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Metal Moments: A Look Back Through Mastodon's 10 Best Tracks

Monday, 14 January 2019 Written by Jon Stickler

Mastodon are good, aren't they? So damn good! With a career spanning nearly two decades and seven albums, the Atlanta Grammy Award-winning metal monsters have stood toe to toe with grief, despair, addiction and death to give the world a vast, genre-defying body of work.

They’ve influenced both hipsters and headbangers with an artful balance of free-wheeling progressive structures and thunderous, heavy, muscular metal. Absorbing influences from prog, sludge, punk, jazz, psychedelia, and southern rock, the quartet's continued development in songwriting has made them one of the most forward-thinking bands in modern heavy music.

You can rest assured that there'll be plenty to sink your teeth into when Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, Troy Sanders and Bränn Dailor return to the UK this week as part of their European tour. They even told Kerrang! we can expect a new track to coincide with the trek. It will feature Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and is described as “brutal” - get those horns ready.

Kelly will join the band on stage for an extra dollop of heaviness for all their upcoming UK and Ireland shows and select European dates, with support coming from Norwegian rockers Kvelertak and Brooklyn power thrashers Mutoid Man. You cannot afford to miss this travelling juggernaut.

So, whether you prefer “the early stuff” or you’re part of the band’s increasing mainstream contingent who can’t get enough of the more melodic flare of 2017’s ‘Emperor Of Sand’, let’s take some time to revisit some of Mastodon’s best moments. Play loud.

10. Asleep In The Deep - ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ (2014)

Prog metal and cats on psychedelics. What's not to like, right? Touching on the expansive space-metal oddity first, here’s a sublime example of how Mastodon marry musical complexity with accessibility. A masterclass in atmospheric psychedelia. As for the cats, take a look at the typically surreal video.

9. Divinations - ‘Crack The Skye’ (2009)

A crushing three-and-a-half minute metal-clad riff fest that set the benchmark for the rest of one of the band’s most traditional and mid-tempo albums - and arguably their weirdest. The song opens with a Deliverance-style intro, owed in part to guitarist Brent Hinds’ love of banjo-style picking, before launching into a juddering riff that carries Hinds’ Ozzy-like wail through to one of the biggest choruses in the band’s career. There’s even a Dick Dale-worthy solo in there.

8. Steambreather - ‘Emperor of Sand’ (2017)

One of a handful of tracks that helped their seventh album storm the charts, entering at number seven on the Billboard 200 and reaching 11 in the UK. Featuring driving, chest-pounding drums and big alt-rock refrains, disgruntled Relapse Records-devotees were quick to point out the band’s lack of progressive instinct on the record, but critics couldn't pile enough praise on the scale and depth of it. One of their most personal outings, it explores death and survival through lyrics inspired by the experiences of family and friends battling cancer during the record’s creation.

7. Curl Of The Burl - ‘The Hunter’ (2011)

Reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age and Alice In Chains, the hilariously titled second single from the band’s fifth full length was easily the most accessible and radio friendly offering from them to date, though it would eventually lose its title to Show Yourself from ‘Emperor of Sand’. Instead of the typically hard-hitting, intensely proggy bludgeoning we’d come to expect from them, we got a stoner-esque ode to forest dwelling meth heads, just one of several tracks on ‘The Hunter’ with bizarre subject matter.

6. The Motherload - ‘Once More 'Round the Sun’ (2014)

The anthemic highlight of the band’s sixth album comes across with shining optimism and positivity in the chorus: “This time, things’ll work out just fine.” Guitarist Kelliher admits that when he first played the song’s riff to drummer Dailor his initial response was; “It sounds kinda happy: are we a happy band?” The downside of this cast iron banger was the controversy caused by its over-sexualised accompanying video, filled with twerking dancers.

5. Colony Of The Birchmen - ‘Blood Mountain’ (2006)

Upping the ante with a guest appearance from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, this hypnotic mid-paced melodic number (a homage to Genesis’ Colony of Slippermen) goes down as their Warner Bros. debut’s catchiest moment. Flexing their experimental muscles with trippy vocals and chunky guitar lines, the band made a daring leap forward in their Maiden-esque storytelling while remaining on track thematically - ‘Remission’ was fire, ‘Leviathan’ water, and ‘Blood Mountain’ represented earth.

4. Oblivion - ‘Crack the Skye’ (2009)

The band loosened the reins slightly in the scorching fourth instalment of their series of conceptual albums based around the elements. More ambitious in scope and sound than 2006’s ‘Blood Mountain’, Oblivion found the band shifting towards cleaner vocals, skyscraping choruses and driving instrumentals by embracing strands of prog and country, but above all, classic rock, adding new dimensions to create what we regard today as their signature sonic stew.

3. Mother Puncher - ‘Remission’ (2002)

If the full minute-and-a-half intro of zealous riffage and jaw-dropping percussive acrobatics doesn't make you shit your pants, Troy Sanders’ battle-cry bellowing will. There’s very little vocals involved in this one, unlike the sprawling prog-rock epics they would come to embrace in later years. Just as brutal as its title, and so good they named their own Farmhouse IPA style beer after it.

2. March Of The Fire Ants - ‘Remission’ (2002)

Signaling the arrival of a major new talent in the world of heavy music, the devastating second track on the band’s game-changing debut marked an extraordinary leap forward from 2001’s ‘Lifeblood’ EP. Mastodon became the yardstick against which countless clones would be measured. Cut to 17 years later and the gravelly cut-throat vocals, loud, intelligent, heavy metal songcraft still has the power to turn heads.

1. Blood and Thunder - ‘Leviathan’ (2004)

Still one of the band’s colossal gig-closers, it boasts one of the most insistent and pulverising riffs in the entire Mastodon back catalogue. The raw and dirty opener of the band’s concept album loosely based on Moby Dick immediately swallows you up among an array of distortion and drumming opuses, topped off with a guest spot from Clutch’s Neil Fallon imitating the mad, drunken Captain Ahab, screaming about catching the elusive white whale. The maddening imagery continues with a bizarre and eerie carnival-themed video.

Mastodon Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Mon January 14 2019 - BELFAST Ulster Hall
Tue January 15 2019 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Thu January 17 2019 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton
Fri January 18 2019 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sat January 19 2019 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Mon January 21 2019 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Tue January 22 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu January 24 2019 - NORWICH Norwich U.E.A.
Fri January 25 2019 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat January 26 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Mon January 28 2019 - ESCH SUR ALZETTE Rockhal (Luxembourg)
Wed January 30 2019 - WIESBADEN Schlachthof (Germany)
Thu January 31 2019 - HAMBURG Hamburg Docks (Germany)
Sat February 02 2019 - COPENHAGEN Aarhus Train (Denmark)
Sun February 03 2019 - OSLO Spektrum (Norway)
Mon February 04 2019 - STOCKHOLM Munchenbrewery (Sweden)
Wed February 06 2019 - HANNOVER Capitol (Germany)
Thu February 07 2019 - OBERHAUSEN Turbinenhalle (Germany)
Sat February 09 2019 - BRUSSELS Ancienne Belgique (Belgium)
Sun February 10 2019 - TILBURG 013 (Netherlands)
Tue February 12 2019 - ZURICH Komplex (Switzerland)
Wed February 13 2019 - PARIS Casino de Paris (France)
Fri February 15 2019 - BARCELONA Razzmatazz (Spain)
Sat February 16 2019 - MADRID La Riviera (Spain)
Sun February 17 2019 - LISBON Sala Tejo (Portugal)

Click here to compare & buy Mastodon Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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