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Rock - Released September 11, 2020 | Reprise

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Twenty years into their career, Mastodon are harder to describe than ever before. The Georgia group started off playing energetic sludge metal, took a sharp turn into beautifully complex prog, and then spent the 2010's dabbling with hard rock and offering quotes to journalists that disavowed their categorization as a "metal" band. Whatever you want to call them, Mastodon are Mastodon more than anything else, and their new rarities compilation Medium Rarities is a celebration of their elastic identity. The project is a grab bag of covers, instrumentals, live renditions, TV soundtrack contributions, and one brand new track that spans their entire discography and showcases their musical interests both within and outside the metal playbook. If you were to make a venn diagram of the bands Mastodon covers here (Feist, The Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers, and Metallica) their sound exists in the center, and they excel at taking on the character of each of those acts while still remaining firmly themselves. Their Game of Thrones score "White Walker" and Aqua Teen Hunger Force cameo "Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife" are respectively stoic and off-the-wall ridiculous, a dichotomy the band have always balanced in their best moments. The myriad instrumental versions of tracks from their 2010s catalog take on a new life without the vocal performances, which some fans found grating compared to their earlier, gnarlier singing deliveries. However, there's plenty of headbanging fodder to be found in the live tracks: the blisteringly technical "Capillarian Crest," the ugly "Circle of Cysquatch," and the raucous "The Crystal Skull" from 2006's Blood Mountain, as well as whipping fan favorites "Blood and Thunder" and "Iron Tusk" from 2004's Leviathan. The new song "Fallen Torches" features guest vocals from Scott Kelly of Neurosis, which serves as a complementary pairing between alt-metal veterans. No matter what era of Mastodon you're most partial to, there's bound to be something on Medium Rarities that connects. © Eli Enis/Qobuz
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Metal - Released March 31, 2017 | Reprise

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Metal - Released December 3, 2008 | Reprise

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Metal - Released August 31, 2004 | Relapse Records

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Metal - Released September 27, 2011 | Reprise

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Metal - Released June 20, 2014 | Reprise

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Given the title of its sixth release, it's fair to wonder if Mastodon is hinting at 2011's The Hunter or its back catalog. Many of the tracks on Once More 'Round the Sun dig into the band's seemingly inexhaustible bag of monstrous riffs and wonderfully fractured motifs. That said, as a collective, they unapologetically explore the more polished and accessible songwriting and performing craft found on The Hunter. This set marks a fork in the road where Mastodon evolves once more, to cross over from metal's angular, sludgy power to adrenaline-fueled, hook-laden, hard rock. The album was produced by Nick Raskulinecz, best known for his work with Foo Fighters and Rush. The sound Mastodon pursues here draws inspiration from the '70s, without remotely being an exercise in nostalgia. There is one notable exception; it's deliberate and obvious: "The High Road" boasts unapologizing Thin Lizzy worship, albeit ambitiously updated. (Who better?) Its verse/riff structure weds Lynott's rhythmic sensibility to Mastodon's dynamic aggression. The anthemic chorus melody and harmonies, and twinned lead guitar roar, were trademarked by Lizzy's Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham long ago. "Chimes at Midnight" is intense, fueled by a mammoth chugging riff. It lets the "drop D" freak flag fly, with a near-shouted vocal, harmonic chorus, and spacy six-string interludes. "The Motherload," with its swaggering guitar heroics, is a wound-out yet nearly hummable prog melody, with a relentless bass and snare attack. "Aunt Lisa," with its knotty guitar intro, contains processed vocals, a series of rising and falling key changes, and the Coathangers guesting -- cheerleader style -- in a chanted vocal chorus à la Faith No More's "Be Aggressive!" There are also some substantive guitar pyrotechnics in the extended solos in "Halloween" and "Ember City," which, due to their imagination and focus, add dimension to them as songs. "Diamond in the Witch House" is a sprawling, nearly eight-minute closing jam. Neurosis' Scott Kelly and his menacing growl guest as it lumbers, trudges, and lurches ever forward (longtime fans will likely dig this). Once More 'Round the Sun furthers what Mastodon began on The Hunter: expanding their music past metal's rigid borders -- toward an integrative sound that doesn't leave metal out. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released September 11, 2006 | Reprise

