Four plus years after 2017’s Emperor Of Sand, the mighty Mastodon return with the double album Hushed And Grim, their eighth studio album. It was written in the aftermath of the death of their close friend and longtime manager Nick John, and pays tribute to him. Brent Hinds says, “He’s always been an influence when he was alive, and he’s even more of an influence now.”
Releasing a double album in today’s short attention span, single-driven music industry is a risk, with many being bloated and teeming with too much filler, boring interludes, self-indulgence and ambitions that fall short. A band of Mastodon’s caliber has the skill and self-awareness to avoid those pitfalls, and manage to do so.
The 15 tracks on Hushed And Grim revisit some of the band’s older stylistic ventures, continue some of their recent musical forays and move in new directions. Mastodon push the progressive envelope hard on this album, while also writing songs that are accessible and radio-ready. They often blend the two sensibilities, such as on “Gobblers Of Dregs.” It develops slowly and expansively, but also has some of the catchiest parts on the record.
The compositions are varied and dynamic, and when you add three vocalists to the mix, that adds even more versatility and diversity. The emotional timbre of Hushed And Grim lives up to the title, with a lot of introspective, reflective and melancholy moments. However, there is no shortage of heaviness on the record. Tracks like “The Crux,” the galloping “Savage Lands” and the streamlined and urgent “Pushing The Tides” all pack a punch.
Those are contrasted by melodic tracks such as “Teardrinker,” ballads like “Had It All,” and psychedelic numbers such as the Pink Floyd-esque “Skeleton Of Splendor.” The most unique sounding song on the album is “The Beast,” with country influences, progressive sections and a southern vibe.
Hushed And Grim closes with “Gigantium,” an epic song with soaring melodies, a killer guitar solo and an orchestral ending. The songs are masterfully composed, with producer David Bottrill (Tool, Stone Sour) expertly capturing the essence of Mastodon’s mix of melody and heaviness.
A nearly 90 minute album is a lot to absorb, and there are a lot of subtleties that reveal themselves after multiple listens. But the quality and quantity of great riffs and memorable melodies also make Hushed And Grim instantly accessible, a combination that’s hard to beat.
(released October 29, 2021 on Reprise Records)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Mastodon – “Pushing The Tides” Video