Mastodon is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia that formed in early 2000.  The band is made up of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarist Brent Hinds, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor.  The band is best known for their uniquely themed albums, progressive concepts, unique instrumentation and their mixture of clear vocals and harsh screams.

The band has released five studio albums, a live album with an accompanying DVD, a compilation of early material and a box set.  The band released their first album “Remission” in 2002, which garnered much critical acclaim for its unique sound.  Their second album, “Leviathan” was released in 2004 and was based off of Herman Melville’s famous novel, “Moby Dick.”  Three magazines awarded it album of the year in 2004: Revolver, Kerrang! and Terrorizer.  Their 2011 album, “The Hunter,” achieved major American commercial success by debuting at number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band formed on January 13, 2000 after drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher had moved to Atlanta, Georgia from Victor, New York.  In Atlanta, they met bassist/singer Troy Sanders and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds at a “High On Fire” show.  They found that they all liked similar sludge metal bands such as the “Melvins” and “Neurosis.”  They also like the 70’s hard-rockers “Thin Lizzy.”  Shortly after that, they formed Mastodon.  In an interview in 2009, Kelliher said that the first time Hinds attended a practice with the band he “showed up so wasted he couldn’t play.”

The band recorded a demo in 2000, which featured the band’s first lead singer, Eric Saner on vocals.  Saner left the band after the first few months due to personal reasons.  After recording a four song demo and a 7-inch picture disc through Reptilian Records, Mastodon landed a record deal with Relapse Records in 2001.  They released an EP, “Lifesblood” in 2001 and their first full length album, “Remission,” in 2002 with their first singles “March of the Fire Ants” and “Crusher/Destroyer.”  Also, a little known fact about Mastodon’s first three albums is that the last track on all three relates to the Elephant Man in some way.

The bands second album, “Leviathan,” was released in 2004.  It was a concept album that was loosely based on Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.”  The album received critical acclaim, the track “Blood and Thunder” which featured “Clutch” lead singer Neil Fallon was chosen as one of the most important recordings of the decade by National Public Radio in November 2009.  They also stated that the entire album epitomizes “a phenomenal decade for metal.”  “Leviathan” was also ranked second in a list by Metal Hammer for “Best Albums of 2004.”

Their third album, “Blood Mountain,” was released on September 12, 2006 and was followed by a tour to support the album alongside “Tool” in Europe and “Slayer” in Australia and New Zealand.  “The Mars Volta” frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala lent his vocals to the track “Siberian Divide” and “Queens of the Stone Age” frontman Josh Homme contributed vocals for the song “Colony of Birchman.”  The first single of the album, “Capillarian Crest,” was ranked number 27 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 songs of 2006.  The album itself was ranked ninth in the magazines “Best Album of the Year” chart for for 2006.  The band performed “Colony of Birchman” at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards live with Josh Homme.  After the performance, Brent Hinds was reported to have sustained a sever head injury. initially reported that it as the result of a “brutal assault” but the police later reported that an inebriated Hinds had started a fight with with “System of a Down” bassist Shavo Odadjian and vocalist William Hudson who is also known as Reverend William Burke of “Achozen.”

The bands fourth album, “Crack the Skye” was released on March 24, 2009 and entered the Billboard 200 at number 11.  In a MusicRadar interview, Bill Kelliher confirmed that the album was about “an out-of-body experience,” and looks at the concept of astral travel, wormholes, Stephen Hawking’s theories and the spiritual realm.  The albums narrative follows a quadriplegic who learns astral projection.  On his journey, he flies to close to the sun, burning his umbilical cord that connects him to his physical body, which causes him to cascade into oblivion.  At the same time in Czarist Russia, Rasputin and his cult are channeling spirits and bring the man’s spirit to their time.  The man’s spirit explains to Rasputin that he will be assassinated soon.  Inevitably, Rasputin is assassinated but Rasputin’s spirit helps guide the man back to his body.

The bands fifth album, “The Hunter,” was released on September 27, 2011 and was well received by fans and critics alike.  It peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200 which was their best placement to date.  The album was titled “The Hunter” in honor of Brent Hind’s brother who unexpectedly passed away while hunting as the band was making the album.  Brann Dailor described the new material as “not so much proggy but more riff oriented and a little more stripped down,” much like “Leviathan.”  “It’s like a really super-heavy Led Zeppelin or something.”  The album received an 83 out of 100 from the internet aggregator based on 29 reviews.  The album was named Album of the Year by multiple outlets: Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Kerrang!, Rock Sound and The Times.

This band is just extraordinary.  Not just from how successful their albums have been but just in their ability to take complex subject matter and turn them into themed songs and albums.  Each album they have released is a part of its own world and in a time where rock and metal music has become the equivalent of pop and most bands have journeyed underground, Mastodon shows that there can still be creative life to pump through metal’s veins.

Below are some of the band’s biggest hits.  Give them a listen for yourself and prepare to be awed by the complexity of the bands guitar work and their lyrical content.