Mastodon’s new album ‘Hushed and Grim’ lives up to its title while paying tribute to band’s beloved manager

Credit: Clay Patrick McBride

“It just so happens every time we go to write a record we’ve suffered some kind of tragedy amongst the band members,” says Brann Dailor.

The drummer and vocalist for Mastodon isn’t kidding. Following concept albums about cancer and records named after lost family members, the Atlanta metal outfit’s latest effort, Hushed and Grim, is dedicated to the memory of their late friend and manager Nick John, who passed away in 2018.

As Dailor tells ABC Audio, John’s death had a major impact on what would become Hushed and Grim, which is based on an “afterlife mythology” the drummer came up with.

“When you pass away your soul inhabits the heart of a living tree,” Dailor explains. “Then you go through the seasons and sort of reflect on your life while you were here, and maybe atone for some things before you say goodbye to the natural world.”

It’s probably no shock, then, that Hushed and Grim lives up to its title, even if the idea of a “hushed” Mastodon is an unexpected one. As Dailor shares, it even surprised the band members themselves.

“In the back of your mind you’re, like, ‘Oh, no, we have to be this fast, crazy, heavy band,'” Dailor says. “And then you start writing stuff and it just doesn’t go in that direction, it goes to somewhere else.”

The result is a much more atmospheric record that still packs the emotional wallop of the heaviest guitar riff.

“The heavy fast stuff, for me, it just wasn’t as compelling as the slower, more moody stuff,” Dailor says. “I’m, like, ‘I think that’s where we need to go.’ And I think naturally we all just sort of felt that way.”

Hushed and Grim is out today.

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