Music / Mastodon

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mastodon_9308.jpg
L-R: Troy, Bill, Brent, and Brann.

"Our next guests are a Grammy-nominated rock and roll band from Atlanta and, I won't lie to you, I'm frightened."

Mastodon are an American Progressive Metal band from the state of Georgia, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Brent Hinds, bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist Bill Kelliher, and drummer and vocalist Brann Dailor.

In 2002, they released their first full-length album, Remission. This contained such tracks as "March of the Fire Ants" and "Crusher Destroyer" which was featured in Tony Hawk's Underground. Their real breakout came in 2004 with the release of Leviathan, a concept album based on Moby-Dick that catapulted them into the mainstream. It includes their most popular song, "Blood and Thunder."

Two years later, they released Blood Mountain, which many critics called the best metal album of 2006. In 2009, they completed their fourth studio album, Crack the Skye, continuing their string of well-received albums. It featured a slightly softer feel, but it was even more complex and progressive than their previous albums. A fifth album, The Hunter was released in September 2011, once again to strong critical reception. Once More 'Round the Sun was released in June 2014.

Interestingly, all their albums have also been themed around the classical elements. Remission is Fire, Leviathan is Water, Blood Mountain is Earth, Crack the Skye is Aether and The Hunter is wood. Additionally, the last song on each of their first three albums has to do with Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man. All four members sing live.

By the way, yes, Mastodon is the band that Squishy's mom was listening to in that one scene in Monsters University (specifically "Ísland").


Discography:

  • Remission (2002)
  • Leviathan (2004)
  • Call of the Mastodon (2006) (compilation album of demo songs from prior to their début with re-recorded vocals and a reordered track listing, so it could be considered a studio album by those unfamiliar with their earliest material; alternate performances of some of this material also made it onto their early Lifesblood and Slick Leg EPs)
  • Blood Mountain (2006)
  • Crack the Skye (2009)
  • The Hunter (2011)
  • Once More 'Round the Sun (2014)


Current Members

  • Troy Sanders - vocals, bass guitar, keyboards (2000-)
  • Brent Hinds - vocals, lead guitar (2000-)
  • Bill Kelliher - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2000-)
  • Brann Dailor - drums, vocals (2000-)

Former and Touring Members:

  • Eric Saner - lead vocals (2000-2000)
  • Derek Mitchka - keyboards (2011, touring)


