And the Winner of the Greatest Metal Concept Album Ever Is…
This one was really, really, really, really close, y’all.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tournament on this site become so heated in the championship. Both the Queensryche and Mastodon fanbases came out in force to vote for the champion, and really it isn’t hard to see why. Both Operation: Mindcrime and Leviathan are landmark albums that helped normalize progressive songwriting in metal and shaped the course of generations of bands to follow. Although this tournament started with an entire field of worthy contenders, and though many of our personal favorite albums were knocked out in the tourney, I think we can all at least recognize the immense legacy of our two final competitors. But in the end, there could be only one, and the winner is…
Mastodon – Leviathan
As I said, it was an exceptionally close championship round. Ultimately, Mastodon came out on top with 2846 votes to Queensyche’s 2141. Queensryche’s old guard was out in force, but Mastodon fans cannot deny the power of the white whale. And really, it’s that marriage of cetacean splendor and mighty riff that won the day. Leviathan‘s concept is a timeless one, a tale of revenge, ambition, and mania. Moby Dick, with its grim climax and revelatory narrative, is one of the most important pieces of American literature, and its story is more than sufficiently metal for a concept album.
The concept is executed perfectly on Leviathan. From the blood-turning mandate of “Split your lungs with blood and thunder!” to the feeding frenzy riffs on “Megalodon,” Leviathan captures the dynamic and volatile tale of braving storming seas and volatile sea beasts to claim a prize at any cost. The album’s climax, “Hearts Alive,” is a mini-epic of churning riffs and foaming sea, one that delivers more grandeur and emotion as it tells its tale of one final stand against death than most metal records do across their entire run times.
But don’t take my word for it. The inimitable Dr. K. weighed in on Leviathan’s glory.
“Whether Leviathan deserved to beat out all the other amazing albums in this bracket is open for debate, but there’s no question that this album has taken its place among the finest records of metal history. The second full-length from Mastodon was a crucial turning point for the band, transforming them from one of those sludge groups from Georgia – the one with dudes who used to be in Today is the Day – into a leading act in the genre (a success they’d take to the next level two albums later, when Crack the Skye gained acceptance among Pitchfork readers and NPR-listeners). The Moby Dick-inspired concept of the album proves quite a bit looser than the first few songs and the amazing cover by Paul Romano would suggest. The specific references to Ahab, the white whale, and Queequeg give way to broader reflections on the majesty and terror of the ocean until concluding, like the novel, with a shipwreck. That’s an appropriate outcome given the source material, a novel that often uses its plot of tragic obsession as a mere excuse for digressive rants, philosophical reflection, and formal experimentation. In any case, what has kept this album at the forefront of any discussion of the best metal albums of the 21st century is not its commentary on Melville but its monstrous riffage, huge hooks, and dominant performance on the drums from Brann Dailor. From the opening fill and catchy chorus of “Blood & Thunder,” through that awesome country-flavored lick that gives way to a vicious thrash riff in “Megalodon,” and on into the epic, adventurous journey through the underwater realm in “Hearts Alive,” this is an album packed with amazing moments. Nonetheless, the sum is greater than its parts, and the overall sense the album instills of having glimpsed, not only a band at the top of its game, but something sublime that stands behind their writing and performances is why Leviathan belongs at the top rank of metal concept albums.” Dr. K.
The people voted, and so let it be written. Mastodon’s Leviathan is proclaimed the greatest metal concept album ever. Now kick back and hunt a white whale with us.