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Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…

Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review
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My review of Mastodon’s latest record, Hushed and Grim. Is this the best album Mastodon has produced to date? I’ve been listening to it on repeat since its release date. Let’s find out…


Album Review

Mastodon’s Hushed and Grim: A Modern Prog Classic

Rating: ★★★★ (Outta 5)

Hushed and Grim is perhaps Mastodon’s finest moment to date, the record that will propel them to new heights, earning them new fans, and new accolades. As far as I’m concerned, Hushed and Grim is the album of the year.


Richard Goodwin ELECTRIKJAM

A mix of old and new sounds, crushing riffs and mature song writing craft. This is Mastodon’s modern magnum opus, the true heir to Crack The Skye

— Richard Goodwin, ELECTRIKJAM

Album Notes

Best Track

Pain With An Anchor

Album Length

86:17

Producer

David Bottrill

Release Date

October 29, 2021

Rating

★★★★


Hushed and Grim Review

Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…

I’m what you’d describe as a “band boomer”. This is a term I have created but I think it aptly describes a lot of people. Do you usually prefer a band’s older albums?

Do you talk about how a certain band “used” to be back in the day? Lament how they’ve changed over the years?

If you do, you might be a band boomer too.

With Mastodon, I’m a big fan of its earlier stuff – Leviathan and Blood Mountain, specifically. I also love Crack The Skye. I like its other, newer albums too but nowhere near as much.

To me, albums like The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun just lack that special something that makes Mastodon, well, Mastodon to me.

I’m the same with TOOL, Slipknot, Deftones, OPETH, Metallica. But I do know that every band, like Ghost, for instance, has the potential to completely outdo its previous best efforts.

It doesn’t happen very often, or sometimes even at all (hello, OPETH and Deftones), but when it does, and you’re listening in the right environment, it can become a near-mystical experience.

The good news here is that this isn’t just another record. The guys in Mastodon are very accomplished musicians, always have been, but on this record they’re just on fire, sounding as if all they’ve done during quarantine is sit inside a darkened room and practice their craft.

What Happened To Troy Sanders’ Vocals!?

The guitar work on Hushed and Grim is some of the best the band has ever done. Brann’s drumming has never sounded bigger or more technical. But for me, the stand-out performance on the record is Troy Sander’s vocal performance. He absolutely KILLS it in this record. So does Bran, but Troy’s vocals have improved so much I think it is worthy of noting above everything else on show here.



Troy has gone from what can best be described as a low-end growler to one of the most unique-sounding metal and/or rock vocalists working today. His range has tripled, seemingly, and the overall effect of this adds a dynamic to Hushed and Grim that hasn’t been present on any of the band’s earlier albums. I would have loved to hear more from Brent Hinds on the vocal front, but I think he has stepped back to focus on his guitar playing. And that’s cool; his solo work on Hushed and Grim is frankly ridiculous.

All of the guys sound like they’re playing for their lives on this record. It has an urgency that, for me personally, just hasn’t been present on anything post-Blood Mountain. The record is heavy, yes, and it is technical. But it could also be described as some of Mastodon’s most accessible work to date. There are soaring choruses left, right, and center, catchy riffs and licks, and great lyrics on nearly all the tracks.

I don’t want to ruin too much about the record; I hate track by track analyses of albums. Music is subjective. You need to listen to it yourself and make up your own mind. But I will go out on a limb here and say that this is the best record Mastodon has done since Crack The Skye, a record I think this album surpasses, both in its scope and the overall quality of the writing and performances.

I actually enjoyed every track on this album. I didn’t think any sounded like filler. Each track stands on its own. And that is an impressive feat on a double album that spans 90 minutes. A couple of my favorite tracks, however, would be Pain With An Anchor, The Crux, Gigantium, Savage Lands, Had It All and Pushing The Tides.

The Evolution of Cold Dark Place

Cold Dark Place was brilliant, showcasing a side of Mastodon we haven’t really seen since the mid-2000s. I think Hushed and Grim picks up where Cold Dark Place left off, leaving us hungry for more. It not only picks up but it adds in so much additional stuff it is kind of dizzying on the first listen though. Mastodon does things on this record that I never thought I’d hear them do.

The record is ballsy as hell. Whereas a lot of Mastodon’s work has been heavily reliant on guitars, this record ditches guitar almost completely in some tracks and instead uses vocal melodies to lead the way. The guitars are there, of course, but they’re used for texture, not the thing that leads and moves the song forward. And this is a first for Mastodon.

Hushed and Grim opens with a killer track that really sets the tone. Bran’s drumming on this record is incredible. And I like that Mastodon hit the ground running with the opener, Pain With An Anchor. The second track The Crux is equally heavy and equally impressive. The chorus is one of Mastodon’s catchiest to date, hooking you in right away.

But there’s just so much going on here that it is difficult to pin Hushed and Grim down. Yes, it is a metal album. But it also has plenty of rock elements too. There are some slower, experimental tracks that go well outside the usual “traditional” Mastodon output. Hushed and Grim is a deep, complex listen. You need to really sit down, or go for walk, to soak it all in. It does require a few listens to really appreciate what’s going on here.