Mastodon and their music provide examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: Blood Mountain has this as its premise.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: "Creature Lives."
  • Ass Shove: In the extended version of "Cut You Up with a Linoleum Knife".
  • Astral Projection: The protagonist of Crack the Skye can use this.
  • Belly of the Whale: Mentioned by name in "The Wolf Is Loose".
  • Bilingual Bonus: The song title "Ísland". It's Icelandic, for, well, Iceland.
  • Call Back: On Remission, "Trampled Under Hoof" drops the title of the band's first EP, Lifesblood. The song had actually been written when the EP was named, but was not included on it.
  • The Cameo: Of the musical variety. In Monsters University there is a scene where Squishy's mother turns on the radio in her car and starts listening to "Ísland." Seeing a very suburban mother (even if she is a monster) listening to a band like Mastodon makes for a pretty hilarious moment.
  • Careful with That Axe: "Bladecatcher". Even more awesome when you consider that it's a guitar making those noises.
  • Concept Album: All but Remission and The Hunter.
    • Leviathan is based off of Herman Melville's novel, Moby-Dick.
    • Blood Mountain is about a man journeying to the top of a mountain and meeting mythical creatures on the way.
    • Crack The Skye has a storyline combining art aesthetics of Tsarist Russia, astral travel, out of body experiences, and Stephen Hawking's theories on wormholes.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Magicland, in the "Deathbound" music video.
  • Doomed by Canon: Rasputin. But he Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence afterward to help the hero of Crack the Skye.
  • Elements of Nature: The band's first four albums are meant to correspond with one of them. Remission represents fire; Leviathan (naturally) represents water; Blood Mountain represents earth; Crack the Skye represents aether. Air is the only classical element for which Mastodon has yet to create a corresponding album. The Hunter as a whole was not intended to correspond with an element, but many of the songs represent wood, which is a Chinese classical element; Once More 'Round the Sun does not correspond with the elements theme, as it is said to have a theme of "death".
  • Epic Rocking: "Hearts Alive" and "The Last Baron" are both over 13 minutes long. "The Czar" is just under 11 minutes.
  • Fanservice: The video for "Motherload" features a lot of erotic dancers.
  • Filk Song: "White Walker" is written about the White Walkers from Game of Thrones. And there is, of course, the entire Leviathan album, which naturally is based on Moby-Dick.
  • Green Aesop: The video for "Curl of the Burl."
  • Handicapped Badass: The hero of Crack the Skye is a paraplegic with the power of Astral Projection.
  • Heavy Mithril:
    • A whole album about Moby-Dick.
    • Crack the Skye is an album that tells an epic story.
    • Blood Mountain, in the regard of its many mythical creatures.
  • Hidden Track: The CD versions of Remission and Blood Mountain have them. Remission has just about a minute and a half of white noise, while Blood Mountain has a prank call from Josh Homme talking about how he uploaded their album to the Internet.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Shockingly, Crack the Skye is probably the only example in which the Mad Monk, Grigori Rasputin, becomes a hero. He is prone to being portrayed as a Villain.
  • How We Got Here: Subverted with "Dry Bone Valley." It's clear that the narrator is running away from something, literally from the very first line, but at no point do we find out how he got into this mess.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Due to Brent Hinds' unique voice, many of their songs have this.
    • Subverted with "Pendulous Skin" and "Bladecatcher", which are instrumentals, but they use sonic effects to emulate vocals that leave listeners baffled as to what is being said.
  • Instrumentals: "Elephant Man", "Joseph Merrick", "Bladecatcher", "Pendulous Skin"
    • The band released a full instrumental version of the Crack the Skye album.
  • Intercourse with You, IN SPACE!: "Stargasm".
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: The main character of Blood Mountain seeks the Crystal Skull to cure it.
  • Last Note Nightmare: After the gentle instrumental "Elephant Man" at the end of Remission, there's a minute of silence and then a minute and a half of white noise. (This is excluded from some reissues of the album on vinyl, however).
  • Lead Bassist: Troy Sanders is a Type C.
  • Lead Drummer: Brann Dailor is probably better known than the guitarists, and may be the best known member overall due to his virtuosity.
  • Lesser Star: Bill. He is the only member to perform only backing vocal parts, plays fewer guitar leads than Brent, and writes none of the lyrics. However, he is responsible for much of the direction that the band takes and the band was named after a tattoo on his arm, possibly making him The Chick.
  • Lighter and Softer: Crack the Skye. Not by much though.
    • The Hunter dips in and out of this trope, and Once More 'Round the Sun dives right back into it again, opting for a more spacey, psychedelic (though still relatively heavy) feel than their oppressive, gritty sound from before.
    • If Call of the Mastodon is any indication, they were even heavier before their first album.
  • Long Runner Lineup: Hasn't changed since 2000, unless you count live members, and even then it was unchanged for over ten years.
  • Loudness War: The band's albums are mastered fairly loudly, especially after they signed to Reprise, since which point they've also been badly clipped (this also affected Call of the Mastodon, which is particularly unfortunate since the original demo versions were pretty quiet by contemporary standards and not badly clipped). The vinyl editions of Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye were given separate masters without clipping, however, and these are worth tracking down.
  • Man on Fire: Well, "Burning Man".
  • Metal Scream: Used quite liberally in most of their pre-Crack the Skye work. Brent is a Type 1. Troy is a Type 2.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Prior to Crack the Skye, most of their songs were 7-8, with a few, like "Blood and Thunder", that got up to 9. Crack the Skye features mostly 6-7. And "Bladecatcher" is a...Drum roll... 10.
    • It would be a bit glib to say that they started out at 10 and kept lowering their hardness by 1 with each album until Crack the Skye, but their early albums do have a tendency to be slightly Lighter and Softer than the preceding album. The band's early demo (not widely released, but not that difficult to find on file sharing sites) is a hard 9 bordering on 10, due to the Harsh Vocals of original vocalist Eric Saner. Much of this was re-recorded either on Lifesblood or Slick Leg, and these later versions were then re-released on Call of the Mastodon with a few changes (such as the samples from Lifesblood being taken out). These versions are softer, but still probably qualify as 9. Most of Remission is largely in the 8-9 range, but a few songs are 6-7 ("Ol'e Nessie" and "Trainwreck") and "Elephant Man" is probably around a 3-4. Leviathan is mostly at 8 with a few 9s; "Joseph Merrick", following the pattern of the previous album ending with a Surprisingly Gentle Song, is another 3-4. Blood Mountain is mostly 7-8 with the exception of the aforementioned "Bladecatcher" (as well as "Pendulous Skin", which, again, is around a 3-4), and Crack the Skye mostly stays in the 6-7 range, as mentioned (the title track may get to 8 due to the harsh vocals of Neurosis' Scott Kelly).
