I have a bit of a troubled relationship with Mastodon. I fell in love with their 2006 release Blood Mountain and thoroughly enjoyed the albums that preceded that one. Crack the Skye was a progressive opus that blew me away.
But follow up, The Hunter, left me cold. It just didn’t click with me. Nor did follow up Once More ‘Round the Sun, both of them just feeling less aggressive, somewhat more straightforward sound that just didn’t excite me. Emperor of Sand started to win me over a bit more, and I did listen to it a fair amount when it first came out. Yet I just didn’t find myself going back to any of these albums with any sort of regularity.
When I then stumbled across their soon to be released album Hushed and Grim I was intrigued, but can’t say I was excited. Taking full advantage of my streaming music subscription, I added the album to my library and briefly checked out part of one of the tracks that had been released. Again, I felt nonplussed. I wasn’t immediately turned off, but I certainly wasn’t excited. Add to that the fact it was a double album, reaching almost 90 minutes in length, I didn’t know what to expect.
So I suppose it was beneficial that I had an upcoming trip, with an unusual amount of time to listen to music. Because, make no mistake, this album requires a significant investment from the listener.
However, after a number of listens, I found that the investment was rewarded. Hushed and Grim is full (perhaps a little too full) of surprisingly emotional music. Written as a tribute to the band’s former manager who passed away a few years ago, the album is replete with the emotions that go with losing someone close to you: loss, anger, sadness, hope.
There is also a heaviness to the album that draws me back in when compared to the previous albums. The trademark Mastodon sound is present, heavy, a little sludgy, and a very nice use of the multiple vocalists. Hushed and Grim is a journey, and one that I have found rewarding over repeated listens. It isn’t an easy listen, not something you drop in and out of. But if you have 90 minutes to really sit back and listen, I find this the most engaging Mastodon release in a decade.