The production is great, the guitar work exceptional. Bran’s drumming has never sounded better or bigger, and Bill – as always – is on fire from start to finish. Brent Hinds’ solo work is also incredible, arguably his best work to date on any Mastodon album. But for me, it is Troy’s vocals that really steal the show – he has improved so much between 2017 and now that he almost sounds like a completely different guy in parts.

Mastodon – Hushed and Grim Review: Verdict

Overall, this is album is a modern classic. It has all the elements that made Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Crack The Skye exceptional plus all the newer stuff we’ve come to love from the band. As noted earlier, I do like all of Mastodon’s albums, but for me, the big three are Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Crack The Skye. I didn’t think the band would ever top these records. But after listening to Hushed and Grim on repeat since Friday, I can now safely say that they have.

Hushed and Grim is perhaps Mastodon’s finest moment to date, the record that will propel them to new heights, earning them new fans, and new accolades. As far as I’m concerned, Hushed and Grim is the album of the year. And probably 2022 as well. It’s just flawless, jaw-dropping stuff from start to finish.

Our Score (Out of Five): 🤘🤘🤘🤘

Check out ALL the lyrics to Hushed and Grim here. And this awesome post on how to sound like Mastodon (without breaking the bank).


Mastodon | Hushed and Grim Album Reviews

[REVIEW] Mastodon’s HUSHED AND GRIM – Its Best Work Yet?

Aggregate Ratings

SourceRating
AllMusicMastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…
Blabbermouth10/10
Clash9/10
ConsequenceB+
Distorted Sound10/10
Exclaim!9/10
Metal Hammer4.5/5
Pitchfork5.7/10
Rolling StoneMastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…Mastodon Hushed and Grim Review: Big, Bold & Epic…
Sputnikmusic4.5/5

Pitchfork SLAMS Mastodon’s Hushed and Grim Record

Pitchfork has been fans of Mastodon ever since the band’s inception, however, it is NOT a fan of the new record, scoring it a meagre 5.7 (out of 10). Emperor of Sand, meanwhile, netted a rating of 7.6 out of 10.

After wading through a swamp of mostly bromidic alt-rock, there it is: the jewel of Hushed and Grim, and, incidentally, the song that sounds most adventurous, unlike anything in the band’s catalog. Evoking Meanderthal-era Torche, Mastodon hints that it could be the sludgiest nu-emo band on the planet. It’s ironically the one track I wish I could live inside for much longer, craving a third mystical guitar solo, even. “Gigantium” is proof-of-concept for another new version of Mastodon. But the band known for continually surprising listeners ultimately falls short, mostly hiding behind unexceptional, diluted alt-metal. Instead of letting this bold idea guide the way, it’s offered up as an apology affixed to the end of their least ambitious collection yet. Mastodon, once transgressive in its refusal to be put in a box, has shaved off its sharp edges and crawled inside.

PITCHFORK

This album is audacious and adventurous but isn’t perfect. I’m certain fans will disagree with me on this point but I found the album ran just a little long. There are without a doubt some absolute bangers here – in fact I’d go so far as to say the four piece from Georgia have written some of the best music of their career. Distilled down to 10 or 12 tracks Hushed & Grim would be an absolute belter. But much like life, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and maybe I just need a bit of patience.

WALL OF SOUND

Hushed and Grim is the Mastodon I fell in love with years ago, listening to Leviathan on repeat while driving my family back and forth from the hospital to visit my sick father. This is thunder and lightning, the primal roar of the earth and the cold echo of space; this is the heat of the human heart suspended in otherwise confused darkness. There are a number of people who likely won’t give it the time of day due to a misguided sense that the band has lost the plot; for those of us who’ve witnessed them rebuild themselves into greatness once again, it is the greatest document of this second phase of the magical and rightly storied band’s career.

TREBLE

The most engaging aspect of MASTODON’s 2021 sound that really keeps the proceedings of “Hushed and Grim” rooted in emotional heaviness is bassist Troy Sanders’s vocal performance. Whether it’s by design or the natural strain of age, the tortured howls of his sound result in what may be his most compelling vocal performance. Sanders rasps work in conjunction with hearty bellows from guitarist Brent Hinds to lend a weight that keeps the dark blues-rock balladry of “The Beast” from coming off as a maudlin farce. Sanders’s weathered shrieks and emotive keyboard work also bolster “Skeleton of Splendor”‘s spooky synth-prog as well as “Dagger”‘s thunderous torment. Dailor also impresses with soaring melodic lead vocals on “Teardrinker”‘s relatively straight-forward rock, but Sanders’s beautiful throat-shredding performance on “Gigantium”‘s epic closing comedown can’t help but leave the lasting impression after initial listens are completed.

BLABBER MOUTH

The proggy mayhem of earlier masterpieces like Leviathan have been stripped away for more piledriving, song-based adventures in recent years, and whatever your feelings about that, they certainly have a way of bringing melody and viscosity together. A song like ‘Tearlicker’ sits just on the right side of emotional progressive metal, as does opener ‘Pain With An Anchor’, which more resembles the doomy ennui of Alice in Chains than the worst excesses of emo.