  • New Sound Album: They shifted away from sludge metal and towards lighter, psychedelic progressive metal with every album from Leviathan onward, culminating in the full-on Progressive Metal album Crack the Skye. The Hunter seems to be a reversal of this trend, though.
  • No Talking or Phones Warning: For Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
  • Ocean Madness: The subject of "Aqua Dementia", and a general theme of Leviathan as a whole.
  • Once an Episode:
    • The first three albums end with instrumentals named in honour of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, all of which are Surprisingly Gentle Songs. After this point they would abandon this.
    • Scott Kelly of Neurosis provides guest vocals once per album starting with Leviathan.
    • It's a slight oversimplification to say each song uses Uncommon Time at least once, but not by much. They use it a lot.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: "Divinations." It sends the hero back in time to WW1 in Russia.
  • The Power of Rock: The band uses it on an enemy Neanderthal in the "Divinations" music video. Then they give him a guitar and they all rock out for a bit...only to be killed and eaten by the Neanderthal afterward.
  • Psychopomp: In Crack the Skye, Rasputin serves as one to guide the main character's spirit back to his comatose body.
  • Pun-Based Title: Crack the Skye is named in honour of Dailor's late sister Skye and an obscure Progressive Rock band named Crack the Sky.
  • Rasputinian Death: Happens to...Rasputin, who puts up a huge fight but dies in the conclusion of "The Czar."
  • Recut: Call of the Mastodon consists of the band's demo with a new track order, new vocals by Brent and Troy replacing the vocals of the band's original vocalist Eric Saner, and a louder remaster. The Japanese version also includes the vocal samples that accompanied some of the tracks on their Lifesblood releases (which are excluded from other versions of Call of the Mastodon) and a live version of "Where Strides the Behemoth" as a bonus track.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Their music videos. In Brann's words:
    "We kind of took the music video as a way to round out, because of the fact that we’re so serious on stage, so serious in our music, so serious in our art with our artwork of the record. The music videos were a way for us to put more of our personality into it as far as our sense of humor, or making it twisted somehow, or different, or bizarre, or provocative."
    • Probably some of the best examples of this are "Blood and Thunder", which features a 150 clown mosh pit and the band dressed as Shriners, fezzes and all; "Deathbound", where Brann as Mr. Rogers introduces a version of Magicland that devolves into a hellish war; and "The Motherload", in which a 90s era creepy metal video gets taken over by twerking female dancers.
  • Sampling: They were very fond of this early on, with several songs from Lifesblood containing samples of films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (sampled in “Shadows That Move”). These were cut out of most other studio versions of the songs (they can also be found on the Japanese version of Call of the Mastodon, but have been cut out on all other releases of the album), though they were frequently kept in when performed live at the time. Other songs also sometimes got vocal samples in their introduction (if memory serves, one of the Remission songs got a sample from The Big Lebowski - “I don’t like your jerkoff name, I don’t like your jerkoff face, I don’t like your jerkoff behaviour, and I don’t like you, jerkoff” - which got cut out when the song was recorded for the album).
  • Satan:
    • The final villain in Crack the Skye.
    • In "Cut You Up With a Linoleum Knife," He will also "rain down your throat with hot acid and dissolve your testicles and turn your guts into snakes" if you get caught downloading movies.
  • Sex in Space / Zero-G Spot: "Stargasm."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The eponymous track from The Hunter includes the lyrics "All the love I make is equal to the love I take," which is a variation on the closing lines from The Beatles' famous Abbey Road album.
    • The opening riff from Rush's "YYZ" is dropped into "The Last Baron" for a couple of bars.
    • Some editions of the cover artwork for Leviathan incorporate elements from Hokusai's famous painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa, namely the wave on the right side of the image (which can be viewed here). Leviathan itself, of course, is based on Moby-Dick.
  • Soprano and Gravel: This is done more in their later work with the contrast between Brent Hinds' nasal clean vocals and Troy Sanders' low, scratchy grunt. Brann Dailor also comes in occasionally with his smoother clean vocals.
  • Space Whale Aesop: The music video for Curl of the Burl. If you snort the sawdust from a forbidden tree to get high, women will turn you into a log and set you on fire by flashing their breasts at you.
  • Special Guest: Lots of them. Some examples:
    • Scott Kelly of Neurosis provides guest vocals on "Aqua Dementia", "Crystal Skull", "Crack the Skye", "Spectrelight", and "Diamond in the Witch House"; he also co-wrote the lyrics for many of these songs.
    • Neil Fallon of Clutch provides guest vocals on "Blood and Thunder".
    • Josh Homme of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age provides guest vocals on "Colony of Birchmen" and leaves a prank call for a hidden track on Blood Mountain.
    • Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta provides guest vocals on "Siberian Divide".
    • The late Isaiah "Ikey" Owens of The Mars Volta and Jack White provides keyboards for "Pendulous Skin" and "Asleep in the Deep".
    • Gary Lindsey of Assjack provides backing vocals on "Aunt Lisa", as do The Coathangers.
  • The Stoner: Hinds is legendary for his extremely heavy drug usage. You name it, he's probably done it.
  • Subverted Kids Show / Sugar Apocalypse: The music video for "Deathbound".
  • Surreal Music Video: "Curl of the Burl", which starts with a guy living in a small travel trailer/drug lab who chops down a forbidden tree and snorts the wood to get high. It gets stranger from there.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: The conclusion of Crack the Skye. The hero gets back to his body and can walk.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: The idea behind the "Deathbound" music video: an eclipse compels the residents of Magicland to go Ax-Crazy, monsters are summoned, aliens invade, the world is destroyed, and all the puppets are dying. And it's all played for laughs.
  • Uncommon Time: As is pretty much obligatory for a Progressive Metal band, this is copious throughout their discography. Listen to "March of the Fire Ants" for an example. Or, hell, "Shadows That Move", the very first song on their very first EP (and demo).
  • Vocal Tag Team: Troy and Brent handle the lion's share of the vocals, with Brann chipping in on lead vocals on a few songs and backing vocals on others. They also swap around on several songs, notably "Iron Tusk" and "Curl of the Burl".


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/Mastodon