ALBUM REVIEW: Mastodon – Hushed And Grim

Considering the progressive nature of Atlanta genre dodgers Mastodon, the only real surprise regarding the band’s choice to record an eighty-eight minute double album is that it’s taken them this long to do it in the first place.

Although not a concept album in the purest sense, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records) is bound together by themes of loss and remembrance arising from the death of their manager and friend Nick John in 2018. A collective sense of grief is clearly audible in the compositions but in no way is this a depressing dive into maudlin existentialism. Although songs like ‘Skeleton of Splendor’, Devin Townsend-esque closer ‘Gigantium’ and the jaw-droppingly sensational ‘Teardrinker’ do possess a certain melancholia, much of the album is driven by determination and optimism as exemplified by the likes of ‘Pushing the Tides’, ‘Peace and Tranquility’, ‘More Than I Could Chew’ and the light-fingered prog of ‘Sickle and Peace’.

Opening with the rolling drums of and progressive crunch of ‘Pain With an Anchor’, the album’s tone shifts and swirls like the ocean. ‘The Crux’ features off-kilter time signatures and a captivating bluesy guitar solo, ‘The Beast’ (featuring a guest appearance from guitarist Marcus King) is a strange brew of dark and breezy tremolo-infused ’70s southern-fried prog while ‘Dagger’ features an atmospheric Middle Eastern vibe and a guest spot for Municipal Waste drummer Dave Witte.


The quietly introspective ‘Had It All’ includes a solo by former Soundgarden fretmaster Kim Thayil and classical French horn by Jody Sanders, mother of the band’s bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders. ‘Savage Lands’ is rough and insistent without losing any of that unique Mastodon melody, ‘Eyes Of Serpents’ balances a hard edge with trippy weightlessness while ‘Gobblers Of Dregs’ is a brooding slowburn until the halfway mark when it brightens and transforms into something beautiful, the frankly inhumanly talented drummer Brann Dailor completely owning the show.

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. A dark, trippy and thought-provoking masterpiece, do not expect to absorb Hushed and Grim in just a couple of sittings. This is a bold, brave record which requires time, patience and your full undivided attention.

Buy the album here:


10 / 10