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Metal - Released August 5, 2014 | Relapse Records

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Rock - Released September 22, 2017 | Reprise

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Metal - Released December 6, 2013 | Reprise

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Rock - Released May 17, 2019 | Reprise

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Metal - Released September 8, 2006 | Reprise

The two-year long-wait is over, and those Mastodon fans encouraged but leery of the slicker production of Leviathan over Remission will be even more bemused, or downright bewildered, by Blood Mountain, the band's first foray into major-label territory since signing with Warner Brothers' Reprise imprint (after all, this was the label conceded to Frank Sinatra as his own when he threatened to leave it). Blood Mountain is everything fans both hoped for and feared. Mastodon has dug even deeper in its foray into prog metal, but without losing an ounce of their power, literacy, or willingness to indulge in hardcore punk, doom, and death metal. Like Leviathan, Blood Mountain is both melodic and downright raging in places. Matt Bayles is in the producer's chair once more and he's encouraged this Georgia quartet -- Bränn Dailor (drums), Brent Hinds (guitar and vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitar and vocals), and Troy Sanders (bass and vocals) -- to take it to the limit. And they have. Blood Mountain indulges and goes deep into the territory of prog metal beats and quests and spiritual revelations that have less to do with Tolkein-ism and more to do with Conan-ism. There are utterly beautiful melodic passages woven into the heaviness that are reminiscent of Thin Lizzy's dual guitar lyricism -- and the band has confessed to digging Phil Lynott and company. The vocals -- with guest spots from Neurosis' Scott Kelly, the Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme -- are mixed way upfront and the number of sheer stylistic changes is dizzying. No, Mastodon should not lose their street cred over this. For every old fan alienated, a new one will step into the gap and there will be throngs of new ones, more than likely. Why? Simply because this band does the technical thing as well or better than Meshuggah without sacrificing a bit of the black blood which courses through their veins toward their dark thrash metal hearts. The set opens with the completely in-the-red thrashcore metal of "The Wolf Is Loose," complete with a chanted chorus. As the guitars twin and scream, bass and drums chop away at convention. Tempo changes, from fast to faster to a refrain that gives the listener time to shout along. The doubled leads and repetition in the verse are countered by the swelling, pulsating thud from the drum kit. Lyrically, it appears that Mastodon is trying to create a new mythological present. But the bridge goes into the netherworld with actual sung vocals and angular, elliptical phrases that defy elucidation. The echoey sound effects on the drums at the opening of "Crystal Skull" quickly give way to a plodding power metal riff. "Sleeping Giant" comes out of the gate, slowly, dreamily, seductively, there are digital delays on the guitars that gather tension as they (relatively) whisper by, and create an ambience that crosses early Black Sabbath and Opeth. It's the vocals that are most remarkable, however, sung cleanly to a slow tempo, each word is distinct and the effect is nearly hypnotic as the strange, self-created cultic myth is further woven into a web of dislocation, epic ambivalence, mystery, and power. Prog metal is made plain on "Capillarian Quest," where intricate patterns and bludgeoning guitar riffs vie for dominance but are authoritatively held in Mastodon's deafening balance. "Circle Cysquatch," with its bloodcurdling extreme thrash and burn, tips it toward a virtual creation idea born of pagan rites, blood sacrifice, the spirits of extinct species, and the hollow ring of organized religion, all given their freedom here to drift back to prehistory and the days of fire and rage in the rough and tumble founding of "civilization." On it goes. Mastodon seeks no easy answers but poses dozens of questions about origin, and "culture." Forget "thinking man's metal," this is metal, period, and the guys that make it think. The music, as varied and tumultuous and, in places utterly beautiful as it is, place the band beyond the pale -- check the intro to "Bladecatcher" before it falls apart into pure chaos and cacophony where lyrics and themes are barely articulated in the hammering thunder of apocalyptic noise. Sound effects that perhaps are the voices of the spirits themselves make themselves heard in the din -- but indecipherably. "Colony of Birchmen" and "Hunters of the Sky" are both prototypically metal and act as the album's hinge pieces, where Mastodon completes its achievement and establish a new heavy metal. "This Mortal Soul," with its elongated beginning and utter lyricism may alienate those who live for heaviness alone, but it will attract those who can see outside the genre's subgenres. The set closes with "Pendulous Skin," a track that amounts to a densely populated power ballad with gorgeous guitar soloing, and a major/minor key chord progression (instead of riffs and a Hammond B-3) played by Bayles followed by a long silence, where at the very end, a "fan" letter is read and responded to. What does it add up to? Something old and something new, a heavy metal that's utterly gargantuan to wrestle with because it actually moves the style into brand new territory, an unfamiliar terrain which will accord it much name calling and crying of "sellout" by the unwashed masses who are more conservative about their steely brand of "folk music" than the Newport crowd was about Dylan going electric. Yet, for those daring enough to take this in, there are true bloody treasures to behold and receive. If Leviathan was a masterpiece, then this is too -- only more so. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 31, 2020 | Reprise

