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…
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 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.
Over on Page 2, you’ll find other reviews of Hushed and Grim from other music sites…