Pioneers of progressive sludge, and trailblazers of deeply personal (and sometimes bizarre) concept albums over the last 21 years, Mastodon never fail to evolve and innovate. ‘Hushed and Grim’ captures a perpetual moment of abject grief, provoked by the death of friend and manager Nick John. Thematically the record concerns an afterlife mythology that professes one’s spirit enters the heart of a tree temporarily in order to ease the transition from the mortal realm into the ‘next dimension’. Nick can be seen in the centre of this tree in the album artwork. Musically, it marries their progressive, industrial sensibilities with a more reflective approach, both sides of the coin exhibited beautifully on ‘Skeleton of Splendor’. While their scorching riffs are still evident on ‘The Crux’ and ‘Savage Lands’, and Brent Hinds’ technical guitars resound dominantly on the ironically-named ‘Peace and Tranquillity’, this album is far more concerned with the space between, ‘Had It All’ pairing evocative imagery with drifting low-distortion moments. In ‘Hushed and Grim’ we are presented with a more contemplative Mastodon, a band who have come to the natural end of toying with existential concepts and are now finding motives to progress their narrative from real world experience. A riveting fullness echoes throughout the record.
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