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Mastodon – ‘Hushed and Grim’

Reprise Records
Enslaved, Metallica, Haken, Avenged Sevenfold
Release Date
October 29, 2021
Reprise Records
Progressive Metal/Heavy Metal/Alternative Rock

Mastodon bring us the first double album of their career with “Hushed and Grim”. A thematically linked collection of songs concerning musings around the pain of grief, and the celebration of the lives of those loved ones gone. Bringing more elements from Grunge and Alt Rock than any of their previous works (and indeed having guest guitar work from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayll), Mastodon once again confound the genre-labellers with an epic work that covers almost every available base. Using entirely clean vocals throughout (though not without some histrionics) and with many simple undistorted guitar parts, this is not the Mastodon of ‘Remission’ or ‘Leviathan’; but then again why would it be? Or indeed why should it be?

There’s a clue in the word “Progressive”. Things cannot remain the same, and for any group of four deeply talented and creative individuals to stick together with a common purpose, things simply must move forwards to stay fresh. And Mastodon have steadily moved through the last 20 years with a notable step-change to cleaner sound around the ‘Crack the Skye’/’The Hunter’ era, however the majority elements of rhythmic intensity, sweeping dynamics, and meaningful (at least well-conceived!) lyrics have remained constant. The continuity of the band, and the unity of vision within the music has made them one of the defining Metal artists of this millennium so far. Few Metal bands have charted so highly, or had more mainstream exposure. They’ve never used the exposure to “cash in” or take a lazy route to a payday; they still work as hard as they did before the move to Warner Bros. gave them big label kudos.

So is this the unbridled triumph some reviewers are heralding on YouTube as “the greatest thing since ‘Sgt.Peppers…’, or the bloated ramblings of old men; “an overstuffed collection of downtuned alt-rock” as said elsewhere? From an entirely personal perspective I think there is a reasonable case to say that the running time is a little heavy going as many of the songs are in a similar range of mid-tempos, and the effect of that is to make 87mins really feel like 87mins. The actual song content though, is typical Mastodon – beautifully constructed song structures with intense melodies, the sort of musical togetherness that most other bands would kill for, and an effortless synergy of lyrical passion with virtuoso playing. If you like a good old bit of Prog Metal from the Melodic school, you’ll love this, and easily forgive the running time.

"An (ever-so) slightly flawed gem"

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