Before the weekend arrives, progressive sludge metallers Mastodon will finish recording Blood Mountain, the unbridled band’s third studio LP.
According to drummer Bränn Dailor, the album showcases the Atlanta band at its mightiest.
“It’s hard to be inside something and talk to people about it,” he said. “And it’s kind of a cliché that the people in the band think that what they’re working on at the moment is the best stuff they’ve ever done. But I guess that’s the way that we feel. It’s just more intense, more — I mean I like everything we’ve ever done. But at the moment, I’m really digging on this stuff. It’s hard for me to put into words what’s different about it. It’s just better.”
By the end of the month, Seattle-based producer Matt Bayles (Isis, Horse the Band) will wash his hands of the finished product, which will be shipped to New York, where Rich Costey (Audioslave, My Chemical Romance) will mix it. In August the follow-up to 2004’s epic Leviathan will be unleashed upon the world.
With Blood Mountain, which has taken more than two months to record, Dailor said he’s hoping his band and others like it can accomplish something huge: to rattle complacent rock fans who might not grasp what Mastodon have been trying to do since forming in 1999.
“I hope we can start a prog revolution, because the timing’s right,” he said. “You’ve got a Tool record that’s coming out, an Isis record that’s coming out, a Mars Volta record that’s coming out, a Mastodon record that’s coming out, and I hope that converges into something really awesome for music where it doesn’t become pop, but there’s a little more sharing of the pie. It would be cool if you had kids in their bedrooms not trying to learn Linkin Park songs, but they’re trying to learn Mastodon songs. It’s cool music that’s honest and from the heart, and it’s technically challenging.”
Mastodon started writing soon after last year’s Ozzfest wrapped (see “Sabbath, Maiden Defend Metal Legacies At First Ozzfest Stop” ) and recorded more than a dozen tracks for the effort, including “Circle of Cysquatch,” “Hunters of the Sky,” “The Sleeping Giant,” “Bladecatcher,” “The Colony of Birchmen,” “Pendulous Skin,” “The Siberian Divide,” “Capillarian Crest,” “Hand of Stone,” “Crystal Skull,” “The Wolf Is Loose” and “This Mortal Soil.” Based on Dailor’s description, Blood Mountain’s going to follow in Leviathan’s heady footsteps.
While Leviathan focused on dystopian author Herman Melville’s opus “Moby Dick,” the new album will revolve around an unnamed citizen’s ascension to the apex of a snowcapped mountain.
“It’s about climbing up a mountain and the different things that can happen to you when you’re stranded on a mountain, in the woods, and you’re lost,” the drummer said. “You’re starving, and hallucinating, running into strange creatures. You’re being hunted. It’s about that whole struggle.”
While Dailor was loath to reveal the album’s entire plot, he did explain that at one point in the story, presented in the track “The Siberian Divide,” the anonymous hero finds himself “caught in a blizzard where [he] becomes frostbitten and frozen and [he’s] starving and starts to hallucinate.” Just then, “this snow queen appears before him and tells him it’s OK to start eating his own flesh. And then he starts to do that. Then an aurora borealis appears, and he thinks it’s God, and it starts affecting this crystal skull he’s been toting up the mountain, and it starts to warm his body. That, coupled with the knowledge of the aurora borealis being God, gives him the strength to start to carry on again.”
Apparently, the album follows this character as he combs Blood Mountain in search of the crystal skull, which he needs to place atop the treacherous crag — for what purpose, Dailor’s not saying. Along the way, this man encounters a whole host of nefarious creatures, including a vicious wolf and a Cysquatch: “a one-eyed Sasquatch that can see into the future,” he said.
Mastodon called on a number of their rock and roll buddies to contribute to Mountain, including Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, and Volta frontman Cedric Bixler Zavala, who sings on “The Siberian Divide.”
And this summer, Dailor said the band will showcase some of the new material when it takes the stage during the upcoming Unholy Alliance Tour. That trek’s set to kick off June 6 in San Diego, with dates running through July 22 in Long Beach, California. Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and Thine Eyes Bleed are also on the bill, which is anchored by headliners Slayer (see “Slayer Forge ’Ozzfest Alternative’ With Mastodon, Lamb Of God” and “Dates Unveiled For Slayer’s Unholy Alliance With Mastodon, Lamb Of God” ).
Mastodon will spend the rest of their time escorting fans up Blood Mountain. “We’ll be out on the road forever, and everyone will get a chance to see us a million times until they’re sick of us,” Dailor said. “And then we’ll go away and write a new record.”