Music: Heavy Hitters

Metal purveyors Mastodon take recent media attention in stride

Lords of the Next-Big-Things? Mastodon says the lofty expectations foisted upon them haven't affected their approach to writing and playing.



The music industry in general and its genre-specific subsets in particular are always looking for the "next big thing," followed in short order by the media who reports on such things and the fans who seem equally obsessed with the search. In the case of extreme music, any number of esteemed music publications with an ear tuned toward the genre have anointed Mastodon with the double-edged honor of being "The Future of Metal," especially on the strength of their recently released sophomore album, Leviathan. A lesser band might wilt under the scrutiny of such a grand pronouncement, but Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor insists that the band doesn't buy into the hyperbole behind that coronation.

"Zero," he says categorically when asked to quantify the level of pressure involved in being Metal's latest savior. "I could give a fuck. No one in the band feels that way and if they do, they should get out of the band. I respect journalists, but they say things to get the most amount of attention, and that's what that statement does. I mean, if someone really does believe we're the future of Metal, that's cool. But we don't think that."

By the same token, one shouldn't mistake Mastodon's position as either false humility or thinly veiled arrogance.

Dailor and his Mastodon bandmates (guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders) knew that they were possessed by some inexplicable chemical bond between them when they first hooked up nearly six years ago.

The band got its start when Dailor and Kelliher left Boston after the dissolution of their Hardcore group Today is the Day in 1999 (they had previously played together in Lethargy as well). Following Kelliher's girlfriend to Atlanta, the pair found a rehearsal space and began looking for people to jam with; a week later they made the acquaintance of Hinds and Sanders at a High on Fire show that Hinds had booked in his own basement. After discovering common musical affinities (all turned out to be huge fans of Thin Lizzy), the quartet resolved to start a band. From their very first rehearsal, the band knew they had stumbled into something special as what became the Mastodon sound poured out of them from the start.

"Brent and Troy came over the day after the High on Fire show and we started playing together and it just clicked," says Dailor. "It just seemed like fate."

By the following summer, Mastodon had put together a decent demo and began a relentless schedule of touring which brought them to the attention of the Metal connoisseurs at Relapse Records, who signed them without hesitation. The summer of 2001 saw the release of Mastodon's debut EP Lifesblood, a work that showcased the band's numerous gifts; a thundering foundation of classic Rock riffs overlaid with the searing passion and blistering attack of Extreme Metal and gilded with Math Rock precision and Prog Rock vision. In clumsier hands, this confluence on influence would sound like a jumbled mess, but Mastodon assembles songs and sounds by intuition and not by force, relying on their natural chemistry and a love of loud to make it all come out right.

Two months after Lifesblood, Mastodon recorded their debut full-length, Remission, in less than a week. Almost immediately, the Metal community began to buzz about the band's potential for next-big-thinghood, with Metal bible Kerrang! calling them the "future of Metal" and

Lords of the Next-Big-Things? Mastodon says the lofty expectations foisted upon them haven't affected their approach to writing and playing.



The music industry in general and its genre-specific subsets in particular are always looking for the "next big thing," followed in short order by the media who reports on such things and the fans who seem equally obsessed with the search. In the case of extreme music, any number of esteemed music publications with an ear tuned toward the genre have anointed Mastodon with the double-edged honor of being "The Future of Metal," especially on the strength of their recently released sophomore album, Leviathan. A lesser band might wilt under the scrutiny of such a grand pronouncement, but Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor insists that the band doesn't buy into the hyperbole behind that coronation.

"Zero," he says categorically when asked to quantify the level of pressure involved in being Metal's latest savior. "I could give a fuck. No one in the band feels that way and if they do, they should get out of the band. I respect journalists, but they say things to get the most amount of attention, and that's what that statement does. I mean, if someone really does believe we're the future of Metal, that's cool. But we don't think that."

By the same token, one shouldn't mistake Mastodon's position as either false humility or thinly veiled arrogance.

Dailor and his Mastodon bandmates (guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders) knew that they were possessed by some inexplicable chemical bond between them when they first hooked up nearly six years ago.

The band got its start when Dailor and Kelliher left Boston after the dissolution of their Hardcore group Today is the Day in 1999 (they had previously played together in Lethargy as well). Following Kelliher's girlfriend to Atlanta, the pair found a rehearsal space and began looking for people to jam with; a week later they made the acquaintance of Hinds and Sanders at a High on Fire show that Hinds had booked in his own basement. After discovering common musical affinities (all turned out to be huge fans of Thin Lizzy), the quartet resolved to start a band. From their very first rehearsal, the band knew they had stumbled into something special as what became the Mastodon sound poured out of them from the start.

"Brent and Troy came over the day after the High on Fire show and we started playing together and it just clicked," says Dailor. "It just seemed like fate."

By the following summer, Mastodon had put together a decent demo and began a relentless schedule of touring which brought them to the attention of the Metal connoisseurs at Relapse Records, who signed them without hesitation. The summer of 2001 saw the release of Mastodon's debut EP Lifesblood, a work that showcased the band's numerous gifts; a thundering foundation of classic Rock riffs overlaid with the searing passion and blistering attack of Extreme Metal and gilded with Math Rock precision and Prog Rock vision. In clumsier hands, this confluence on influence would sound like a jumbled mess, but Mastodon assembles songs and sounds by intuition and not by force, relying on their natural chemistry and a love of loud to make it all come out right.

Two months after Lifesblood, Mastodon recorded their debut full-length, Remission, in less than a week. Almost immediately, the Metal community began to buzz about the band's potential for next-big-thinghood, with Metal bible Kerrang! calling them the "future of Metal" and MTV.com branding them "the second coming of Rush and Metallica."

What followed was a grueling two-year touring cycle, including a European tour opening for High on Fire, the headlining slot on the North American Relapse Contamination Festival and a wildly successful U.S. tour with Clutch. The video for Remission's "March of the Fire Ants" wound up in heavy rotation on Metal music specialty shows. By the end of 2003, Alternative Press and Metal Hammer had both declared Mastodon one of the most important bands to watch for in 2004.

After another circuit with Clutch early this year and some sporadic headlining dates, Mastodon finally took a much needed break and began work on their sophomore album. With the adrenaline still pumping from their long touring experience, it might have been tempting for the band to rush through the new material that would become Leviathan, but their first album taught them patience is a virtue.

"We learned not to try to make a record in less than six days," says Dailor with a laugh. "We took a month for this record, and it definitely was to our advantage. It gave us a little more breathing room, a little more time to work on stuff and figure it out."

One area where the adrenaline did help was in the writing of Leviathan, which took place in a compressed month immediately following Mastodon's withering two-year tour. "When we got off tour, we piled into the practice space and started writing every night," says Dailor. "So our wives and girlfriends weren't too happy. Oh well. We'd never been under pressure to write a record, it's always been easy and we took our time. But we were wanting to write new music after touring Remission for two years, so it helped with the creative burst. The juices were flowing."



MASTODON plays Tuesday at Bogart's with Slayer.

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