Mastodon’s Brann Dailor says ‘Hushed and Grim’ is a reflection of the times

Mastodon

Credit: Handout

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Mastodon

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Atlanta band released latest album in October

A cinematic tone is critical to the somber atmosphere of “Hushed and Grim,” the latest studio album from Atlanta-based heavy metal band Mastodon.

“I sort of see music cinematically,” said Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor, “so when I’m hearing riffs and gravitating towards whatever either (guitarist) Brent (Hinds) or (guitarist) Bill (Kelliher) are writing or I’m writing, I see that little movie that plays in your mind’s eye.”

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The group’s eighth studio effort and their first double album, “Hushed and Grim” is a sprawling epic that reflects the heavy toll of COVID-19 coupled with the devastating death of the band’s good friend and manager Nick John.

“We just didn’t feel good,” Dailor said. “And what came out of that dark feeling was this doomier record than we would normally do. If anything sounded happy at all, we kicked it out.”

The title “Hushed and Grim” had been swirling in the back of Dailor’s mind for months and seemed increasingly appropriate as dark, sinister songs emerged from an extended writing process uninterrupted by tours and other outside concerns.

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Mastodon's Brann Dailor

Credit: Handout

Mastodon's Brann Dailor

Credit: Handout

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Mastodon's Brann Dailor

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

It is the latest incarnation of an ever-evolving sound that has served the band well, vaulting them into the heights of critical and commercial success as the standard-bearers for modern progressive metal.

Mastodon’s sound has grown out of a myriad of influences that band members bring to the group. “There’s lots to farm from with all the members,” said Dailor. “Every album is another opportunity to showcase another taste of the band members.”

In a world where lineup changes are commonplace, Mastodon has remained the same quartet – Dailor, Kelliher, Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders -- since their debut album, 2002′s “Remission”, and the result is a band whose members thrive personally and creatively on an intimate understanding of one another.

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“We’re still close friends,” Dailor said. “When we get together it’s just 20 years of inside jokes, movie quotes and just trying to make each other laugh. I think that nurtures the writing relationship as well. And we’re proud of the fact that the four of us have stuck it out.”

Sadly, a darker shadow was cast over the writing process of “Hushed and Grim” with John’s passing from pancreatic cancer.

“We just had a really special relationship with him. We couldn’t even believe it when we got the news. We had the ultimate hope that he was going to beat it. There was no way this was taking him down but . . . pancreatic cancer . . . that’s the one. You don’t want it. It was horrible to just see your friend shrivel up like that. You just have to watch it powerless.”

John’s passing would be directly addressed on the song “Skeleton of Splendor,” with lyrics penned by Sanders. “This was the first big death for him,” said Dailor. “I don’t think he’d had anybody that was really close to him that passed away. His reaction to it is in all the lyrics.”

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"Hushed and Grim," the new album from Mastodon

Credit: Handout

"Hushed and Grim," the new album from Mastodon

Credit: Handout

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"Hushed and Grim," the new album from Mastodon

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“Skeleton of Splendor” would prove to be a centerpiece of the band’s Nov. 24 concert at The Eastern, seeing them change gears to embrace the fluid calm of Pink Floyd. That downshift into dreamy, haunted explorations and melancholy reflections was accentuated by Sanders’ beleaguered, world-weary lead vocal cascading in and out of somber guitars and soaring solo lines.

Other tracks from the new album -- such as “Pain With an Anchor,” “Teardrinker” and “Pushing the Tides” would take the evening down similarly sinister roads. Played alongside Mastodon classics like “Crystal Skull” and “Black Tongue,” it made for a diverse but always captivating evening.

That morbid pain, laid naked and unadulterated before the listener, may define the new album.

But listening to Dailor speak, it’s clear that sharing the experience with longtime friends was deeply transformative and sustaining.

“I feel lucky to have Mastodon in my life,” he says. “I could be at home in the pandemic and just feeling like the biggest piece of human garbage and I can go down to practice and get together with the guys, rip through some tunes, and feel whole again.”

Jordan Owen began writing about music professionally at the age of 16 in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2006 graduate of the Berklee College of Music, he is a professional guitarist, bandleader and composer. He is currently the lead guitarist for the jazz group Other Strangers, the power metal band Axis of Empires and the melodic death/thrash metal band Century Spawn.


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ArtsATL logo

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ArtsATL logo

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL

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