46. Mastodon, 'Leviathan' (2004)
Although their most recent album, Emperor of Sand, cracked the Top 10, a decade and a half ago progressive metallists Mastodon were still relative unknowns. On a break from the band's relentless touring regimen, drummer Brann Dailor happened to read Herman Melville's 1851 whaling epic Moby-Dick, and he was struck by the parallels between his experience and that of the novel's narrator and of the revenge-obsessed Captain Ahab. "Mastodon were like sailors as we drove around and played basements and clubs for years. We were on a quest for something that might not even be there, and we were sacrificing a lot by leaving our families and friends behind. It was a mixture of Ahab's craziness and Ishmael's lust for life and adventure," he told Modern Drummer. The idea was hatched to make Mastodon's second release a concept record about the novel, an album that would have to be big and mean enough to be worthy of the murderous white whale it celebrates. Mere seconds into Leviathan's heaving opener, "Blood and Thunder," it's clear that the group succeeded: The listener is buffeted by surging waves of guitars, guttural screams and relentless squalls of drum fills. Deeper tracks like the fully unhinged "Megalodon" and the slow-building opus "Hearts Alive" only drag us deeper into Mastodon's dark sound and vision.