Metal gets a bad rap, but Mastodon couldn't give a stuff about that.
Their sixth album finds the Atlanta, Georgia quartet on uncompromising form, tackling themes around death and, well, death really, with – on the face of it – all the subtlety of a flying anvil. But they're not your run of the mill metal outfit, not as far as common perceptions are concerned; there's something a little more complex going on here.
The full-throttle assault's a familiar one – riffs straight out of Satan's furnaces, vocals that sound like Ozzy Osbourne whether it's Troy Sanders, guitarist Brent Hinds or drummer Brann Dailor taking the lead, and pace that defines 'breakneck' – but Mastodon's real power is in density. The Motherload rolls in like the Four Horsemen then lets guitars and drums crash into each other like waves, while Aunt Lisa layers a thrilling, screechy chorus over tumbling chords, syncopated beats and moments of pure drone. You can almost feel the thickness.
It's not simply a question of piling on noise either, as Asleep In The Deep works through softer guitar runs and almost dreamy harmonies before marching off stridently to the horizon, and High Road combines a harsh kind of beauty with doubletracked solos prised from the Thin Lizzy canon. It seems as if finding the unusual, and lacing it with brutal but beguiling melody, is Mastodon's real purpose under that monstrous barrage. Pulling it all together is quite a skill.