21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century... So Far

#13: MASTODON – BLOOD MOUNTAIN

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We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and  April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #13 album, coming in with a total of 138 points…

Mastodon, Blood Mountain (Warner Bros., 2006)
Troy Sanders — Bass, Vocals
Brent Hinds — Guitars, Vocals
Bill Kelliher —
Guitars
Brann Dailor — Drums
Produced by Matt Bayles and Mastodon

I guess dudes were nervous about Mastodon’s third album, Blood Mountain, ‘cuz it was the quartet’s first for Warner Bros Records. Which is kinda goofy since all the greatest, most epic-est concept albums are major label affairs. And beardy production aside, Blood Mountain fits right in among those records, and not a moment too soon. It sounds to me like two Sepultura cover bands on opposite sides of a basement, one (inexplicably) playing Voivod’s Nothingface and the other Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (for some reason). It has the former’s freakishly dynamic riffs and exoticism, the latter’s epic arc and devastating instrumental passages. All three albums share a pervasive and baldly cinematic sense of time passing; Blood Mountain shoots from a canon (“The Wolf Is Loose”) and ends 50 minutes/several days later with a mournful closing credits sequence (“Pendulous Skin”). By that point, our hero (whom we all visualize as guitarist/singer Brent Hinds, right?) has been swallowed by the mountain or encased in ice or raped by a tree. The listener has been through only slightly less.

Musically, Blood Mountain captures a expressive, fluent Mastodon, a single lurching unit able to conjure the sensation of withstanding a landslide or addressing a cycloptic and clairvoyant Bigfoot. This is done using an arsenal which counts three distinct and expressive singers and at least one virtuosic guitarist. It helps too that Matt Bayles’ naturalistic production gets an upgrade courtesy of a twinkling, crunching mix by Rich Costey (best mix ever on Cave In’s Antenna). Above all, Blood Mountain is a document that proves its authors care about good shit; no riff lazily waddles in toneless chromatics nor does any beat aimlessly plod. I sound like my old English teacher here, but I can’t be alone in finding this album amazingly rich: There’s a repeated tightening and relaxing of the fist; guitars and voices climb and descend; Rhythms consistently imply that footing is perilously uncertain.

I like that Mastodon likes grave, addictive concept albums like the rest of us nerds, as demonstrated by nods to labelmates The Mars Volta (whose Cedric Baxter-Birney [sorry] adds guest vocals to the titanic “Siberian Divide”); and Genesis, who set the bar for paranoid, claustrophobic story-albums with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (whose “The Colony of Slippermen” is referenced in BM’s “The Colony of Birchmen”). I also like that the band plans to make a film version their next album, Crack The Skye; I’d really like that too provided it were as awesome as Beowulf 3D on the mega-screen with Blood Mountain pounding on my headphones. Tip: Listen to side B twice.

-ADF

Download Blood Mountain from Amazon or iTunes!

THE LIST SO FAR:

#14 – System of a Down, Toxicity

#15 – Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1

#16 – Machine Head, The Blackening

#17 – Hatebreed, Perseverance

#18 – Lamb of God, New American Gospel

#19 – Mastodon, Remission

#20 – Shadows Fall, The War Within

#21 – Slipknot, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses

THE PANEL OF VOTERS

Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction
/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan,
Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-
God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
CT, Rwake
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair,
Shadows Fall
Leo  Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly,
Metal Injection/Hails & Horns/Freelance Journalist
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds,
Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani,
Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/Universal Music Group
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph,
Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson,
Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist

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