Mastodon- Hushed and Grim Review

Nearly 20 years since Remission, Mastodon remain one of the more engaging and constantly evolving bands in contemporary metal. Their alt-prog-sludge-metal sonic stew has brought them countless accolades as trailblazers by fans and peers alike, and their refusal to define themselves stylistically allows them to keep expanding beyond the usual confines of a run-of-the-mill 21st century metal band. With their latest album Hushed and Grim this creative quest shows no signs on the surface of slowing down, especially since the record was produced by David Bottrill who has an extensive resume working with high-profile experimental and progressive rock and metal bands.

Just the opener “Pain with an Anchor” alone contains a multitude of twists and turns with an overall atmospheric-yet-heavy vibe, setting up the mood for the Tool-meets-Pink-Floyd musical maze of the “The Crux”. The sludge and stoner side of Mastodon emerges and drives “Sickle and Peace” and “More Than I Could Chew” while “The Beast” is more of an exercise in manic, breathy progginess; contrastingly “Skeleton of Splendor” is one of those deep, bottomless tracks you recline and get lost in in the absence of massive energy and hyper-technicality. We get a bit of synth action in “Teardrinker” followed up by “Pushing the Tides”, an effective amalgam of Motörhead verses and melodic choruses overtop a canvas of unrelenting trademark Mastodon metal fare, a testament to their limitless creative pursuits and the results they’ve produced.

The technicality and melody of “Pushing the Tides” is ever-present on “Peace and Tranquility”, a rather ironic name until the relative reprieve about 2 and a half minutes in. “Dagger” is a journey unto itself, a microcosm of the rest of the album that traverses through many lands but nevertheless has a clear destination in mind. “Had It All” is one of those slow down, zone out and reflect numbers while “Savage Lands” launches us headlong back into metal, then venturing into breathy sludge again on “Gobblers of Dregs”. “Eyes of Serpents” could have been a fantastic closer if Mastodon so chose, instead we get “Gigantium” which is perfectly sufficient as well: 7 minutes of ringing stoner rock capped off by a tasty solo, ultimately reaching a climactic peak and falling away into an orchestral outro.

If Hushed and Grim does anything for Mastodon, it reiterates why they’re separate from the bulk of acts in metal. They expand their horizons on every album, travelling into uncharted waters but still sounding 100% like Mastodon when all is said and done. The ability to seamlessly assimilate new elements into the well-defined sound you have created (let alone create a well-defined sound in the first place) is the ultimate result of hard work, talent and the will to step outside the box and see what happens. What happened in this case was a great album and another feather in Mastodon’s cap. We can only wonder and anticipate where their musical journey will take them next.