Analog Adventures: Leviathan
(2004, multiple reissues)
About the Artist
Mastodon is a beast of a band hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. The band takes influence from many sources such as Iron Maiden, High on Fire, and classical literature. Their debut album Remission loosely ties to the theme of fire,. Blood Mountain details a journey up a mountain and through the woods for earth. Crack the Skye is a tribute to drummer Brann Dailor’s late sister Skye and serves as a tie in to aether. Leviathan is loosely based off of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick and is an obvious water elemental representative. Much like the aforementioned book, Leviathan is an epic journey from beginning to end.
The Record Itself
Leviathan sets the tone with the sludgy and frantic Blood and Thunder. The guitar duo of Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds sounds dirty and off-putting to those familiar to crisp overdriven guitars. The tone is no mistake; the sense of dread feeds the maritime paranoia of an obsessed whaler. Mastodon is known for their sludge metal influences and with that comes a certain guitar sound. What truly stands out is Brann Dailor’s jazz and fusion inspired drumming. Unlike most heavy metal drummers that rely on 16th note double bass runs and blast beats, Dailor melds complex rhythms with almost harmonic drumming. The snare is finely tuned to pronounce every rudiment and ghost note. The wall of sound built by the string players is adorned by some of the most impressive drumming in heavy metal.
“White whale, holy grail” – Mastodon, Blood and Thunder.
The blending of genres comes in unexpected places. Apart from jazzy drumming, the surprises come from guitarist Brent Hinds. He plays his guitar like a banjo to perform an improbable lick on Megalodon. The distorted twang hangs in the air for a moment and the rest of the band joins in to chug along like a fine oiled machine. The harsh vocals tie together this sound that on paper does not seem feasible. Not quite a death growl, more like a hardcore scream, but the effect is fitting for such an album.
The complete package, courtesy of Relapse Records.
This particular reissue is the 17th pressing of Leviathan. Relapse Records calls this gorgeous mix “Royal Blue with Bone White Pinwheels with Rainbow Splatter”. Quite the mouthful, but the results are jaw-dropping. The art by Paul Romano is a mixture of psychedelia and horror, beautiful and terrifying all the same. The track listing is different from the original release, with a few songs out of order to presumably maintain the single disc affair without cutting up songs. This is strange to any long time listener, since the latter tracks are engineered to be listened to in sequential order. Never the less this does not compromise the album.
Is It Worth It?
There are plenty of editions of Leviathan to choose from, all with their own personalities and merits. Having waited on this reissue for a while, this pressing is a stunner. Owning a masterpiece of an album from one of the most important heavy metal bands in the past twenty years is an opportunity available to many. Fresh from the record company, this album is selling for $20, which is absolutely worth it.
- Blood and Thunder
- Aqua Dementia