From their underground roots playing basement shows and touring nonstop in their "Fart Box" van, Atlanta's Mastodon have risen to become one of the most respected and important metal bands in the world, handpicked by the likes of Metallica to open for them and nabbing Grammys and No. 1 Billboard spots along the way. The grizzled quartet are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year with a killer rarities collection, Medium Rarities, which inspired us to challenge you the fans to select their single best song. Below are your top-five picks, ranked — see what came in on top.
Masto fans can be a bit polarized by the pop flavor on some of their more recent output, but even the haters cannot deny "Curl of the Burl." The second single off The Hunter, it's, like, the catchiest stoner-rock song ever — from the clear yet hazy guitar work, bouncing rhythm and smooth lyrical flow that makes for an easy singalong. No wonder that, at the time of release, it was the band's most successful entry onto the Mainstream Rock Songs chart, peaking at No. 15.
The opening cut off 2004's Leviathan propelled Mastodon to unforeseen heights. Did you hear it in Alone in the Dark, The Cave, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Saints Row, Rocksmith 2014, Project Gotham Racing 3, Splatterhouse, Guitar Hero Metallica or The Big Short? Wherever you discovered it, this charging cut probably blew your mind and banged your head, between its fast-paced roar, chugging riffery and scenery-chewing guest vocals from Clutch's Neil Fallon.
From Mastodon's third full-length, 2006's Blood Mountain, "Colony of Birchmen" is a sweet dose of sludgy prog. Nominated for the Best Metal Performance Grammy that same year, the knotty, compulsive single features Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme on guest backing vocals and builds to a massive shredathon of a climax with every members pushing their instrumental prowess to the max.
The final song on 2009's emotionally fraught concept album Crack the Skye is a 13-minute spiritual experience. "I guess they would say we can set this world ablaze," the lyrics go. "Hold my head on stable ground/Watch as the Earth falls all around." From Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher's zigzagging dual guitar work to Troy Sanders pummeling the floor to Brann Dailor showcasing off his inimitable chops (Crack the Skye is the first album on which the drummer-songwriter started singing), "The Last Baron" brings the landmark LP to a close in epic fashion.
Evoking Justice-era Metallica in its scope, structure and sonic attack, this Leviathan standout is a wild near-14-minute ride. With the song's atmospheric intro ultimately giving way to surging beats and vicious screams, the song swells, soars, crashes and rises, packed with more killer parts and mind-melting concepts than many other bands have in their entire discography. A prog-metal masterpiece and your hands-down No. 1 pick.