Mastodon Leviathan

The highly anticipated follow-up to 2002’s Remission, Mastodon’s Leviathan does not disappoint — but be forewarned that it is a sonic evolution of sorts. The steel-hardened souls of Atlanta’s number one metal band have gone through an extreme tempering process, as Leviathan (a theme album based on drummer Brann Dailor’s leisurely read of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick) thoroughly tightens the screws and cleans up the Matt Bayles-tweaked production. Opener "Blood and Thunder” absolutely screams out of the starting gates with the hookiest riffs on the record, and "I Am Ahab” follows with a tad less aggression but more of the band’s inviting chordal density. "Seabeast” sports rock-based structures and surprisingly clean vocals, and "Megalodon” borrows from the quieter moments off the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity, a Celtic Frost-y stretch, and Southern rock bridges. "Naked Burn” is a veritable prog ballad, while "Aqua Dementia” mixes equal amounts of AC/DC noodling and Neurosis-styled doom, with partial thanks to guest vocalist/co-songwriter Scott Kelly. The 13-minute magnum opus "Hearts Alive” is an intricately shimmering portrait of the band’s brilliant melodicism, with the acoustic "Joseph Merrick” (with organ, even) closing out the album on Mastodon’s mellowest tip ever. As they went through growing pains from 2001’s Lifesblood EP to Remission, so, too, do they morph on Leviathan to a more definitive metalcore sound with plenty of wiggle room for fret board and drum experimentation. Prog-core for Rush enthusiasts, Mastodon dole out the Melvillean metal on the allegory-rich Leviathan. (Relapse)