Released: 2006, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
As a historical document, CALL OF THE MASTODON succeeds, in that, despite the remixing and remastering undertaken here to spiff up the nine tracks originally found on Mastodon’s 2000 demo, these songs are still as rough as a coal miner’s hands at the end of the week. They also show the occasional sparkle as to where the band would eventually land with the monumental REMISSION and LEVIATHAN full-lengths. Their brand of thick, chunky riffs, sludgy production and forward-thinking helped the band move from Relapse Records to Warner Brothers and as an after-thought, Relapse has bestowed this collection upon us. Really, this cannot be seen as the “next” Mastodon album—it is barely 28 minutes long—and its appeal will stop at the die-hard Mastodon fan but it is an interesting look back at where the band came from nonetheless.
“Shadows Move” is a chaotic frenzy of spastic riffs, shouts and technical drumming—a sure sign of the greatness exuded by Brann Dailor on their later works. Eric Saner’s vocals are buried way back in the mix throughout but they almost sound like he is singing underwater here. The groove propagated by Troy Sanders and Dailor also lends an ear to such neo-classics as “Iron Tusk.” The time changes on “We Built This Come Death” are mesmerizing, teetering between frenetic and supine, with a trippy, stoned-out middle section. Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds create a whirling squall of chugging riffs not far removed from the manic energy of Kelliher’s former band, Today Is The Day. Even in their salad days, Mastodon’s obsession with nautical themes dominated their music and the final four tracks explore this. “Battle At Sea” and “Call of The Mastodon” are epic and heavy, not unlike the dreary tones of the LEVIATHAN album and a definite clue as to how tracks like “Blood & Thunder” would form.
To a Mastodon purist/collector, CALL OF THE MASTODON is pure nirvana but for most of us, this is little more than a rarities album that has been glossed up, repackaged and, if you’re a cynic, is merely a cash-grab by the band’s now-former label to milk a few last breaths out of the band before they ply their trade on a major. This is an interesting look back in time to when the seeds were first planted for the marauding monster known as Mastodon but there really isn’t much here to recommend to a casual fan despite the cries of “This is heavy metal history!” on the promo.
KILLER KUTS: “We Built This Come Death,” “Battle At Sea,” “Call of The Mastodon”