Friday, February 25, 2011

MASTODON: Leviathan

Mastodon - Leviathan
Michael Stohrer: My listening habits make Leviathan inaccessible to me. Untangling this complicated (and often jarring) series of sudden shifts and convoluted motifs demands an attentive listen, and I typically associate “attentive” listening with calm moments, headphones, and a soothing cup of coffee. In that context, I can be still and engrossed while I concentrate on, for example, In a Silent Way. You have to focus to really grasp that record, and it invites a calm, meditative listen. This record, on the other hand, demands an equally attentive listen, but one that is anything but calm. I just don't know how to listen to it. Maybe it should come with a complimentary inflatible punching bag.

Manny Fewer: Or maybe you should just stop being such a big baby girl and get some metal in your blood.

Jesse Howell: This album doesn't wait for you to get your cup of coffee and get settled into an armchair- It throws you right out on the churning open waters. I can't think of an album I've listened to recently that could conjure up such vivid imagery and sustain it throughout the listen. I feel a part of the impossible task and the epic journey. Michael mentioned the sudden shifts, and I have to agree that it is often jarring and exciting. Unexpected (and good) transitions are something I really enjoy in music. This album is full of them. Can you guess which one, (about mid-album) that I flipped over?

Jordan Carr: I find myself having to revise my listening habits with this album as well. I'm not unfamiliar with heavy metal but Leviathan strikes me as a nearly impenetrable wall of sound. This album does not expect you to passively listen. It demands your attention regardless of your wishes. At first this turned me off but upon repeated listening I found myself struck by how much the sound mirrored what I imagine the icy, unforgiving ocean would sound like if it could rock my face off rather than simply drown me. The driving pulse that punctuates much of the album evokes images of barreling toward glory and/or destruction.
Michael: Pardon me while I get stupidly heteronormative: A lot of classic metal has an androgynous element, particularly in the shrill vocals (not to mention feathered hair) of bands like Iron Maiden. Those elements are totally absent in Mastodon’s music, which lacks anything I would associate with femininity. Moby Dick, a story where women are basically non-entities, is perfect subject matter.
Jordan: This could easily have turned into a rather silly concept album. I rolled my eyes at the Norse themed lyrics but, in context it all seemed appropriate. On a raw, emotional level, this works, although a part of me would have preferred some sections with greater musical contrast. I'm thinking some passive section interrupted by the crushing drive. Working off of something as epic and dense as Moby Dick requires a very complex structure to not merely the music but the overall structure of the album as a whole.
Michael: I would have liked more contrast, too, but I realize that this non-stop pummelcrush works on a conceptual level. Chasing a whale across the ocean in order to kill it is a very macho kind of derangement, and the participants in this doomed errand are in immediate danger of being crushed, suffocated or swallowed. Fittingly, the music on Leviathan relentlessly crushes, suffocates and swallows the listener. (It does this, of course, in a sea of testosterone.)
Jordan: Complaints aside, if I was to go hunting for my white whale I would choose this before anything softer.
Jesse: One thing I appreciate about Leviathan is the variety of voices you hear. It really seems to pry into the hearts of the each of the cast of characters in the story, and tell each different perspective. How do you prepare your heart for an inevitable disaster?

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