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Metal - Released June 20, 2014 | Reprise

Given the title of its sixth release, it's fair to wonder if Mastodon is hinting at 2011's The Hunter or its back catalog. Many of the tracks on Once More 'Round the Sun dig into the band's seemingly inexhaustible bag of monstrous riffs and wonderfully fractured motifs. That said, as a collective, they unapologetically explore the more polished and accessible songwriting and performing craft found on The Hunter. This set marks a fork in the road where Mastodon evolves once more, to cross over from metal's angular, sludgy power to adrenaline-fueled, hook-laden, hard rock. The album was produced by Nick Raskulinecz, best known for his work with Foo Fighters and Rush. The sound Mastodon pursues here draws inspiration from the '70s, without remotely being an exercise in nostalgia. There is one notable exception; it's deliberate and obvious: "The High Road" boasts unapologizing Thin Lizzy worship, albeit ambitiously updated. (Who better?) Its verse/riff structure weds Lynott's rhythmic sensibility to Mastodon's dynamic aggression. The anthemic chorus melody and harmonies, and twinned lead guitar roar, were trademarked by Lizzy's Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham long ago. "Chimes at Midnight" is intense, fueled by a mammoth chugging riff. It lets the "drop D" freak flag fly, with a near-shouted vocal, harmonic chorus, and spacy six-string interludes. "The Motherload," with its swaggering guitar heroics, is a wound-out yet nearly hummable prog melody, with a relentless bass and snare attack. "Aunt Lisa," with its knotty guitar intro, contains processed vocals, a series of rising and falling key changes, and the Coathangers guesting -- cheerleader style -- in a chanted vocal chorus à la Faith No More's "Be Aggressive!" There are also some substantive guitar pyrotechnics in the extended solos in "Halloween" and "Ember City," which, due to their imagination and focus, add dimension to them as songs. "Diamond in the Witch House" is a sprawling, nearly eight-minute closing jam. Neurosis' Scott Kelly and his menacing growl guest as it lumbers, trudges, and lurches ever forward (longtime fans will likely dig this). Once More 'Round the Sun furthers what Mastodon began on The Hunter: expanding their music past metal's rigid borders -- toward an integrative sound that doesn't leave metal out. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released March 31, 2017 | Reprise

