Mastodon's Extreme Expression

Mastodon's Extreme Expression
Bands who play in the realm of underground metal are often obsessed with themes centred around simple shock value. What separates Atlanta's Mastodon from most extreme bands is their need to express their feelings through their music. "All of us take music as an extremely cathartic exercise," says drummer Brann Dailor. "If we didn't have it, I don't think we'd be around."

The band was formed after Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher left the popular and innovative Today Is The Day in 1999, after their stunning contributions to that band's In The Eyes Of God album. By early 2000 they had met up with Troy Sanders and Brent Hines and immediately began working on a new sound that would become Mastodon. Last year they released their first EP, Lifesblood (Relapse), impressing the metal community with both the technical proficiency of the players and the stunning display of poetic emotions the music offered.

Mastodon's debut album, Remission, takes the sound of the EP and expands it even farther. It grips the listener and refuses to let go, no small feat for a 50-minute workout of such intensity. Remission is a masterpiece of mammoth, grinding riffs and technical wizardry that is balanced with an abundance of quiet and haunting melodies, all delivered with a passion.

"If you're able to use music as an extreme extension of your heartfelt emotions, then those types of things are definitely going to come out," says Dailor. "We want to have it feel like something. I want it to feel scary, or beautiful, or afraid."

While the majority of underground metal acts find inspiration from horror movies or serial killer documentaries, Mastodon's music comes from the need to heal old wounds and find closure through their art. "Only from complete darkness can come complete light, and that's what the album cover symbolises, with the phoenix in flames," says Dailor. "Remission can mean ‘illness goes into hibernation,' and the main meaning of it is to forgive someone. We're a bunch of dudes who have been down the road a little bit and now we're at a point where we've been reflecting on the past. Things have calmed down a great deal and we've been able to write music, and let out those demons using music."

Not words one usually hears from a band playing music that resembles a twisted train wreck (and accompanying funeral mass). For the members of Mastodon, music is a vital part of their lives, not mere entertainment. "Our main goal is to give back what music has given to us for so many years," says Dailor. A far cry from desecrating graves or hangin' with the devil.