Sound — 9
Yet again, when we think Mastodon have settled on a continuous sound, they completely turn all aspects of their music on it's head. And my God they have once again blown my mind! Highs: - The amazing production on all vocals. In parts almost reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne crossed with Roger Waters, Mike Elizondo has done a fabulous job on getting this to sound 70's progressive rock with that all important Mastodon rocket sauce! - "The Sparrow". I can't commend this song enough, after hearing the chaos about running to the forest and killing goats, this song was the perfect cool down. - Not being afraid of the unknown. Mastodon, haven't been afraid with their melodies, for example "Creature Lives" sounds like a nursery rhyme, but it works! The catchy "Ohs" can be imagined in a huge stadium, it is definitely the anthem of the album. Lows: - Tracks too short. There is only one track on the whole album which is above 5 minutes long which "coincidentally" is "The Sparrow" (my personal choice for best song on the album), I just feel that if some of the songs were longer the album would be even better - Takes a while to get deep into it. Personally, I wasn't sold by this album until I'd listened to it 4-5 times. So if you're inpatient then this isn't the album for you. PIECE BY PIECE ANALYSIS At first listen to the 2 preview tracks, "Black Tongue" and "Curl Of The Burl", I was a bit sceptical and didn't get the same buzz from them as I did from listening to "Colony Of Birchmen" or "March Of The Fire Ants" for the first time, however this was also the case when I listened to "Crack The Skye" for the first time. So I remained hopeful that these songs would grow on me. At first listen of the album as a whole, I could hear a lot of filler tracks ("Blasteroid", "Octopus Has No Friends", "Thickening", "Creature Lives", "Bedazzled Fingernails") however the opening 2 tracks ("Black Tongue" and "Curl Of The Burl") had now grown on me. After listening to the album continuously for a few days my personal favourites (excluding the opening 2 tracks) were: "Dry Bone Valley", because of it's great staccato vocal melody throughout the verses sung by Brann Dailor. "Stargasm", for the fantastic "shift into overdrive" lyric to introduce the chorus, it was one of those "hairs on the back of your neck" moments for me. "The Sparrow", probably the only song on the album which got to me on first listen, the guitar melody and the looping vocals really got me inside the music, shame it was the ending track. But what a track to end on! Gradually as I listened more and more the pieces began to fall into place and revealed this album was no filler, true masterpiece and is up their with all their other albums!
Lyrics — 9
There has never been anything normal about Mastodon's lyrics, we're always inclined to expect forests, trolls, giants, space, Russians tzars in their lyrics. So I wasn't at all surprised with the lyrics of the album, not that they aren't brilliant. Lyrics such as "I killed a man because he killed my goat" ("Curl Of The Burl"), did however somewhat shock me, that they were so daring. Same with "Creature Lives", with it's "nursery rhyme" melodic (however catchy) themes. The lyrics and music work in perfect harmony, the more aggressive the music, the more aggressive the vocals and lyrics. "The Hunter" possesses some great lyrics sung by Brent Hinds. "All the love I've shown, Given to the ones I've known" sung over a great clean guitar riff, in comparison to that of "Spectrelight" where Troy Sanders delivers some mean, rough vocals over possibly the heaviest guitar riffs on the whole album. The album shows much diversity in lyrics and gives the album a happy balance. Brann, Brent and Troy all possess different vocal styles and it is instantly obvious which one of them it is who is singing song to song, verse to chorus etc. Credit to them for finding a great equilibrium between them, since the emergence of Brann singing from "Crack The Skye".
Overall Impression — 9
Definitely the album of 2011!... So far. Sounds like: "Crack The Skye" fused with "Blood Mountain" with a hint rocket fuelled 70's progressive rock. Favourite songs: "Stargasm", "Dry Bone Valley" and "The Sparrow". If you love Mastodon, Opeth, Pink Floyd or QOTSA you will definitely enjoy listening to this album. It would have all the credentials to become a Progressive classic... IF ONLY THE SONGS WERE LONGER! That is my only flaw on this fantastic work of art.