The music of Atlanta quartet Mastodon isn’t a blind charge. It’s systematic, sure, as befits the drill sergeants who have surged to the forefront of metal’s unruly ranks, but it’s not rigid. Mastodon makes a methodical yet nimble march across the metal map, a dynamic, dexterous progression that etches thrash, black metal, hardcore, and grind with crystalline precision across every measure of Leviathan, its sophomore full-length.
A Moby Dick concept album (save your Operation: Mindcrime shudders, it’s subtle and supple), Leviathan does more than lunge as a tautly drawn canvas for frenzied fret runs and syncopated surges. It incorporates actual sweeping movements in the grand, symphonic sense—like a more serrated Metallica circa Ride the Lighting/ Master of Puppets, especially on the 13-minute “Hearts Alive.” Yet Mastodon offers catharsis, not heaps of contempt like other raging metal outfits. Leviathan doesn’t aggravate no matter how deranged it becomes (check out “Aqua Dementia,” featuring Neurosis’ Scott Kelly), because it also opens up wide with melodic majesty (“Naked Burn”).
Leviathan is both narrative and lyrical in its choppy, frothing crests—though the vocals, improved from the feral growl of 2002’s Remission, remain murk amongst the instrumental muscle. Mastodon’s prog convulsions are crisper here, and less sludgy. As a bonus for those dedicated and equipped enough, there’s the deluxe edition of Leviathan, packaged with an additional DVD of 5.1 surround sound mixes and live recordings. Talk about sound that washes over you.