat or chugging New Wave Of British Heavy Metal riffage for old time’s sake.
Mastodon have returned with their first double album called Hushed and Grim. It may not rock like Remission or Blood Mountain, but it seesm the 4-piece are flexing their prog rock muscles a bit and coming up with some intriguing metal moments.
Listening to Hushed and Grim, I feel like this album could have been pared down from it’s nearly 90-minute runtime to a leaner 60 minutes for a more effective, visceral experience. With all the excess of tracks the album feels sluggish at times, like it could’ve used some editing. Still, there’s some great moments here.
“Sickle and Peace” hits early on and it’s a striking track. It’s not super heavy, but there’s an interesting timing going on. It honestly sounds like a burlier, scarier My Morning Jacket. The syncopated guitar lines and drum prowess builds so when you get to the chugging guitars in the chorus that release is earned. Great track. “More Than I Could Chew” has eerie synth at the beginning of it which builds into a mammoth riff and prog metal at its heavenly heaviest. “Teardrinker” puts me in mind of late 80s Iron Maiden and Helloween, which isn’t a bad thing. Lots of melody and minor key goodness.
Elsewhere “Had It All” fills the spot for metal ballad. A patch of tranquility among the chugging and riffing. “Savage Lands” has a galloping rhythm and a classic metal feel. There’s some great blast beats courtesy of drummer/lyricist Brann Dailor. And what heavy metal album with an ounce of integrity doesn’t have and 8+ minute epic? “Gobblers of Dregs” fills that spot with a crushing slow motion groove and a mood that feels 100% Frank Frazetta-approved.
All in all, Hushed and Grim fills that meaty metal void for 2021. Mastodon still have it after 20 years, and despite the drawn out runtime it’s an album well worth diving into.
7.9 out of 10