Mastodon set the bar high with Emperor of Sand. It was written in difficult circumstances emotionally and creatively. Like their first three albums (and unlike their last two), this is a concept album. Its dominant theme is of time running out, and its 11 tracks offer an allegorical story of a man handed a death sentence by a desert sultan. To escape, he flees into the expanse of the geography's emptiness, but the further he goes, the more lost he becomes in the sand as an unrelenting sun begins to claim his energy and ultimately his body -- think radiation poisoning. Desperate, he attempts to communicate telepathically with tribes of various races and historical periods to make rain fall and stop that progression. The concept is poignant: guitarist Bill Kelliher's mother passed away from brain cancer in 2016. The music grew out of long jams intended to address his grief and help him heal. The notion of time's eternal passage haunts every song here. The return to concept is accompanied by the re-enlistment of producer Brendan O'Brien (he helmed Crack the Skye). In an interview, bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders added weight to the expectations for the album: "...17 years in the making…it ties into our entire discography." Unlike their other conceptual endeavors (i.e. Leviathan) Emperor of Sand's narrative is relatively simple. While the conceptual framework harkens back to the early trilogy, the songwriting on this date is more reflective of the integrative styles on The Hunter and Once More ‘Round the Sun. "Sultan's Curse," "Roots Remain," and the anthemic "Clandestiny" all roar with the bone-quaking riffery and roiling drum grooves, offering dynamic harmonic breakdowns, great solo spots, and plenty of fire. Elsewhere, such as on "Show Yourself," "Ancient Kingdom" (both suggesting the influence of late-era Hüsker Dü), and "Andromeda," the focus shifts to hooks and melody first; the punishing riffs and monstrous drum fills are there, but are subservient. The guitar interplay between Brett Hinds and Kelliher is, as usual, flawless, and the spastic drum and basswork of the rhythm section remains some of the most expansive in metal. It's almost predictable, but it's not boring, and Mastodon's body of work has led listeners to expect it. The eight-minute closer "Jaguar God" develops slowly and methodically from a lament to a dirge to a raging prog metal storm, offering a panoramic example of everything that makes Mastodon special. Emperor of Sand is not perfect; it doesn't attain the glories of the first trilogy. That said, it's easily on par with The Hunter and stronger than Once More 'Round the Sun, while being more diverse than any record they've cut. Arguments about quality should go beyond the aesthetics to embody process and honesty, which are what ultimately matters. In order to be true to themselves, Mastodon had to make Emperor of Sand at this time. There was no other option. As such, its urgency, sophistication, and emotional heft make it a necessary entry in their catalog. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released May 28, 2002 | Relapse Records

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Metal - Released June 23, 2014 | Reprise

Given the title of its sixth release, it's fair to wonder if Mastodon is hinting at 2011's The Hunter or its back catalog. Many of the tracks on Once More 'Round the Sun dig into the band's seemingly inexhaustible bag of monstrous riffs and wonderfully fractured motifs. That said, as a collective, they unapologetically explore the more polished and accessible songwriting and performing craft found on The Hunter. This set marks a fork in the road where Mastodon evolves once more, to cross over from metal's angular, sludgy power to adrenaline-fueled, hook-laden, hard rock. The album was produced by Nick Raskulinecz, best known for his work with Foo Fighters and Rush. The sound Mastodon pursues here draws inspiration from the '70s, without remotely being an exercise in nostalgia. There is one notable exception; it's deliberate and obvious: "The High Road" boasts unapologizing Thin Lizzy worship, albeit ambitiously updated. (Who better?) Its verse/riff structure weds Lynott's rhythmic sensibility to Mastodon's dynamic aggression. The anthemic chorus melody and harmonies, and twinned lead guitar roar, were trademarked by Lizzy's Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham long ago. "Chimes at Midnight" is intense, fueled by a mammoth chugging riff. It lets the "drop D" freak flag fly, with a near-shouted vocal, harmonic chorus, and spacy six-string interludes. "The Motherload," with its swaggering guitar heroics, is a wound-out yet nearly hummable prog melody, with a relentless bass and snare attack. "Aunt Lisa," with its knotty guitar intro, contains processed vocals, a series of rising and falling key changes, and the Coathangers guesting -- cheerleader style -- in a chanted vocal chorus à la Faith No More's "Be Aggressive!" There are also some substantive guitar pyrotechnics in the extended solos in "Halloween" and "Ember City," which, due to their imagination and focus, add dimension to them as songs. "Diamond in the Witch House" is a sprawling, nearly eight-minute closing jam. Neurosis' Scott Kelly and his menacing growl guest as it lumbers, trudges, and lurches ever forward (longtime fans will likely dig this). Once More 'Round the Sun furthers what Mastodon began on The Hunter: expanding their music past metal's rigid borders -- toward an integrative sound that doesn't leave metal out. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released February 7, 2006 | Relapse Records

