Mastodon (band)

Mastodon (band)

Mastodon performing live at the Heineken Jammin' Festival in 2007
Background information
Origin Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Genres Sludge metal, progressive metal
Years active 1999–present
Labels Relapse, Reprise, Roadrunner
Associated acts Lethargy, Today Is the Day, Scott Kelly
Troy Sanders
Brent Hinds
Bill Kelliher
Brann Dailor
Past members
Eric Saner

Mastodon is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, formed in 1999. The band is composed of bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor. They have released five full-length albums to date, with 2009's Crack the Skye selling 41,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to land at position No. 11 on The Billboard 200 chart.[1]



Formation and early years (1999–2003)

Mastodon was formed in late 1999 when drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher moved to Atlanta from Victor, New York and met bassist/singer Troy Sanders and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds at a High on Fire show.[2] They discovered they had a mutual appreciation of sludge metal bands Melvins and Neurosis and '70s hard-rockers Thin Lizzy, and shortly thereafter formed Mastodon. In an interview in 2009, Kelliher revealed that the first time Hinds attended a practice with the band, he "showed up so wasted he couldn't play".

The band recorded a demo in 2000, which featured the band's first lead singer, Eric Saner on vocals.[2] Saner left the band for personal reasons after just a couple of months. After recording a four song demo and a 7-inch picture disc through Reptilian Records, Mastodon landed a record deal with Relapse Records in 2001.[2] They released an EP, Lifesblood in 2001 and their first full-length album, Remission, was released in 2002, with the singles "March of the Fire Ants"[2] and "Crusher/Destroyer" (which was also featured on Tony Hawk's Underground). On each of Mastodon's first three full-length albums the last track relates to the Elephant Man.

Leviathan (2004–2005)

Brent Hinds, Troy Sanders and Brann Dailor in 2004

Their second full-length album, Leviathan, was released in 2004. It is a concept album loosely based on Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick.[3] The band received critical acclaim for Leviathan and it was named album of the year by Kerrang![4] and Terrorizer.[5] "Blood and Thunder" which featured Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon was chosen as one of the most important recordings of the decade by National Public Radio in November 2009, and that the entire album epitomizes " a phenomenal decade for metal".[6] Leviathan also ranked second in a list by Metal Hammer of the best albums of 2004.[7]

The band went on tour in support of the album, playing throughout North America and Europe in The Unholy Alliance tour along with Slayer and Slipknot.[8]

"Blood and Thunder" is featured in the video games Need for Speed: Most Wanted,[9] Project Gotham Racing 3,[10] and Saints Row.[11] "Blood and Thunder" was added as a playable track on all instruments in "Guitar Hero: Metallica" and was featured in Japanese music games Drummania V2 and Guitarfreaks V2.[12] It has also been released as downloadable content for Rock Band 3, with Pro Guitar support also available at extra cost.[13]

Leviathan was followed by the 2006 release of Call of the Mastodon, a remastered collection of the band's first nine songs, and a DVD of interviews and concert footage called The Workhorse Chronicles that includes material from the band's early days as a five-piece. These two releases were the band's last for Relapse Records, as they would later go on to sign with Warner Bros.[14] Mastodon also recorded a cover version of Metallica's "Orion" for a 2006 Kerrang! tribute album honoring the 20-year anniversary of the release of Master of Puppets.[15]

Blood Mountain (2006–2008)

Their third studio album was released on September 12, 2006, followed by a tour to support the album along with Tool in Europe[16] and Slayer in Australia and New Zealand.[17] The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala lent his vocals to the track "Siberian Divide." Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme contributed vocals for the song "Colony of Birchmen."

Mastodon live at Roskilde Festival 2007

The band performed the song "Colony of Birchmen" on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien on November 1, their first appearance on network television, to a viewing audience of around 2.4 million people.[18] This song was also featured in the video games, Saints Row 2 and Rock Band 2.

The band's first single off Blood Mountain, "Capillarian Crest" was ranked number 27 in Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 100 Songs of 2006.[19] The album itself was ranked 9th in the magazine's best albums of the year chart.[20] The UK's Metal Hammer voted it the best album of 2006 in its end of year critic's poll.[21] The album was voted in at #5 by Kerrang! in their end of year list.[22] Also number 6 on PopMatters' Best Albums of 2006[23] and number 1 on The Best Metal Albums of 2006.[24] rated it the top metal album of 2006.[25] Blood Mountain was also named best album of 2006 in the 10th anniversary birthday edition (issue 119) of Bizarre. It also came in at #2 on Revolver magazine's list of the top albums of 2006. The band was named Artist Of The Month for March 2007 at[26]

