The Real #1: Mastodon – Leviathan
OH, C’MON. YOU KNEW IT WASN’T REALLY ICP.
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 #1 album, coming in with a total of 320 points…
Mastodon, Leviathan (Relapse, 2003)
Troy Sanders — Bass, Vocals
Brent Hinds — Guitars, Vocals
Bill Kelliher — Guitars
Brann Dailor — Drums
Produced by Matt Bayles and Mastodon
“Deedily-deedily-doo” might be as instantly recognizable as any Mastodon riff, but the guitar riff that starts Leviathan album-opener “Blood & Thunder” is THE quintessential Mastodon riff. Riff; repeat; queue one of Brann Dailor’s graceful, rolling drumfills and it’s fucking ON. An album full of fire, fury, aggression; punk, metal; post-hardcore riffage, classic metal guitar leads; distinctly Mastodonian gruff vocals. On Leviathan, Mastodon infused their hardcore roots with more metal and more prog; it’s the album on which Mastodon became Mastodon.
Leviathan is unrelenting. The artful yet raw riffs continue to pummel from song to song, yet somehow never sacrifice dynamic for brutality. With tracks like “Iron Tusk” and “Heart Alive” the band dabbled in the progginess and delicate metal soundscapes that would come to define their later work. I call bullshit on so-called purist who claim Leviathan was the last good Mastodon album, because listening to this record – and make no mistake about, this is a Record with a capital R – it should’ve been plainly obvious where the band was going. If you’re one of said staunch purists I suppose your argument would hold water if you insisted Remission was the only good Mastodon album; but if that’s the case you’re just a dense idiot incapable of appreciating nuance and developed musical ideas. Oh shit. I said it!
“Aqua Dementia” holds another classic Mastodon moment; that twangy guitar pickin’ interlude (I know you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout) leading into the full band explosion like a herd of a thousand Mastodons (Side note: do Mastodon win the award for “band name that best represents the sound of the band”? Yes, they do.). And then, boy does the band fucking let loose with one of the best riffs known to man, followed by another monster riff, and another, and another… all miraculously tied together with a masterful elegance, grasp of musicality and pointed songwriting lexicon.
But the record’s definitely got its bangers too; “Naked Burn” is as angry and, yep, furious, as its title portends. “Megalodon” is another 3-minute smasher full of mosh, but even here the band doesn’t let you go without a minute of spazzed insanity to close the track. Mastodon hadn’t fully embraced their prog side yet, as the longest of the first 8 tracks is a mere 4:23, practically a haiku by later Mastodonian standards. But they somehow managed to cram some prog dalliances into each of their little furious 3-4 minute ditties. And of course, there’s the near-14 minute “Hearts Alive”… the brilliance of which speaks for itself.
Leviathan is the sound that’s come to define Mastodon – the hardcore plus the metal plus the prog – and the album saw them developing and honing in on their distinct craft at a moment in American metal where it couldn’t have been any more culturally relevant. It captures a moment in time, one that influenced countless bands in only the past 5 years since its release and will undoubtedly influence countless more in the years to come. Leviathan – and the band – is one of those albums you’re going to look back on and say “I was there when…”. We were there when.
THE REST OF THE LIST:
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
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