Hushed and Grim is not only Mastodon’s longest, but also their most personal album to date. An impressive and brutal addition to the canon, even if making it to the other side can sometimes feel like a more unassailable task than traversing Blood Mountain itself.

The Quietus

After over twenty years of working together, Mastodon know each other inside out and Producer David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson) really lets this shine through. Whether its the vocal performances, Dailor hitting the powerful higher notes while Sanders and Brent Hinds respond with their own specific type of gravel, the octopoid drumming, the beautifully fluid guitar solos or how Bill Kelliher makes even the trickiest of riffs seem effortless, each musician is able to bring their unique personality to the table no matter what form each particular song might take.

As well as its more personal references, the album also ventures into familiar territories such as the sea, sky, space and time. Intelligent, challenging and painful, lyrics like “I’ve turned the grief to medicine,” and “leaving you behind is the hardest thing I’ve done” show the band at their most exposed and raw.

Ghost Cult Mag

From the incredibly bold and exciting intro on Pain With An Anchor and the blazing, raging passion of Savage Lands, to the softer, heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics of Had It All and the multi-vocal splendour of The Crux and Pushing The Tides, this is MASTODON doing what they do best. They’ve pushed themselves to create a complete behemoth of a record, one of towering, thick riffs; crazy, creepy wails; chugging, intricate drum work; and moveable, tranquil vocal melodies.

There’s plenty of new, unexpected influences on offer here too. For a band who’ve been going for over twenty years, long-time fans will inevitably feel a sense of pride in MASTODON‘s refusal to shy away from innovation. You could take your pick of fresh sounds. There’s The Beast, which takes a little gentle southern rock idea and blends it into MASTODON’s signature otherworldly open noted melodies before crashing into a totally new amalgamation of the weird and wonderful

Distorted Sound Mag

Hushed and Grim by Mastodon is a masterpiece. All that there is to love about Mastodon is here. The brooding heaviness, the genius riffs which threaten madness, and the progressive songwriting that staggers the senses. Hushed and Grim is born through grief and remembrance. What finer way to find solace and healing than through the process of creating such a monumental album.

METAL WANI

The proggy mayhem of earlier masterpieces like Leviathan have been stripped away for more piledriving, song-based adventures in recent years, and whatever your feelings about that, they certainly have a way of bringing melody and viscosity together. A song like ‘Tearlicker’ sits just on the right side of emotional progressive metal, as does opener ‘Pain With An Anchor’, which more resembles the doomy ennui of Alice in Chains than the worst excesses of emo.

The Quietus

And as great as the album is, I have to say that the tension curve chosen is at least brave, because well the last fifth, with the exception of the very mastodonic ‘Savage Lands’, is very worn, sometimes ballad-like and a lot of halftime, which makes it almost tough will. On the other hand, you can say that after the previous rollercoaster ride, you can come down a bit. But the bottom line was that a maximum of 12 tracks would have been sufficient for me. I like long albums, but then the dynamic curve has to be right, which is only partially true of “Hushed And Grim”. That sounds too negative now to end an attempt to describe an album that is, for the most part, truly stunning. That sounds better. So take your time and dive into “Hushed And Grim”!

Power Metal – Translated From German

General Consensus?

brent hinds guitar

What’s the consensus on Mastodon’s Hushed and Grim – is it a hit, a miss, or a classic? I’ve mined through myriad reviews and below is a summary of the general consensus about the album (if you’re interested in that kind of thing):

  1. Ambitiousness: The album is considered audacious, adventurous, and a monumental effort by the band, showcasing their willingness to innovate and push boundaries.
  2. Emotional depth: The album is described as Mastodon’s most personal work to date, with lyrics that delve into themes of grief, healing, and introspection.
  3. Vocal performances: Troy Sanders’ vocal performance is widely praised, with his tortured howls and emotive delivery adding to the album’s emotional heaviness.
  4. Musical diversity: The album incorporates various influences, from heavy sludge metal to progressive rock, southern rock, and even hints of blues and emo.
  5. Musicianship: The band’s technical prowess shines through, with each member bringing their unique personality to the music, from intricate drumming to fluid guitar solos.
  6. Length and pacing: Some reviewers feel that the album’s length (15 tracks) is a bit excessive, and the pacing in the final fifth of the album is slower, which may not appeal to all listeners.
  7. Production: Producer David Bottrill is credited with allowing the band’s chemistry and individual strengths to shine through in the recordings.

Overall, “Hushed and Grim” is considered a strong addition to Mastodon’s discography, showcasing their growth, emotional depth, and musical prowess.

While some critics find the album’s length and pacing to be a minor drawback, the general consensus is that the album is a powerful and engaging work of art.

Me? I think it is the band’s best work since Crack The Skye. A fine return to form. I cannot wait to see what Mastodon have in store for us next. Spoiler alert: Bill Kelliher says it is going to be A LOT HEAVIER.

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