Hushed and Grim

Mastodon

Hushed and Grim

Most Mastodon fans probably knew it was only a matter of time before the band dropped a double album. The Atlanta metal squad’s intricate songs and dazzling prog tendencies have been begging for the Pink Floyd treatment for years—and the pandemic’s enforced downtime provided them with the window to do it. “With the extra time to work on material, we just kept writing,” Mastodon drummer, co-vocalist, and lyricist Brann Dailor tells Apple Music. “When we got to the point where we had 20 ideas that were pretty fleshed out, we said, ‘We need to stop now.’ From there, it was hard even narrowing it down to 15 songs, so I’m not sure what we would’ve done if we’d needed to make a single album.” Thematically, Hushed and Grim largely deals with the death of Mastodon’s longtime friend and manager Nick John, who was taken by cancer in 2018. “It’s definitely a representation of the time period we went through,” Dailor says. “The pandemic, Nick John’s passing, and other things that transpired for us during that time.” Below, he details some key tracks from the record.
“Pain With an Anchor” “I think that's probably one of the first songs that came about for the album. I strung a couple of riffs together, and then [guitarist] Bill [Kelliher] and I sat down in his basement and combined a few more. He came up with that big, heavy riff at the end and all that cool stuff in the bridge. I added these weird vocal swells—and some thunderclaps—underneath to make it more evil and sinister. The drum intro didn’t come until much later, when we were about to cut it for real. I just had this idea to do this quads intro thing, which sort of cemented it as being the first song on the record.”
“More Than I Could Chew” “That’s a big Bill riff. I really drove it straight on the drums and I didn’t deviate too much from that, which is a little bit different for me. I’m more of a frantic player, usually. The kick pattern also opened up a lane for me to sing over the top of it. I don’t think Bill was really expecting there to be this higher, soaring vocal over that. [Bassist] Troy [Sanders] came up with that last riff, the one that [guitarist] Brent [Hinds] solos over. I just love that part. Troy hasn’t really been a big writer in the band, but this time around he wrote four or five tracks.”
“The Beast” “This is one of Brent’s, and I wrote some lyrics for him. It’s got that opening country guitar lick and then it goes into what seems like a blues shuffle to me. Brent’s voice is just awesome there—I think it’s really soulful and bluesy. And then it moves into sort of a proggy King Crimson-type part that leads into Marcus King’s solo, which I love. Brent and Marcus are good friends, so it was cool to bring Marcus in to do that. To me, it’s a real proggy-sounding solo and it really flexes Marcus’ talents as a masterful guitar player. And it’s cool for Brent to hand the reins over like that, being an amazing soloist himself.”
“Teardrinker” “This is a simple two-part guitar thing I came up with on an acoustic. I’m not the most talented guitar player, so most of what I write is pretty simple—and then I turn it over to Bill to get the magic happening. I wrote this at a time when it wasn’t going well for me. I was in a dark place. I was actually living in this apartment that had no sofa, no TV—just an acoustic guitar and a bed. I was hijacking a bit of service off my phone so I could try to watch some shows on my iPad. It was a rough time, but I’m okay now. So it’s a big emotional song, but it turned out pretty catchy.”
“Pushing the Tides” “There’s not a lot of rippers on this album, but this is a ripper that just feels good to play. It’s another one that came from sitting in Bill’s basement. The first riff reminds me of early AmRep stuff like Chokebore, Guzzard, or early-’90s Barkmarket maybe. There’s some prog influence there, some Killing Joke—all that stuff we’re into, being kids of the ’90s. We sort of came from that whole scene of underground, mathy stuff that was below the upper echelons of grunge. So it’s cool when that stuff pops up. It’s a fun song with a big chorus.”
“Dagger” “Once you’ve decided that you’re making a double album, you can sprawl out a bit. I don’t know that this song would’ve been as cool as it ended up being if we didn’t go down the rabbit hole with it. We got a sarangi player, and my friend Dave Witte from Municipal Waste came in to do some percussion on these tribal drums and hunks of metal. Then we had our buddy come in and play some crazy Moog at the end. I’m stoked on it, but if it wasn’t for Troy’s voice, you’d have a hard time convincing even a Mastodon fan that this was a Mastodon song.”
“Had It All” “This is an important song, and very Nick John-centric. He probably shows up in the lyrics of every song, but this one is specifically aimed at his situation. To have Kim Thayil do the solo was amazing, because Soundgarden was one of Nick’s favorite bands. And what a cool turn of events that Troy’s mom got to virtually jam on French horn with Kim on this one. Kim did a really beautiful, heart-wrenching solo, and then Troy’s mom added another beautiful texture with a nice little horn arrangement. This is the closest I think we’ve come to a ballad, I think, but it’s an emotional song for us. The only bummer is that Nick isn’t here to hear it.”
“Gigantium” “This is another one I wrote when I was in that apartment. I call it the Sadness Hole. I don’t want to get into why I was there, but just to be clear, I wasn’t strung out on drugs or anything like that. It was a personal time. But the last riff really sounded like the end of something. It’s sad-sounding, but there’s also some hope there. So we put some string arrangements on it and Brent did this really beautiful guitar solo. The last line is for Nick John: ‘The mountains we made in the distance will be with us forever.’ I think it’s a beautiful farewell.”

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