Many "best of metal" lists recently have overlooked an album which is, in my generally poor opinion, not only worthy of a place on these lists, but the best, most interesting, and most exciting metal album released this millennium. This album is Mastodon's "Leviathan". This album has so much going for it, that the best way to begin explaining why it's so good is to show you this picture, which goes through everything you'd want, in a metal album of any genre, that "Leviathan" doesn't spectacularly cover.
It's got everything. It's got the the chug-chug-chug you love so hard. It's got the experimental metal in spades. It has ridiculous out-of-control solos and beat-you-round-the-head power chords. It's got double-pedaling, straight 4/4, and time signatures plucked from the depths of Hades. It's got more insanely complex fills than you could ever hope to remember. It's got bizarre and unwieldy song structure and verse-chorus-verse. It's sometimes a furious, feral assault, and sometimes beautiful and dreamy. The ambition of the entire work is dazzling. The whole thing is about "Moby Dick", for goodness' sakes. They must have known they were on to a winner when they proposed that to the label. "Yeah, we've got a new album, it's an hour of music entirely about the book "Moby Dick". Have you read it at all?" As for the lyrics, they are simultaneously very silly and extremely scary. It is in fact the best metal album released since 2000.
Let's take, for example, one of the most striking album openers of all time, the stupendous "Blood and Thunder". It's more than a statement of intent. It packs everything above into a three-minute burst of fury expressed by a sea captain towards a whale. I ask you, what is better than that? Here is your answer. Nothing is better than that. In fact, let's consult this flow chart I've compiled to see if your favorite metal album since 2000 is better than "Leviathan" -
Do you see yet? If you still don't agree, stop what you're doing, make some time, and put on the fifteen-minute sort-of-album-closer "Hearts Alive". I once saw Mastodon support Tool, and this song took up half their set. Half. And it was at that point I knew I would love them. It's a song that bewitches and crushes in equal measure, like a fifty-foot tall Salma Hayek.
In using its lengthy span to visit essentially every genre of rock and metal, "Hearts Alive" is the essence of this whole album packed into one song, and is therefore itself a modern classic. The only real debate here, for me, is if "Leviathan" is better than its predecessor "Remission". Are you still in doubt? Then look at this cartoon.
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I rest my case. Put this album on every list ever immediately.