Mastodon has been pulverizing most listener’s ears since their 2002 album, Remission and what a debut album they unleashed upon the world. 7 albums later, the band is currently thinking about writing the next album (maybe for the 2020/2021 release?). In the span of these 8 albums the band has gone through some wild twists and turns musically, absolutely deserving of their description that has been bestowed upon them; The Pink Floyd of Progressive Metal/Sludge Metal. But what’s my take on these 8 albums from one of my favorite bands? Well let me tell you in the latest rendition of Backwards Marathon.
1.) No EPs, cover albums, live albums, b-side albums, or best of/greatest hits collections. Just original studio LPs. Albums that have a cover or two on it are just fine.
2.) This is just my opinions on the albums in question. No outside influences other than my own and is far from a definitive world ranking. If you have a different ranking, AWESOME! Keep that up!
3.) The reason for doing this to help people get into a band/artist/etc and give ideas of what to expect if they decide to dive into the work.
4.) This is ranked from least favorite to favorite (countdown/TRL style). I will give a few words about every album as we go down the list.
5.) There will be a spotify playlist (where applicable) to go along with the list with a song off each album so you can get another idea of what to expect. The songs will either be my favorite song off the album or one that represents the album the best in my eyes. (if you are reading this on social media, click the official link to get the playlist)
6.) Have fun and spread the word....SPREAD IT!
8.) Call of the Mastodon (2006...or 2001, depending on how you look at it.)
The band does refer to this collection of Lifesblood and Slick Leg EPs as the first Mastodon album, and that’s good enough for me to call it an album as well (Just go with it, it’s more Mastodon, there’s no room to complain here). This shows the earlierst indications of what the band would eventually become. At their absolute most primal and raw, the band really shows off more of the extreme, hardcore, and near death metal sides that you do not really see going forward. Amongst the chaos is the aforementioned moments of prog, sludge and rock moments that would really transform later on. PF course there is the argument of two EPs combined is an album and while I love this very much; for the sake of argument, let’s just keep this at last place so the rest of the catalog can be judged fairly. I really just wanted to give this a shoutout as it is very much deserving of the love it can get.
7.) Once More ‘Round The Sun (2014)
The 2nd album after the 4 album element concept was over saw the band hitting more radio rock friendly moments than ever before. Some absolutely shining moments of guitar solos, Brann Dailor’s soaring vocals and tight songwriting. This is a bit of a polarizing album as many say that this album does not have a lot of life to it and feels more bland than anything. Others feel it is their best album to date. I see both sides of the argument and honestly, when it comes to Mastodon, I don’t think there is a wrong ranking order for anyone. All that said, there had to be a last place album somewhere (if we are not counting Call of the Mastodon), so in this case it is OMRTS.
6.) Blood Mountain (2006)
An absolutely controversial pick to have at 6th place. I can already feel the hate coming towards me. I think a lot of the love for this album came about as Blood Mountain was the first album that introduced many people to Mastodon for the first time. And there is some absolutely brilliant songs on this album. I honestly feel This Mortal Soil does not get enough love from the fanbase or anyone else I know (one of my favorite mastodon songs (honestly). And I will say there is nothing really wrong with this album at all and it’s a great representation of the Earth segment of the 4 Album Element Concept. But much like OMRTS before it on this list; 6th place had to go to some album and that’s where we are here.
5.) Leviathan (2004)
Now we are really getting into the albums that I love without questions and made it so absolutely hard to pick an order that I felt confident enough to share with the world. The Water segment of the 4 Album Element Concept is the story of Moby Dick and what a soundtrack to the novel it is! You really hear the tension, the madness, and the compelling story told throughout and it totally grasps you in a way that you have to hear it throughout the end. Plus, it’s always great to hear Neil Fallon of Clutch actually use his growl/heavy voice which has been all but abandoned in Clutch for over 2 decades now (man, I miss that voice!) Plus the final Instrumental track, Joseph Merrick, is such a great unrelated to the concept, track showcasing the fascination of The Elephant Man. Just a classic album and should be heard in English classrooms across the world when they read Moby Dick… I’m Just Saying…
4.) Crack The Skye (2009)
How hard was it to make this list. I’ll put it this way, this used to be my favorite Mastodon for the longest time. The only time to date I have been able to see Mastodon live was seeing the original run of Crack The Skye live and what an absolutely amazing experience it was. It was the second time I saw an album live in it’s entirety and I couldn’t think of a better album at the time. Even up to a couple years ago, I didn’t think this album could be topped; but as life goes, tastes change, people change, bands change. To represent the Air section of the 4 Album Element Concept; The concept is loosely based on Brann Dailor’s sister’s story of suicide and then transformed into a full blown mystical journey. I’ve heard this album referred to as Mastodon’s version of Dark Side of The Moon and it totally makes sense and I dare say, I agree. It has this great atmospheric feel in every track that makes you feel like you are floating in space, no matter how heavy the music can get. The band really showed their prog roots on this album the most they ever have to date. Iof they ever go down this route again, I will not be disappointed.
3.) Remission (2002)
From album that I listened to the least to album that I can’t get enough of; Remission is the debut album (give or take our talk about Call of the Mastodon earlier) from Mastodon and it is pure chaos. Even when things get more mellow, you can feel the tension of the raw aggression that this band is truly capable of. Even with their slight tinges of rock, prog, and even rockabilly guitar leads (Seriously, how great is Crusher Destroyer as an opening track?). The band was brought to the masses of metal in 2002 and for many, this is the best album they will ever put out with the Fire segment of the 4 Album Element Concept. I totally get why, but for me, I have two others I dig more.
2.) The Hunter (2011)
The first album to not be a concept album from the band (once again, give or take Call of the Mastodon). The band showcases almost every style y ou love from the band previously, and so much more. You can have a song like Blasteroid that is just bonkers, to Stargasm which is just a great midtempo, almost ballad, to Creature Lives which may be the greatest achievement the band has laid to record so far (such a beautiful song). Basically, if you want an introduction to Mastdon, the Hunter is the perfect starter album and go decide where you want to go from there. Perfect from start to finish.
1.) Emperor of Sand (2018)
In speaking of perfection, Emperor of Sand is exactly that in all it’s glory. Returning to their concept roots, Emperor of Sand is a concept loosely based on mortality and never truly knowing how long we have on this plain of existence. When you realize that, the lyrics throughout song like Roots Remain becomes so much more haunting. Musically, it’s another album where the music goes everywhere. Show Yourself is the poppiest/Top 40 sounding song in the band’s discography. Other songs like Andromeda show off the bands pure aggression once again, while other songs give off a great flare of Crack The Skye, but rather than being in space, you are in the desert. I know for many it’s hard to fathom how a band’s latest album can be their best work to date, but I follow that up with one question...HAVE YOU HEARD THIS THING???
And there you go folks, another take on Backwards Marathon is over and out. Thank you for checking this out and make sure to check out the Spotify playlist I provided below to check out Mastodon if you are brand new to the band.
Till next time, this is That Drummer Guy saying, SEE YA!
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)