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3 stars Call of the Mastodon is a re-recording of the 2000 demo by progressive/ experimental extreme metal act Mastodon. Five of the songs on Call of the Mastodon also appeared on the Lifesblood (2001) EP. The demo featured original lead vocalist Eric Saner while the versions on Call of the Mastodon as well as the versions on the Lifesblood EP feature vocals from the other members of the band. Itīs a very short album with its 29:02 minutes but still a worthy purchase IMO. This was their last release by Relapse Records ( maybe a contractual obligation?) as they had singed a major record deal with Warner Music to release their next studio album Blood Mountain (2006).

The music is aggressive and a bit more direct and simple than the style on later releases from the band but the sound is unmistakably Mastodon. Heavy and complex metal with shouting angry vocals. Itīs easy to hear that these compositions are from their early years though. The re-recording of the songs have injected them with more power and the more modern and professional production serves them well too. But the compositions are pretty much as they were and allthough itīs obvious in retrospect how promising these songs must have been they donīt hold the same high quality of the regular studio albums.

The musicianship is excellent as usual and as always itīs Brann Dailorīs busy drumming style that takes the price.

Call of the Mastodon is not a must unless youīre a fan of Mastodon but it is a pretty good album which serves as a reminder of how promising they already were early in their career. A 3 star rating is warranted. If youīre new to the band I would recommend that you start with one of the regular studio albums though.

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Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Mastodon probably needs no introduction to fans of modern metal music. Leviathan was one of the defining metal releases of the 2000s, and Crack the Skye proved they could play progressive rock as well as many of the genre's '70s stalwarts. Their blend of progressive metal and sludge earned them a justifiable reputation as one of the most formidable forces in the genre.

Call of the Mastodon, however, is not as widely known. It's a re-release of the band's original demo with a rearranged track order and new vocals by Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds (replacing the vocals of original vocalist Eric Saner, who only appeared on the band's first demo). Some of the songs here were also re-recorded for their early EP releases Lifesblood and Slick Leg. (The reordering of the tracks annoys me since I've been used to the demo's song order since 2004, and due to the fact that several songs segue seamlessly into one another, simply reordering my playlist here doesn't sound too great).

More annoyingly, the material has also been given a really bad remastering. The original demo was fairly loud, which is fine - it's sludge; it's supposed to be loud. Here, though, the mastering is so loud that the material clips throughout, with the result that Brann Dailor's virtuosic drumming sounds muffled and distorted.

I honestly kind of miss Saner's vocals here. I don't think Saner would have been a good fit for the band's later material, but his vocals on the original demo were a good match for the band's unearthly roar. Which vocals a listener prefers will probably be down to personal taste. Sanders and Hinds' vocals are fine, of course; if you've enjoyed the harsh vocals on later Mastodon material, you probably won't have much of a problem with the ones here either.

While the band demonstrates some of the progressive sensibilities that would later stretch some of their songs past the ten-minute mark, none of the songs here reaches much past four and a half minutes. The band is most interested in pummelling you with an endless succession of killer sludge riffs. These riffs often result in unusual song structures (nearly every song changes meter signature at least once, and most of them contain compound meters like 5/4 or 7/4), but compared to their later material (particularly from after they signed to a major label), it's heavy.

The band's later material is definitely more sophisticated, and a listener expecting an experience like that of Crack the Skye will be in for a huge shock. However, this is definitely recommended for fans of more adventurous sludge. I'd give the demo a four-and-a-half star rating, but since the reordering of the tracks and horrible remastering here annoyed me, I'll give this version of the release a solid four stars.

One final note: If you have the choice, I'd pick up the Japanese version of this compilation rather than the domestic release. It contains a bonus track (a ferocious performance of "Where Strides the Behemoth" from Remission) and add the film samples that were included in the Lifesblood versions of these tracks, which often provides some interesting flavour for the songs (especially "Battle at Sea").

Note: This is a revision of a review I wrote for Metal Archives of Mastodon's original demo. Some aspects have been changed due to the differences in the material.

Report this review (#1312992)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permalink

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