REVIEW: Mastodon – Hushed and Grim

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Under the big grey cloud of grief to commemorate their late manager, Nick John, MASTODON reached out with their eight album, “Hushed and Grim,” on October 29th, 2021. Intoxicating moments of psychedelia and progressive metal improvising have always been a trademark of MASTODON’s sound and this time, they are going back to the more overtly doomier days. The last decade of the band’s career has waded further into more adventurous waters; “Hushed and Grim” comes like a piece of the musical puzzle that MASTODON has been arranging during their later years, impressively considering it’s their first time doing a double album.

Hushed and Grim” has a mysterious feeling, even as an album title. The overall soundscape is dense and deep, giving a listening experience that ranges from dizzying and manic to brooding and introspective at other times, but ultimately remains moody and haunting on the whole. The powerful drum rolling from Brann Dailor and swirling guitar riffs that launch the album opener, “Pain With an Anchor,” create the sturdy cascade of an aggressive horde, with woozy, psychedelic undercurrents and a gradual, grieving melody. Continuing to the next song, “The Crux” is a more straightforward typical MASTODON riff-rattler played with an up-tempo punk-rock style alongside a classic rock swing, topped with a wonderfully carefree Brett Hinds solo that is a little bit jazzier to give it an extra sparkle.

Sickle and Peace” combines the hypnosis and power of their earlier songs, laying a solid foundation for the listening adventure that is about to come. The album also includes some wild and perverse fast-paced songs too for all the longtime MASTODON fans who like to get a good moshpit going when attending their live shows. There will certainly be plenty of reasons to jump around when the band is able to tour this album. With a forceful crunch, “More Than I Could Chew” provides a doomy gallop across desert plains, with Mellotron (electronic keyboard) and the western spirit of Ennio Morricone, lurking with a touch of malicious intention in the background. Similarly is the fast-paced guitar riffing chaos of “Pushing the Tides,” which hits with the sound of a hurricane, while thrash metal launches “Savage Lands.” “Peace And Tranquility” is an audacious blend of complex progressive metal playing and delightful psychedelic Americana. “Gobblers Of Dregs” begins as a mesmerizing, slow motion howl to the universe, before erupting into a tempest of acid rock freedom.

The most engaging aspect of MASTODON‘s sound is that it keeps progressing and evolving. The progression of “Hushed and Grim” is notable in bassist Troy Sanders‘ singing, as the emotional heaviness of his vocal performance gives depth to the songs. Whether it is intentional or a natural result of age, the tortured howls of his sound result in what may be his most fascinating vocal performance. Sanders raspy singing in combination with hearty howls from guitarist Brent Hinds lend a balanced weight that keeps the dark blues rock ballad of “The Beast” from coming off as a romantic absurdity. Sanders‘ piercing howls and emotive keyboard work also boost “Skeleton of Splendor“‘ with spooky synth progressions, similar to “Dagger.Dailor also impresses listeners with the melodic lead vocals on “Teardrinker,” a relatively straightforward hard rock tack. Sanders’ beautiful throat-shredding singing on “Gigantium” is an epic closing track that can’t help but leave a lasting impression after the first initial listens are completed.

The last decade of MASTODON releases have seen the band conduct their songwriting towards more musically explorative waters. Every full length album ends up being clear and progressive, while their experimental spirit is still very present and all melodies and instruments give a feeling of belonging. The progressive twists and turns from start to finish help keep the listening experience exciting. “Hushed and Grim” could very well be the band’s ultimate masterpiece, as they have not just found their voice, but perfected it. “Hushed and Grim” is a double album that gives listeners a lot to digest and enjoy with an extraordinary mixture of raw sounds and layers of melodies that resonate each time with something new.

Written by Peter Jerman

Tracklist

CD 1

  1. Pain With an Anchor
  2. The Crux
  3. Sickle and Peace
  4. More Than I Could Chew
  5. The Beast
  6. Skeleton of Splendor
  7. Teardrinker
  8. Pushing the Tides

CD 2

  1. Peace and Tranquility
  2. Dagger
  3. Had It All
  4. Savage Lands
  5. Gobblers of Dregs
  6. Eyes of Serpents
  7. Gigantium

Lineup

Troy Sanders – bass, vocals 

Brent Hinds – guitar, vocals 

Bill Kelliher – guitar, backing vocals 

Brann Dailor – drums, vocals

Label

Reprise Records

Links

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