Released: n/a, Relapse
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
This was an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment purchase at Second Avenue Records, the ramshackle little record store in downtown Portland, on my lunch hour. I can’t even say what attracted me to this album, since I’d never heard of Mastodon, the cover was unremarkable, and there were none of the obvious “buy me” gimmicks that usually cause me to purchase unknown material (gimmicks such as swords, dragons, elves, a band name containing the word “Steel,” etc.). Luckily this rash decision turned out to be one of the smartest metal purchases this year, because REMISSION is not just a good album, it’s terrific!
It’s difficult to peg Mastodon’s style. At times it has elements of doom metal, stoner metal, death metal, and atmospheric metal. I can’t even name a band that really comes close in sound, but there’s probably a few out there like this. All of their music is exceptionally heavy. The guitar sound is as thick and substantial as a big, juicy top sirloin steak. The drumming is quite innovative and unpredictable. The first two tracks, “Crusher Destroyer” and “March of the Fire Ants,” are snappy and promise good things, but the real innovation and brilliance of this band starts to seep through with subtlety on the third track, “Where Strides the Behemoth.” The album gets even better from there. The tracks on the middle and through the end of the album begin to spin an almost magical web of dark, gritty ambience, but there’s also a polished edge to it which I credit mostly to the extremely tight musicianship of the entire band combined with excellent production. REMISSION sounds fantastic from the first song to the end. Even through a few slow sections (such as the moody openings of “Ol’e Nessie” and “Trilobite,” and the final instrumental track, “Elephant Man”) this band maintains its almost mesmerizing spell on the listener, bringing you through a lot of different moods up to its finally depressing ending.
A minor point perhaps, but I see a welcome nod to old Metallica with the synthesized “whistling winter wind” noises on the beginning of the final track, “Elephant Man,” and the guitar intro. It reminds me a lot of Metallica’s first instrumental, “When Hell Freezes Over” (a much more appropriate title, which was inexplicably changed to “The Call of Kthulu” when it was included on the Ride the Lightning album). Mastodon obviously know their roots!
On the whole, I loved this album, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up on my list of the top albums of 2002. This is clearly a band to be reckoned with in the future. I eagerly await another Mastodon release, and after hearing REMISSION, you probably will too.