ey, human. I can’t say I approve of everything you have done or everything you will do, but I admire you. Despite what a magazine might imply, what a television may suggest, what a government may recommend, you have intelligence and depth that is found nowhere else on this planet. True, you rarely display these qualities and when you do they often go unnoticed, but when you shine you know it, and it’s blindingly beautiful.
You feel more than you let on. There are moments when you are frail, afraid, insecure and inadequate. There are moments when your happiness is so intense you doubt its reality. You believe in things. You love, you hate, you question, you dream. But you do it all so quietly . It is no longer de rigueur to be openly passionate, so you live out your pleasures and pains privately, choosing instead to don an exterior that is fashionably aloof, hip in its sarcastic complacency, unassuming and dishonest.
I like you, human, and that’s why I’m recommending this album to you. It’s your new voice. It displays the desire behind your finest triumphs, the frustration of your greatest defeats. It possesses the force, intelligence and integrity you must use to keep the world’s worst at bay, but it is also injected with the tenderness, honesty and love needed to bring people close. It is called Remission , and, like you in your finest moments, it is utterly spellbinding.
I realize, human, that in your brain you have memories, past experiences that fuel and filter your opinions. You must remember that sometimes memories are remembered wrong or are so old that you find yourself misplacing or breaking them. Therefore, you must leave them behind when you encounter this album. It is heavy, but it is like no other heavy music you have ever heard. It is, however, the sound of heavy music you will hear for years to come.
And now comes the fear, the fear you associate with new experiences. Anything strange or novel is treated with skepticism, sometimes even irrational hatred. But think again about your memories. Think of the other times you have encountered something strange, something unique, something original. How many times did these experiences result in pain or trauma? Conversely, how many times did they result in a pleasing discovery that made your hesitation seem foolish? Mastodon is more than pleasing; Remission is orgasmic.
Now access your imagination. Picture the finest amalgam of the most staggeringly intense aggressive rock you have ever heard, excise the extreme, stereotypical moments -- unnecessary speed, repetition, screams, tunelessness, muddy production -- and what you are left with is heavy, poetic art; you are left with Remission . It is a dense, rhythmic roar assembled in such a way that each song will batter its way into your brain, your heart and your memory.
The din begins immediately, as “Crusher Destroyer” lunges at you with a swirling battery of thick guitars, subterranean bass, massive grunts and unstoppable rhythms. Off-kilter, but never awkward or unconfident, Mastodon uses “Crusher Destroyer” as a malevolent introduction to a musical experience that is at once aggressive but, as the cruising rock break can attest to, one that is also tuneful and memorable.
Much of the album, however, follows the feel and sound of the second track, “March of the Fire Ants”, a lumbering, riff-centric tower of thud. Imagine the stomp of the Melvins’ “The Bit” as played by a group more musically proficient and less pretentious. Harmonized guitars scramble the senses before a slow, deliberate wall of technically brilliant sludge rumbles before you. The defiled guitars and yelling follow distinct rhythmic patterns, but the drums roll on independently, a sandstorm of every conceivable rhythm and beat that is dizzying but also propulsive.
Those insanely intricate drums, deafening guitars and sparse barks hammer away almost relentlessly. They feed the ungodly release at the end of “Where Strides the Behemoth”; they guide the anthemic, crushing embrace that is “Workhorse”; they push “Burning Man” down the stairs, letting him flail and send sparks in every direction; they torture you slowly and sadistically with the tempo shifts in “Mother Puncher”. But when the roar subsides, left in its place is well-honed melody. Often dusty and dour, Mastodon’s quietest moments are often riveting and show the band to be in full control of its many powers on this, their first full-length release. Lovely high-register guitars introduce listeners to “Ol’e Nessie”, skipping overtop a sickeningly deep bass line before an acoustic guitar wafts in. “March of the Fire Ants” cracks in half near its end to make way for beautifully layered, yet loud, reflective melodicism. “Trilobite” drags sandy guitar lines across your back over and over until they feel as natural and as right as the band’s forceful material. Equal parts lethal and lovely, on Remission , Mastodon can do no wrong.
So what do you say, human? Are you ready to finally have your most deafening inclinations and desires voiced for you? Dare you be different? Dare you take a risk? Mastodon has, and it has resulted in a masterpiece.
Reviewed by: Clay Jarvis
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01