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If you're a musician, like Metal guitarist Bill Kelliher, you need to assess living in Rochester, NY. It's a nice place, or so says the Chamber of Commerce. But the only time music industry types stop in Rochester is when their car breaks down. So rather than try to beat AAA to a record exec it might be a good idea to relocate.

Moving down state to New York City is an option. But the summers are suffocating and the winters, frigid. Besides, New York isn't really Metal friendly. And forget Manhattan, rents in even Brooklyn or Queens are steep. So you have a high cost of living and a low number of opportunities. Better keep looking further south... like say, Atlanta, the region's music nexus. That's where Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailer headed. Within a month they hooked up with vocalist/guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders to form Mastodon.

Within a year, Mastodon recorded a demo and spent much of '00 touring the east coast as an opening act, including a stint with Queens Of The Stone Age. '01 was more of the same, only their tour range spread to the Mid-West and Deep South. They released their debut EP "Lifesblood" which was followed by the full-length "Remission," containing "March Of The Fire Ants," a song that earned the group some attention.

More touring, including a jaunt to Japan, ate up '02 and a good part of '03. All the work was starting to pay off.

MTV2's "Headbanger's Ball" compilation included "March Of The Fire Ants." The group then made a video for the song which garnered airplay. In August of '04, the buzz around the band was turning into a roar as the group released the well-received "Leviathan." A European tour, opening for Slayer and Slipknot, and the Jagermeister Music Tour, came next. But their days as an opener were winding down. In '05, Mastodon returned to Europe, this time as the headliner. And they maintained their marquee status on a U.S. trek.

Now signed to a major label (leaving Relapse for Reprise), Mastodon unleashed "Blood Mountain," in August (yep, another summer release) of '06.

A couple tracks from Mastodon's "Crack The Skye" made their debut at the '08 Bonnaroo Festival. But concerns about unauthorized internet distribution and a desire to play the songs in the proper context halted any further previews until the album's release date was closer.

Prior to its release, "Crack The Skye" was rumored to be about Czarist Russia. That proved false though "The Czar," a four-part narrative, clearly illustrated how the buzz originated.

The album dropped in March, '09. Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly, who had played on previous Mastodon albums, contributed to the title track.

Months later, Time magazine ranked "Crack The Skye" as the third best album of '09. The Progressive Metal set was the last of four in a cycle that focused on the concept of Earth's elements. "Nods to European Folk, Free-Jazz and Prog Rock... the ambition and tenacity of Mastodon's music makes "Crack The Skye" sonically unforgettable," wrote Time. Brad Paisley's "American Saturday Night" and Dirty Projectors' "Bitte Orca," were #1 and #2, respectively.

When Mastodon issued "The Hunter," their fifth album, fans could also purchase a Mastodon 3D virtual reality game called Augmented Reality. It "combines virtual and real worlds to create a one-of-a-kind interactive experience that users can control."

"The Hunter" made its debut at #10 on the Billboard 200.

In the summer of '13 Kelliher stated in an interview that the group's next album was in the works. "We started just putting ideas down on tape, so to speak," he explained. "We have about 25 to 30 songs that are ready for the new record. We're obviously not gonna use all 30 of them, but we're in a much better place than we've ever been as far as being prepared during pre-production for an album."

The result was "Once More 'Round The Sun," a '14 release. But Mastodon were forced to cancel their summer '15 tour dates "due to a personal family matter." The Reading and Leeds Festivals were among those cancelled.

The reason for the cancellations soon became evident.

Cancer was a theme woven into "Emperor Of Sand." Inspired by Sanders' wife who was diagnosed with cancer, and Kelliher's mother who lost her life to cancer, the album's storyline followed a traveler banished to the desert by an emperor, in effect giving him a death sentence journey - a cancer allegory.

The second single off the album, "Show Yourself," peaked at #4 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart, the band's highest charting song to date.

Though faced with mixed reviews, the album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 43,000 copies.

"Emperor Of Sand" was followed by the four-song EP "Cold Dark Place." Three songs from the "Once More 'Round The Sun" sessions and a track recorded during the "Emperor Of Sand" period comprised the set. Songs were inspired by a nasty break-up Hinds had suffered. "I wrote some pretty dark, beautiful, spooky, funky, ethereal, melancholy music, which also sounds like the Bee Gees a little bit," stated Hinds.

Returning to "Emperor Of Sand," Mastodon took home the Best Metal Performance trophy for "Sultan's Curse," a track on the album, at the 60th annual Grammy Awards in New York City.

Mastodon Discography

2002 Remission
2004 Leviathan
2006 Blood Mountain
2009 Crack the Skye
2011 The Hunter
2014 Once More 'Round The Sun
2017 Emperor Of Sand
2017 Cold Dark Place EP

Metal magazines fell over themselves proclaiming Mastodon "the next big thing." Some wondered, or worried, that the group would do for Metal what Nirvana did for Grunge. Didn't happen.

Whether Mastodon is playing Metal, Prog Rock or Speed/Thrash Metal, it's all governed by an "epic" mentality. Killiher's razor sharp guitar can lay down a thunderous din or execute intricate runs, without unnecessary notes or indulgent flourishes. Hinds provides dark, forceful vocals, sounding like a raging beast.

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