10 Best Mastodon Songs
Mastodon entered our metal lives only recently, relatively speaking, dropping the ‘Lifesblood’ EP in 2001 and the ‘Remission’ LP in 2002. But they’ve assembled of body of work of great depth and breadth in the past 12 years, and that makes choosing the 10 best Mastodon songs no easy task. The Atlanta band’s artful mix of thunderous thud and complicated structures made them a favorite among hipsters and headbangers alike. The combo also garnered them industry acclaim, allowing them to graduate from indie metal institution Relapse to Warner Bros. with their cred and metal viability in tact. Not much has changed since the band burst onto the scene, except maybe for some tours with Metallica and continued development in their songwriting, with the nuts and bolts remaining as they were. Thanks to the group’s efforts to push metal forward in this new millennium, we celebrate the 10 best Mastodon songs:
‘Colony of Birchmen’
On their Warner Bros. debut, the band was able to stretch their experimental muscles. 'Colony of Birchmen,' with its undercurrent of trippy vocals and chunky riffs, showed the artsy yin and aggressive yang that has long defined Mastodon's sound. It also exposed them to a wider audience. The major label recording budget didn't really factor into this sonic progression; the band always had a date with the destiny that is this sound. There's also a cameo from Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, further upping the cool quotient.
‘Where Strides the Behemoth’
'Where Strides the Behemoth' is one of the best Mastodon songs because it showcases their Neurosis worship, where they erect impenetrable walls of sound. But that careful construction is juxtaposed with the nasty fury of bassist Troy Sanders' vocals. It's a muscular song, but the brawn is tempered by the underlying brainy nature. The last 30 seconds prove why Mastodon are unfairly gifted.
We're almost tempted to tag 'Aqua Dementia' with the often unsavory “prog” classification, thanks to the noodly guitars that open the song. But there's a punk rock pacing and vitriolic energy to the vocal spewing and battering ram drumming. Drop a cement truck off a skyscraper and you'll get an idea of the blasts of noise omnipresent here.
'Crack the Skye' is a conceptual album, and 'Oblivion' is one of the smartest and best songs Mastodon have ever done, thanks to its barge-like and dirge-like guitar work and trippy vocals. The shift towards cleaner vocals was super evident here, further associating the band with progressive music, but not quite prog. If Ozzy was raised in a swamp down South, well, he might have written a song like this. At this point, their sound had become as recognizable as DNA.
Besides having one of the coolest titles in the Mastodon catalog, 'Mother Puncher' was one of the earliest manifestations of the band's epic tendencies, to craft crust-caked songs larger than the pre-historic beast from which they borrowed their name. Mastodon proved you could be artsy and dirty all in the space of one song here. They churn out a full minute-and-a-half of squally riffs before the Rottweiler vocals assert themselves, which is why it's one of Mastodon's very best.
A big part of what lands 'Megalodon' on the list of the best Mastodon songs is the hillbilly guitar notes that come out of nowhere at exactly 1:20 of the song. And the lyrical tribute to an extinct shark is what keeps the tune buoyant, too. Those Mastodon boys — they'll give you a lesson in biology while pounding you in the face with massive riffs.
Fast. Furious. Like a pair of T Rexes going mano y mano with each other, 'Crusher Destoyer' is vicious and venomous. It starts as fast as it ends, and the riffs will knock the wind of you with their relentless pummeling. It's one of Mastodon's best tunes because it will leave you in a heaving pile, like you just lost a street fight.
‘Curl of the Burl’
Easily the most radio friendly and commercially accessible of their songs, Mastodon's hilariously titled 'Curl of the Burl' reminds us a bit of Queens of the Stone Age, meshing stonery riffs with trippy vocals. If you want to alter your state of consciousness, you don't need an illicit substance. Just crank 'Curl of the Burl' and the desired effect will be achieved.
‘Blood and Thunder’
Another artful demonstration of riffy distortion, with heavily effected vocals, and once again exploring a seafaring theme, 'Blood and Thunder' boasts one of the gnarliest riffs in the entire Mastodon catalog, which lives among more noodly acrobatics. You can almost feel your lungs fill with water when the band snarls about coming face to face and eye to eye with the eluisve white whale. The seismic coda that starts at 3:25 pulls us under…every…single…time. That's why it's one of Mastodon's best.
‘March of the Fire Ants’
There are plenty of memorable riffs in Mastodon's catalog, but none as impression-leaving as the scarring roll that starts and ends the song. It's the sound of tectonic plates shifting beneath your feet. It's easy to make loud, noisy music. But to give it intelligent flavor? Eh, not so much. Mastodon's tight structure –going to hell and back in the space of a song- is what gives their signature, riffy style substance and staying power. 'March of the Fire Ants' is the perfect example of a signature Mastodon song, the yardstick by which all others will be measured.