Mastodon released their new double album Hushed And Grim today.
The ninth full-length studio album from the heavy rock legends is their first new record since 2017’s Best Metal Performance GRAMMY® award-winning triumph Emperor of Sand. The David Bottril (Tool, Rush, Muse) produced Hushed and Grim is Mastodon’s most ambitious body of work to date, consisting of 15 disparate tracks, surveying a confluence of textures that include rock, psychedelia, punk, metal, alternative and prog interwoven by their innately expressive musical interplay. A sonic farewell to their longtime manager and friend Nick John, Hushed And Grim’s atmospheric canvas of very real loss, loneliness and longing, permeates throughout, resulting in a magnum opus that bears the influence of his eternal memory. For as much as Hushed And Grim is steeped in one of the darkest periods of the band’s career, with each member experiencing personal grief, its light shines through in a fully realized manifestation of everything Mastodon is right now.
In the lead up to the release of Hushed And Grim Maniacs spoke to Mastodon drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor about all things Hushed And Grim.
Brann, Hushed And Grim is out on Friday, how does it feel to be putting this deeply personal and expansive double record out into the world?
I’m really excited about it. We started recording the album about a year ago now, and before that we’d been working on it for quite a long time, going through the demo process, so I’m pretty ready for it to be out."
We’ve been treated to three singles from Hushed And Grim so far, the most recent of which Sickle And Peace is a more reflective piece than some people might expect from Mastodon, is that the result of a conscious choice to explore different sounds on this record?
I feel like bits of it have been there before, but there’s definitely some fresh sounds. The first riff that you hear is unexplored territory for us, but then when it gets heavy, I feel like we’ve been there before so that mixture of old and new sounds was exciting for us."
Hushed And Grim as a whole sounds like the Mastodon we’ve come to know and love filtered through the prism of new experience. It feels like you’ve gone all out to ensure every song is what it needs and deserves to be. Is that what inspired the extended length?
In the past, we were pretty stringent on a rule, that albums had to be about 55 minutes. When it came to this collection of songs, I think that we let the 15 lay there and be there because we came to the conclusion that we liked the way they fit together and we liked the story that is told. In the past, we’d kicked some songs off other records to keep it under length and it had always been obvious which songs they should be, but this time around it was obvious that all 15 were worthy and needed to stay together."
Hushed And Grim is a musical tribute piece to your late manager and friend Nick John. Was it a cathartic experience for you all to put this farewell to your friend together?
"It’s the manifestation of our experience with this particular tragedy in music and lyrics. If something being cathartic means that you understand what happened better when you’ve finished with your artistic expression as you move through it, then yes in that sense it was cathartic.
I would rather have my friend here than have this album, but the way that we were able to work our way through it as people and as friends is through music. That’s how we’ve always used music, maybe not in such a literal way as we did this time, but I think that is because it was such a fresh wound. We knew that we wanted to let the world know how important he was to the entire band.
There have been instances in the past where we’ve written records that had a homage or a tribute to someone important to someone in the band, but this was a very important person to the whole band and not just the band itself and the music itself.
A lot of people who love the band need to know how important this person was to us and how important he was to this thing, this band, that they love. It was important that we paid tribute in a big way and we didn’t know what that was going to sound like going in, but we hope that Hushed And Grim gets close to it."
That is a really beautiful sentiment that has resulted in an emotionally powerful record, and a record that I feel could help other people going through similar experiences with grief. Is that something that you hope will happen, that people will be able to find some solace in their own process through listening to Hushed And Grim?
Hopefully, it’ll help somebody. I think that’s the silver lining that we could pull from the process. We hope that the music and the lyrics translate to our fanbase and translate to someone going through the same thing who maybe doesn’t have that outlet that we have. Hopefully, they can use what we’ve put forward as a way to help get them through it."
You recorded Hushed And Grim with David Bottril. What was the experience of working with such a legend on this project?
Dave was great. We made great friends, fast friends with him. I feel like we’re a very welcoming band and we’re not guarded with our material. We try to stay open-minded and invite them into our 27-year heavy metal project and was great with us. He has such great attention to detail, he is very meticulous and gets great sounds, he is so invested in ensuring we’re getting the best version of ourselves. He pays attention to all the little things that we might miss, and then he has such cool ideas to offer. The subtle nuances and changes to arrangements that he made really owe to his knowledge of music theory and his experience working in a different world than what we’re used to, with artists like Peter Gabriel or Brian Eno.
It gives him a different lens to view things through and it was cool to be able to work with someone who has been around those interesting people and who was able to use what he learned through working with them to make our record better or more interesting. David was able to do that for us, while also capturing what the album is and letting us do our thing."
Mastodon was impacted by the pandemic like every other artist, but I’m curious did you find any unexpected positives from the experience?
A lot of space and time and reflection on the new material. For us, the plus side was that we did emerge with a double album that we think is quite good and we had the ability and the time to put the work in to make sure it was everything that it needed to be. I don’t know that we’d be sitting here talking about this double album if the pandemic hadn’t happened. It probably would have been business as usual, where we come home from touring, we hop right into writing and once we have about 55 minutes of music we head into the studio, record it and then head back out on tour. Since that was an impossibility, the songs slowed down and we took our time and that helped with the overall mood of the record.
When we got back into recording and got back into everything after having four months off, I think it was also beneficial to us to rediscover the fun that we have in there and our love for Mastodon and how much we missed this when it was gone. That helped us when we were going into the studio too, having this renewed love for what we do.
When you do something for 20 years nonstop, there are some years where you might feel a tiny bit burnt out. I don’t know if was, but what I do know is that I definitely felt rejuvenated after four months off and I was so excited when we were finally allowed to go back."
Outside of music what is something that you consider yourself to be a bit of a Maniac for?
I’d definitely say I’m a manic for cooking and grilling. I cook a lot and I have for a long time, I really enjoy cooking a meal for somebody else. It’s a great feeling to be able to share that love with someone."
If you were able to have any song play when you enter a room, pro-wrestling style, what song would you choose it to be?
It would have to be Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees!
Hushed And Grim is out now via Reprise Records.
Buy Hushed and Grim on 2LP clear or black vinyl via Maniacs and you'll receive an Australian exclusive official vinyl slipmat (while stocks last).
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