Vinyl Vlog 554

Vinyl Vlog 554

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Friday, 10 June 2022
COLUMN

Mastodon
Hushed and Grim

photo: thegroovemanscollection

There’s a reason why Mastodon is currently one of the biggest metal bands that still matters. They don’t pack in stadiums, I know, but they’re not playing tiny venues either. They’re big enough to play all the late night shows (I’ve seen them on Letterman, Kimmel, and Fallon), and even occasionally do the oddball appearance (remember when they were on the Human Giant show?). Also, they have a sense of humor about themselves. These are all good things, of course, because Mastodon has figured out a way to stay interesting throughout the years. And for those fans that have stayed with them all these years, they’re not treating us to their longest doom-metaliest effort yet: Hushed and Grim.

Known for their thematic albums, Mastodon started off with the elements releasing albums based on fire, water, earth, and wind, and having since moved to more personal themes, this time loosely based on the loss of their former manager Nick John to cancer. And as is the case with their previous albums, there’s a formula to listening to this record.

Hushed and Grim is the longest Mastodon record yet, clocking in at 90 minutes, and as one could expect consists mostly of very long songs that the band described as perfectly composed to accompany an altered state of mind. I don’t do drugs, so I have to go by what the band put on the record, not what they expect my mind will do to alter the songs. Mastodon albums are almost divided into two parts sound-wise. The first half has them treading familiar waters and it’s where you can find their more straightforward songs, with melodic harmonies and (dare I say it) easy listening metal chords. The second half if where all the interesting stuff is happening and where all the experimentation and weird finger-work takes place. So Mastodon albums ease you into it, giving you familiar sounds, making sure you get comfortable before they really shake up your ride. The thing is that Hushed and Grim kind of drags (no pun intended), it’s just too much of a familiar unexcited thing. Of course, my bar is pretty high for Mastodon so I will admit that there’s better than average song craftmanship here, but it’s just not as ambitious as I expect them to be. I know this is a hot take, and I’m certainly not a metal expert, but I can recognize when I’m in over my head with an album. I don’t feel like that’s the case here. Only near the end to we get songs that breathe, evolve, take us on that otherworldly journey and bring us back home. I’m talking about Eyes of Serpents and Gigantium here.

Mastodon always delivers with their vinyl album and Hushed and Grim comes in many forms, here we’re reviewing the 180 gram black double LP, which comes in a beautiful gatefold and inserts, and of course, is the only proper way to appreciate the artwork by long-time collaborator Paul Romano.

There’s a warm feeling in my stomach when I think of Mastodon’s audience. It’s a wide one, and one that’s getting exposed to some truly edgy and weird stuff. I’m not going to call Hushed and Grim a misstep, only that it was a little underwhelming for my taste. This album might have been too big for me, so I’ll definitely be revisiting it in the future.

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