Mastodon are one of the premier progressive metal acts of the 21st century who first formed in 2000. Composed of bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, vocalist/guitarist Brett Hinds, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor, they have released seven studio albums since their formation in 2000. Their first was Remission in 2002, which gained critical acclaim for its unique and original sound, which was followed by 2004’s Leviathan which was a concept album based on Moby Dick and was considered by many critics to be their album of that year due to its highly adventurous musical and lyrical content.
The band’s success only continued from their when they released their third album Blood Mountain in 2006 which, as well as gaining them even more critical acclaim also performed well commercially, getting nominated for a Grammy award in 2007. After 2009’s Crack the Skye they released The Hunter in 2011 which reached the top 10 in the Billboard 200. Their fifth album in 2014 Once More Round the Sun reached even bigger commercial heights reaching number six in the Billboard 200 and spawning several successful singles. Their most recent album was released in 2017 titled Emperor of Sand which contains their most successful single to date entitled “Show Yourself.”
# 10 – Crusher Destroyer
Kicking of the list is a track from Remission . Compared to their more recent material, Mastodon’s earlier work may come across as somewhat inferior as they have progressed a lot over the course of their career. However, this track is an example of how the band were on to something special even at this early stage. At only two minutes long, it is one of their rawer cuts. It has a bold sound to it, being heavy and innovative at the same time.
# 9 – Creature Lives
Here is a track from 2009’s Crack the Skye that features Brann Dailor on vocals. It is lyrically inspired by old B-movies and musically sees the band delving into their love of traditional prog rock such as Pink Floyd and King Crimson. It is a song that see’s the band being truly progressive, as it has very little elements of the metal sound that the band are known for, instead being very melodic and having a great warmth to it. It has become a live favorite with fans since its release.
# 8 – Aqua Dementia
Here is a track from Leviathan that shows Mastodon at their craziest. Starting off with noodly-prog guitar sound, it quickly escalates into a frantic hardcore track, with a whole lot of energy. Featuring guest vocals from Scott Kelly of progressive metal legends Neurosis, (who is a frequent guest on the band’s albums) elements of its sound definitely recall his band. The album to this day is very highly regarded as a modern progressive metal classic.
# 7 – Crack the Skye
Up next is the title track from the fourth album. Once again featuring guest vocals from Scott Kelly, this track is a homage to Dailor’s sister who committed suicide at the age of fourteen and was called Skye. Kelly stated that Dailor asked him to perform vocals on the song and recalled that the experience of recording it was very “heavy.” It must be said that inspiration from such a personal and tragic event does make for a very powerful piece of music.
# 6 – Stargasm
Here we have a track from the band’s fifth album The Hunter. This is a dirgey number with trippy lyrics about having an orgasm whilst floating through space. The album was produced by Mike Elizondo whose previous resume as a producer was largely with mainstream artists such as Maroon 5 as well as more mainstream metal acts such as Avenged Sevenfold. It was very commercially successful, reaching number ten in the Billboard 200.
# 5 – The Hunter
And here is the title track from the fifth album. The titular namesake of the song and thus the album is Brett Hind’s brother who was killed in a hunting accident shortly before the album’s release. Hinds performs vocals on the song, and you feel his pain through the sad sound of the music that surrounds it. Like Crack the Skye it is another case of inspiration from a tragedy in one of the band member’s lives that makes for a highly effective composition.
# 4 – The Czar
Here we have the band at their most progressive to date with this track which is ten minutes long. Within that ten minutes is a diverse mix of things, from a very spacey opening four minutes leading into a much more ferocious second half. Then towards the end it goes back to where it started, ending with the same trippy vibes that it began with. The song is divided into four parts which all have their own individual chapter titles.
# 3 – March of the Fire Ants
Here is the bands first single from Remission which to this day is still one of their heaviest and best. With this song, it was clear that one of the greatest metal bands of the 21st century had arrived, as the sound of it is magnificently heavy. In addition to all the members putting in an effective aggressive performance, the highlight of this track is the beautiful melodic mid-section. Like much of the material on this record, the sound is under-developed compared to the later material, but that does not make it any less magnificent.
# 2 – Blood and Thunder
Just off the top spot, we have the track that most can agree brought Mastodon to the world’s attention. The opening track from Leviathan, as far as album openers go, it is by far one of the best in metal and arguably of all time. With its Moby Dick theme, the highlight of the song is without a doubt the guest appearance of Clutch frontman Neil Fallon towards the end when he bellows the now legendary line “SPLIT YOUR LUNGS WITH BLOOD AND THUNDER!”
# 1 – Colony of Birchmen
At the number one spot is a single released from the band’s third album Blood Mountain released in 2006 featuring backing vocals from Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme who was also the guitarist in cult nineties stoner band Kyuss. It was the band’s first single to make real commercial waves. It was nominated for a metal Grammy Award but ultimately lost to Slayer’s “Eyes of the Insane.”