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Metal - Released December 3, 2008 | Reprise

First off, a warning: the best way to encounter Mastodon's Crack the Skye for the first time is with headphones. Reported to be a mystical -- if crunchy -- concept record about Tsarist Russia, this is actually the most involved set of tracks, both in terms of music and production, the band has ever recorded. "Ambitious" is a word that regularly greets Mastodon -- after all, they did an entire album based on Moby Dick -- but until now, that adjective may have been an understatement. There is so much going on in these seven tracks that it's difficult to get it all in a listen or two (one of the reasons that close encounters of the headphone kind are recommended). It may seem strange that the band worked with Bruce Springsteen producer Brendan O'Brien this time out, but it turns out to be a boon for both parties: for the band because O'Brien is obsessive about sounds, textures, and finding spaces in just the right places; for O'Brien because in his work with the Boss he's all but forgotten what the sounds of big roaring electric guitars and overdriven thudding drums can sound like. The guitar arrangements on tracks like "Divinations" and "The Czar," while wildly different from one another, are the most intricate, melodically complex things the band has ever recorded. There are also more subtle moments such as the menacing, brooding, and ultimately downer cuts such as "The Last Baron," where tempos are slowed and keyboards enter the fray and stretch the time, adding a much more multidimensional sense of atmosphere and texture. Still, Crack the Skye rocks, and hard! Its shifting tempos and key structures are far more meaty and forceful than most prog metal, and menace and cosmological speculation exist in equal measure, providing for a spot-on sense of balance. Some of the hardcore death metal conservatives may have trouble with this set, but the album wasn't recorded for them -- or anybody else. Crack the Skye is the sound of a band stretching itself to its limits and exploring the depth of its collective musical identity as a series of possibilities rather than as signatures. And yes, that is a good thing. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released September 27, 2011 | Reprise

On 2011’s The Hunter, Mastodon abandoned the proggy, conceptual route taken on previous outings, choosing instead to mine the trailblazing, riff-heavy abandon of their 2004 masterpiece, Leviathan. Mastodon's increasingly accessible sound may not land them a hit anytime soon, but cuts like “Black Tongue,” “Curl of the Burl,” and “Balsteroid,” all of which arrive in sequence at the front of the set, show a willingness to write within the parameters of 21st century pop music’s dark side. That’s not to say that the band has pulled its head out of the vastness of space, as there are more than enough tracks here to satisfy fans who prefer the sludgy, drop-D epics of yore to the more organized roar of The Hunter's front end. Fueled by Brãnn Dailor's jazzy, machine-gun drumming, songs like “Octopus Has No Friends,” “All the Heavy Lifting,” and “Bedazzled Fingernails,” despite coming in at under five minutes, are epically arranged, and the surprisingly hummable, bass melody-led swamp monster anthem “Creature Lives” sounds like a Sabbathy, Lovecraftian take on Jane’s Addiction's “Summertime Rolls.” The closest Hunter comes to reaching an apex is on the breathless “Spectrelight,” a relentless three-minute slab of pure unadulterated fury that will probably clock in at around a minute and half live, but it’s an album that doesn’t really need to peak, as it never promises a thing it can’t back up, boldly and loudly. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo