MusicRadar interview: Mastodon's Bill Kelliher

Kelliher (left) says the new album's "insane"
Kelliher (left) says the new album's "insane"

In 2004, Mastodon released Leviathan, a daring, hallucinogenic concept album based on Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and heavy metal as we knew it changed forever.

A whirlwind of complex, progressive rock, hardcore punk-meets-death metal guitars and mind-bending lyrics, Leviathan put Mastodon head-and-shoulders with other 'thinking man's metal' bands like Killswitch Engage and The Dillinger Escape Plan. In many ways, it crashed their party altogether.

And then came the coup d'etat: 2006's Blood Mountain, a breathtaking thrill ride of pulverizing sonics, unthinkable time signatures, and a storyline that had something to do with man-eating tree people and other such mutants.

"That was a real breakthrough for us," says guitarist Bill Kelliher. (The Atlanta, Georgia-based Mastodon also includes guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and drummer Brann Dailor). "Sleeping Giant, Capillarian Crest - cool songs, man. There were major medications going down when we made that album, and it showed. The only question was: What could we do to top it? And I'll tell you what, I think this next record is gonna do it."

Kelliher is talking about the album they've just finished with producer Brendan O'Brien, best known for his work with Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine and Bruce Springsteen (he's also helmed AC/DC's next effort). "It'll mess you up completely. It's got balls, killer solos, the whole thing's insane. I don't know if the world is ready for it."

Whether the world is ready or not remains to be seem (the as-yet-untitled album won't be out till 2009). Meanwhile, Mastodon is currently sharing the stage with Slipknot and Disturbed on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. During a pre-show break, Bill Kelliher checked in with MusicRadar to enthuse about the new record.

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.