Mastodon

Record review

Phases & Stages

Mastodon

Leviathan (Relapse)

"Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself," wrote Herman Melville in Moby Dick 155 years ago. "Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity." When Clutch's Neil Fallon bellows "white whale, holy grail" amidst the perfect shitstorm of opener "Blood and Thunder," there she blows, Leviathan, "one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air," wrote Melville. On the Atlanta quartet's second LP, Pythagorean drummer Bränn Dailor is Ahab, "a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them." Dailor summoned "sea salt mastodon" from Moby Dick, and thus cast this tale, bassist/blower Troy Sanders as Queequeg and harpooners Bill Kelliher and Brent Hines spearing Physeter Catodon and Euroclydon with logjam power chords shot through precise breaks and Maiden-like leads. "I Am Ahab" grinds its stump home on the second watch. "Seabeast" and "Naked Burn" are disturbingly Layne Staley, the latter mercifully salvaged by white-hot axe work. The guitar spiral into the galloping "Megalodon" is as fierce as anything on Remission, the group's previous metal epic. Leviathan is altogether more streamlined, though equally "Ol'e Nessie" ("Blood and Thunder") and "Mother Puncher" (the pulverizing "Aqua Dementia," featuring Neurosis' Scott Kelly). Fourteen-minute "Hearts Alive," which ends Leviathan save for the lapping, acoustic-laden outro, climaxes like Moby Dick. "Ahab went down with his ship," concluded Melville, "which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it." Call them Ishmael.

***.5

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