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A Deep Dive Into Mastodon - Hushed and Grim (Deluxe Edition)

Sorrow is a powerful thing, whether it’s a transient flash of a loss from a long time ago to a raw, unhealed wound that aches through you in the here and now. American heavy-metal legends Mastodon have had plenty of it to draw on, unfortunately – with both further afield deaths and near misses because of cancer, plus recent losses that make themselves known heavily in how they deliver all of their music.

That undercurrent of sadness is still very much present in Hushed and Grim, the band’s eight studio effort that deals with the still fresh death of their manager Neil John, but the record doesn’t just pull you under with that feeling. There’s hope and happiness here, too, not just to offset the negative emotions but as part of a story that stretches through pain and loss and on to the other side, the “what happens next” of it all.

There are plenty of familiar Mastodon traits here. Lyrically, it’s as intelligent and soul-searching as ever, with the undeniable skill that each of the four members possess shining through on the technical side on most every single track. But it’s not quite Mastodon as you know it, at the same time. There’s a new vein of much more low and slow music to juxtapose against the usual, though still obviously very heavy, Mastodon sound. The album does demand your attention a lot; at a bum-numbing hour and twenty-six minutes, it can be a little too easy to be distracted and lose a sense of the flow of it all.

But where it hooks, it sticks. Songs like opener Pain with an Anchor gives us a best of both worlds introduction to the new sounds by blending the far more doom metal undercurrent masterfully with the already established sound that we all know and love, transitioning smoothly into the headbanging opening of The Crux, which swings back and forth between stompy anthem and 70’s mini-breakdowns like it ain’t no thing. Sickle and Peace does the exact opposite, luring us in with a calm before the storm before promptly dealing a sledgehammer blow with the chorus. It runs back and forth madly like a kid with something it shouldn’t have in its mouth, leaving you to try and catch up as it zig-zags around you. Yes, I am speaking from experience. Why do you ask?

Oh, hello, what’s this? Dirty B Hinds has appeared with bluesy effort The Beast – and it’s an absolute banger. It has a distinctive Mastodon twist to it as it goes on but the first two minutes are a unique joy that highlights not only Hind’s insanely improved vocals but his sheer technical brilliance with his guitar as well.

Pushing The Tides is Mastodon at quite possibly their best. It hits hard and fast, shaking you by the shoulders until you can feel every drop of emotion behind every lick, every lyric, and long past the point where you let go and give in to it. And the album certainly doesn’t get weaker as it goes on, either, with fantastic closer Gigantium probably one of the better tracks to be found; it’s an almost spiritual experience by it’s close.

Let’s wrap it all up here with a broad, but accurate statement - there’s a lot to like about this record. Given its runtime, you’d hope going in that the band at least stumbled over one bit of gold on the way through but rest assured, this is a highly polished, highly impressive affair that doesn’t need to resort to a shotgun approach to guarantee a hit. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Leviathan, sure, but what can? See, this album is about telling a story of sorrow and, while at times it can be a little rambling, it’s a tale that will keep you wanting more until the very end.

Posted by Eddie "full Mastodon" Hull published on: 23 May 2022

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