The band had been touring and playing numerous shows during this time. Mastodon joined Against Me!, and Cursive for a North American tour, with Planes Mistaken for Stars opening for one leg and These Arms Are Snakes the other.[27] A performance in Milwaukee had to be canceled due to illness on the part of Brent Hinds.[28] Mastodon would play the Hove Festival in Norway as well as on the Main Stage of the Download Festival and then the Pitchfork Music Festival. During this time the band opened for Metallica on the Sick of the Studio tour. The band also played at the 2007 Dubai Desert Rock,[29] the 2008 Bonnaroo Music festivals,[30] and the inaugural Mayhem Festival. Mastodon then toured with Slayer, Trivium, Lamb of God and several other metal bands in 2008 for The Unholy Alliance tour 2008.[31]

The band performed "Colony of Birchmen" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards live with Josh Homme. After the televised performance, member Brent Hinds was reported to have sustained a severe head injury. initially reported that it was the result of a brutal assault[32] but the police report later suggested that an inebriated Hinds had started a fight with System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian and vocalist William Hudson, also known as Reverend William Burke of Achozen.[33][34]

"Sleeping Giant" was made available as a downloadable song for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, "Colony of Birchmen" was included on Harmonix's Rock Band 2, and "Divinations" was featured in Madden NFL 10. Mastodon contributed a cover version of Harry Nilsson's "One" to the video game Army of Two's advertisement campaign. The band members are fans of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and in 2007, Mastodon performed the opening song of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, "Cut You Up with a Linoleum Knife".[35]

Crack the Skye (2009–2010)

Crack the Skye was released on March 24, 2009 as a normal version and a deluxe version (which includes all songs in instrumental versions as well as their normal versions) and entered the Billboard 200 at number 11 a week later.[36] The album is produced by Brendan O'Brien[37] and Scott Kelly of Neurosis returns as a guest musician on the title-track.[38] In a MusicRadar interview, guitarist Bill Kelliher confirmed the album is about an "out of body experience," and looks at the concepts of astral travel, wormholes, Stephen Hawking's theories and the spiritual realm. The album follows a quadriplegic who learns astral projection. On his journey he flies too close to the sun, burning his umbilical cord which connects him to his body, and flies into oblivion. At the same time in Czarist Russia, Rasputin and his cult were channeling spirits and brought the quadriplegic to their time. He explains his situation and foretells the assassination of Rasputin. Inevitably Rasputin is assassinated and Rasputin guides him back to his body. The band had debuted three new tracks at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, but did not play any more live shows before the album's release, due to fears of internet distribution and wanting to play the songs to the right audience.[39] Drummer Brann Dailor sings lead vocals for the verses of the song "Oblivion." Mastodon was a headliner at the Scion Rock Fest on February 28, 2009, performing a set containing three tracks from Crack the Skye, the first time these songs were played since being finalized and recorded. On May 15, 2009, Mastodon performed a shortened version of "Oblivion" on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Bill Kelliher live at Sonisphere Festival in 2009

In order to support their new album, Mastodon toured with Metallica on the latter part of the 2009 European leg of their World Magnetic Tour.[40] In Fall of 2009, they embarked with Dethklok on the "Adult Swim Presents" tour along with Converge and High on Fire. On October 17, 2009, they recorded a DVD documenting the tour at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.[41][42] Mastodon played the alternative music festival "Big Day Out" in January and February 2010. Mastodon toured across Australia and New Zealand playing alongside notable bands such as; Muse, Lily Allen, Rise Against, Karnivool, Peaches, The Mars Volta, Eskimo Joe, Powderfinger and several other Australian and international bands.

On October 29, 2009 they performed "Divinations" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

On November 4 Mastodon released their second EP, titled Oblivion EP.[43]

Teaming up with bands Deftones and Alice in Chains, Mastodon went on tour in September 2010 in the United States and Canada. The tour is called Blackdiamondskye, a portmanteau of the three bands' latest albums (Black Gives Way to Blue, Diamond Eyes, and Crack the Skye).

Film director Jimmy Hayward contacted the band during their 2009 tour of Europe and expressed how much listening to Blood Mountain had helped his creative process while finishing a screenplay, and he offered Mastodon a chance to score the film he had been working on - Jonah Hex. In an interview with Paste magazine, bassist Troy Sanders said that Hayward "called us out of the blue as a fan. It was the most beautiful, authentic way to collaborate."[44] Mastodon used scenes from the film as inspiration during the writing and recording process, and the instrumental soundtrack, Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly EP, was released on June 29, 2010 through Reprise Records.[45]

In 2010, the band was confirmed as being part of the soundtrack for Namco Bandai Games' 2010 remake of Splatterhouse.[46] The game's protagonist can also be seen wearing a Mastodon T-shirt in certain flashback cutscenes.

