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One-Stop Shopping

Critics' love of Mastodon crowds out other great acts.

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A while back, there was a big foofaraw on the ultranerdy music-discussion board I Love Music about the results of the 2004 Village Voice critics' poll, which had placed OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in its No. 1 spot, mostly on the basis of votes from critics who listed no other rap records on their ballots. As this year crawls to a close, it seems like the same thing is about to happen again, only this time the genre of choice with dilettantish, tokenistic hacks is metal.

Yes, Mastodon is awesome. It has been for a while, even before it was on a major label. But now it's overshadowing other, equally worthy acts. When 2005's Leviathan was released, it quickly became (along with the Sword's Age of Winters and Early Man's Closing In) the metal album that was OK -- mandatory, even -- for indie scribes to like. Meanwhile, Pig Destroyer's brilliant Terrifyer, also on Mastodon's then-label Relapse, languished in genre-mag obscurity.

This year, Blood Mountain, another Mastodon disc, is the non-metalhead's metal disc of choice. Who suffers for it? The members of Gojira, an ass-stompingly great band, whose From Mars to Sirius is just as myth-minded ("Where Dragons Dwell," "Ocean Planet") and heavy as anything from Mastodon. They'll never get 1/16th the attention they deserve, and it's not just because they're French. Neither will Ahab (even though its album The Call of the Wretched Sea is based on Moby-Dick, just as Leviathan was) or Goatwhore (okay, maybe the name's hurting it a little) or Cellador (though that's more DragonForce's fault than Mastodon's), or Place of Skulls . . . You get the idea. Rock critics need to widen their listening habits. Or at least consider more than one band per genre before declaring a new Messiah.

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