IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, no underground metal act has had a more driven ascent than Atlanta, GA's Mastodon. Two members had previously cut their teeth as support members of Today Is the Day, but their combined efforts have made them household names in a world where reality TV and summer festivals are the standard by which popularity is measured. In contrast, Mastodon have toured hard, and released three critically acclaimed albums that fuse progressive technicality, fantasy concepts, and heavily anchored riffs and melodies.

The band's second disc, Leviathan (a concept album about Herman Melville's Moby-Dick), made top marks in many magazines' year-end lists and garnered the attention of majors like Warner Bros. WB indeed wooed the band to make Blood Mountain with the promise of total support and creative control. Listening to the album, it's clear that no concessions were made. Same guys, same producer, and same cover artist. It's still a tightly wound sound where Bränn Dailor's drums roll without cessation, guitars fuse and pummel, and brutish vocals shout about one-eyed monsters. Musically, a lot of cues are taken from mid-era Iron Maiden albums like Somewhere in Time, along with some heavy influence from Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. The resulting clean vocals (a new addition), hint at Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity. These improved dynamics are some of the best moments on the entire album.

Even with all the hype surrounding Mastodon's success, it's tough to disrespect their methods or results. They are quick in interviews to cover their asses in this regard, promising that they make music from the heart, and are men that just want to support their families by making classic and progressive heavy metal. If there's any question whether the mainstream will embrace them, just check the many quotes in their WB press kit in which singer Troy Sanders calls bands he dislikes "gay," promises he's not in it for the "pussy or the money," and disses Dream Theater for having a "little Chinese girl playing bass." I'd say they're right in step with the mainstream and won't have any problems adjusting.