Live album and The Hunter (2011–present)

On March 15, 2011 Mastodon released their first live DVD/CD entitled Live at the Aragon through Reprise. The recording features the entire performance of their fourth studio album, Crack the Skye, along with songs from their previous records.

The Hunter, Mastodon's fifth studio album was recorded at Doppler Studios in Atlanta with producer Mike Elizondo.[47] The first hints of the new album were given by the band via Facebook in January 2011. [48]. Drummer Brann Dailor revealed during interviews the title of the band's new album and described the new material as not so much proggy as riff-oriented and "a little more stripped down".[49][50]

Meanwhile, the band performed in many major summer festivals. [51] and on June 28, 2011, Mastodon released through a leftover track from the "Crack the Skye"' sessions called "Deathbound".

The first taste of The Hunter came in July 2011 where Mastodon released via Youtube the song "Black Tongue", set to a video of AJ Fosik creating the sculpture used for the album cover. By August 12th, the band had revealed the track listing from the Hunter and debuted "Curl Of The Burl", the first official single from the new album. Mike Elizondo was chosen to produce the album which marks his first time working with the band. It was also announced that a deluxe edition would be released. It featured the two bonus tracks "The Ruiner" and "Deathbound" and a different cover. On September 6, Mastodon released a third song from The Hunter, "Spectrelight", featuring Scott Kelly of Neurosis. On September 16th, the band released a 53 minute custom visualizer with all of the album tracks,11 days prior to the release of "The Hunter". In support of the album a North American headline tour was announced. The album was very well received by fans and the media. It also performed strongly on the official charts, rising to number ten on the Billboard top 200, which is their best placement to date. On October 5th 2011, they performed "Curl of the Burl" on Late Show with David Letterman.

On October 12, a UK tour was announced that will run through February 2012. They were at Later... with Jools Holland where they performed "Black Tongue" & "Curl of the Burl". A seventeen date European tour was announced that featured dates in Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and Holland.

Musical style and lyrical themes

Mastodon cross multiple heavy metal genres such as sludge metal, progressive metal, stoner metal, Alternative Metal, and groove metal. Their style has evolved over the years from their earliest work on Remission right through to The Hunter. Many of their songs features heavy and unique instrumentation with a mix of clean vocals and harsh screams. Their four first albums all deal with a special theme respectively Fire, Water, Earth and Air. It is also stated that many of their albums deal with a concept.[original research?] Scott Kelly of Neurosis has preformed vocals on every Mastodon album excluding Remission.

Leviathan is about the novel Moby-Dick. It centers around the main characters and their thoughts during the story.[original research?]

Blood Mountain is about a man who is searching for the "Crystal Skull" which is on top of the "Blood Mountain". During his journey he deals with many different creatures such as a "Cysquatch".[original research?]

Crack the Skye deals with many different themes. The title is a tribute to "Skye" the little sister of Drummer Brann Dailor who committed suicide at the age of fourteen. Much of the album centers around astral projection and out of body experiences.[original research?]

The Hunter does not deal with an entire concept like their earlier work but is remarked by the band to have an attachment to the Chinese classical element of wood. Songs such as Spectrelight or Black Tongue seem to have no meaning, while songs such as Dry Bone Valley (especially) and Octopus Has No Friends (a misnomer, as the song does not have anything to do with octopuses) are seemingly cut from a concept album. The title is a tribute to Hind's brother, Brad Hinds who died of a heart attack on December 4th 2010 while out hunting.[original research?]

Legacy and reception

The "sludge/stoner/alternative metal outfit" Mastodon, as labelled by Allmusic, is "one of the preeminent metal acts of the early 21st century".[52]

BBC stated about Mastodon: "They might be bonkers of lyric, full of fantasy mumbo jumbo, but the band is unashamedly committed to its complex-of-composition craft, and the results have frequently stunned ever since their 2002 debut, Remission. They are the most ambitious, most fearless, most fun heavy metal band to have breached the mainstream since the genre oozed its way out of the Midlands in the 1970s."[53]

Alternative Press has stated: "Mastodon are one of the all-time great hard-rock groups."[54]

An article in the April 2009 issue of Rolling Stone stated that "Mastodon are the greatest metal band of their generation - no one else comes close."



Current members
Former members
  • Eric Saner – lead vocals (1999–2000)


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