Once again, we’re back into a new week. And that means that once again, we’ll be moving in a new direction in for our daily reviews. At this point, we’ve covered the genres of classic rock, indie, folk, hip hop, electronic, and alternative music. We’re going to start digging into some new territory now, which for me, means moving into genres I haven’t listened to as much. But that can be exciting too.
Our genre this week is metal. While I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the history behind this genre (i.e. the most influential bands), there are a few metal bands I’ve grown fond of at different times. So what better place to start than with the first band that got me into the genre?
Today’s song of the day comes from the alternative metal band, Mastodon. On the recommendation from a good friend, I first listened to them maybe three years ago. They were the first metal band whose album I listened to the whole way through. So I’m thinking they may be a good entry point for others.
“Blood and Thunder”
“Blood and Thunder” is the first track on Mastodon’s 2004 album, “Leviathan”. The album was Mastodon’s first concept album, loosely based on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”. Other tracks on the album like, “Seabeast”, Iron Tusk”, and “I Am Ahab” make references to the classic novel. But “Blood and Thunder” does such a nice job of kicking it off. And it completely encapsulates the theme and concept running through the album. It’s also a good way to test whether or not their sound is your cup of tea.
“Blood and Thunder” is written from the point of view of Captain Ahab. It centers around his maniacal obsession with finding and killing the white whale, which is true to the character.
I will make one disclaimer, though. If you’re not a fan of harsh or screaming vocals, there’s little chance you’ll fully appreciate Mastodon. I’ve never liked screaming vocals, personally, but found that Mastodon was melodic enough for me to get used to a different kind of vocalist. That being said, there may be a bit of an adjustment period.
I’ve discovered that metal lyrics are more often than not, quite poetic. There’s something about the genre that seems to encourage epic language, and it’s honestly one of the more enjoyable aspects of metal to me.
The first verse of “Blood and Thunder” captures the manic state of mind of the obsessed captain. Due to the perspective, the guttural screams of the vocalist don’t sound so out of place.
“I think that someone is trying to kill me
Infecting my blood and destroying my mind
No man of the flesh could ever stop me
The fight for this fish is a fight to the death”.
Yes, we all know whales are not fish. But when “Moby Dick” was written, whales were considered to be a subset of fish. Since this is from Ahab’s point of view, he’d ikely call the water-dwelling mammal a fish, too.
The chorus is short, simple, and to the point. Accompanied by crashing cymbals and a rhythmic progression, it almost mimics the sound of waves in a storm. The music swells as you hear the screams of “White Whale / Holy Grail” repeated.
For the first track of a concept album inspired by “Moby Dick”, I think it’s safe to say that Mastodon nailed it with “Blood and Thunder”. The White Whale as Ahab’s holy grail is a perfect metaphor.
You can even view the song as a back and forth between Ahab and his crew. Especially with lines like, “Break your backs and crack your oars, men / If you wish to prevail”. The joined voices on the chorus could be interpreted as a mantra sung by the crew while they row.
Well, that about wraps up our first day of metal. Hope you enjoyed it, and took a chance on something new if metal’s not your thing. And if metal is your thing, I hope I continue to do justice to the genre.