Old Music Tuesdays: Mastodon
Mastodon is a progressive metal band from Atlanta, Georgia that was started in early 2000. They are one of my absolute favorite bands, and I can’t believe I haven’t done an Old Music Tuesday with them yet. They just released a new album in June, so I thought it was fitting to share one of their songs on this Old Music Tuesday.
In their early days, Mastodon was a sludge metal band, and very heavy and abrasive. I was fortunate enough to see them live in New York City when they were still starting out and I got a taste of their uncompromising heaviness. I bought their Lifesblood EP in 2001 and proceeded to make my college roommate’s ears bleed. With each subsequent release, they’ve included more progressive rock elements in the music. Each of their first four full-length albums were concept albums: Remission (2002) was loosely about death and fire, Leviathan (2004) was based on Moby Dick and various sea creatures (water), Blood Mountain (2006) featured Joseph Campbell’s hero with 1000 faces (earth), and 2009’s Crack the Skye included a fictionalized version of Rasputin and the air element. These four albums were all immediate metal classics, and I urge you to buy all of them immediately if you’re into heavy music.
They have released two albums since then that have divided fans a bit, The Hunter (2011) and Once More Round the Sun (2014). Mastodon die-hards typically like these albums, while the more prog-metal purists tend not to. So what’s different? Well, everything: content, theme, style, and artwork. While the first four were high concept albums, their latest two offerings are just straight up rock-and-roll, albeit Mastodon-flavored rock music. One reviewer mentioned that the band seems to be trying to balance Foo Fighters styled radio rock music without compromising their prog roots. I guess that’s a fair assessment. The music is still heavy, but there are a lot more alternative influences present, and the lyrics are a bit lighter and sillier in some cases. Some fans miss the high concepts… I guess I do too but there’s nothing wrong with just making a solid rock album, which both of these definitely are. Though the band’s style has changed, it’s still unmistakably Mastodon. I’m more in the “Mastodon die-hard” camp, as I like these albums. However, I can understand where the “prog-metal purists” are coming from.
The song I’ve shared is called Megalodon, taken from their 2004 album Leviathan (which you can purchase by clicking the Amazon link, included). As with the rest of the album, the song is based on water and sea creatures. (It’s my personal favorite Mastodon record.) As for an analysis of the song, I’ll let Troy Sanders, the band’s bassist, speak:
“All four of us are fascinated with the magnificence of Mammoths and enormous creatures, both myth and fact,” states Troy. “We go to museums just to look at full skeletons of Mammoths and Mastodons. The magnificence is amazing and the same thing with the whale. And these are animals of truth that existed and still do. The magnificence of the whales is awe-inspiring. The gnarliness [sic] of a shark is over-whelming. Tying that magnificence of reality in with the awe associated with myth and legend speaks to all of us. We know that the Loch Ness Monster is a myth, but we wrote “Ol’e Nessie” in her honor. We want to dip our hands in the Loch and hope that she appears. The myth of the Figi Mermaid is where the entire lyrics for “Megalodon” came from.
“It’s the exact opposite of the beautiful mermaids sitting on glistening rocks, combing their hair,” says Troy. “This isn’t the case…these are the wickedly horrible, gnarly-faced Figi Mermaids that chattered their teeth beyond your boat until you looked over the side and they drag you under and eat you. They’re supposedly made of coral and bone… Stories like that, we find amazing.
“We were destined to have a song called “Megalodon.” We visited the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in St. Augustine, Florida where they have a Megalodon jaw. I stood in the jaw. I’m 6’4″ and the jaw still wasn’t touching my head. This is a creature that existed with a mouth opening up bigger than six-and-a-half feet and it was like ten feet wide. Just the jaws and teeth of this creature were beyond…I couldn’t imagine seeing a creature of that size today. The Megalodon is the extinct cousin of the Great White Shark, which of course still exists. Just seeing that mouth…we right then and there voted on having a song called “Megalodon.”
Enjoy the song and buy the CD by clicking the Amazon link. Thanks for reading!
Myth or legend
Nymph tale washed ashore
Near the kraken sleepeth stirs coral and bone
No sexy sneer
Human and animal
Banter songs of rudeness to be adhered
Not on rocks that glisten
Harps to listen
Tear right to pieces
Left to recess a watery grave
Sensing the blood of prey
Swimming in fear for life
Falling into jaws
Teeth that chatter
It distracts them all
The Fiji mermaid
She will let it know
Time is coming to feed and gnaw.
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