The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and we were talking about what makes a metal band great. In this day and age, metal bands are a dime a dozen, and with so many heavy bands out there, it’s sometimes difficult for the uninitiated to discern the trash from the true. True fans of the genre ( like my friend, who’s absolutely obsessed) seem to have an innate understanding and opinion of what makes a band great, good, or simply average, so I was curious to pick his brain a little bit and see what we could come up with.

Here’s the gist of our convo. The band should be overwhelmingly fast (DRI), or overwhelmingly slow (Crowbar), overwhelmingly crushing (Behemoth), absurdly technical (Unearth), or just flat out produce memorable riffage (Pantera). Points for creativeness (Spiral Architect) and the ability to integrate other musical genres without sounding forced or too “out there” (Between the Buried and Me) doesn’t hurt. This makes a lot of sense to me. There’s not one particular aspect of metal that makes it great. There’s many things. And when bands can find a way to comfortably embrace these traits, either mastering one or finding a way to integrate a few that make sense, then they go from simply being a good, heavy band to being great.

Mastodon is one of those bands that are great. They are great because they are interesting. Combining slow, dirgy riffs with technical precision, off-time signatures, breakneck speeds and melodies that “stick,” they’ve found a sound that’s truly unique and all encompassing. Add to the fact, that they pull from classic rock, jazz, and punk rock, and you have a recipe for success. I’m not even a huge fan anymore, and I can still recognize their greatness. They have groove. They have attitude. They have the riffs. They’ve got it.

Plus, they kill live. I could go on and on about their live set, as I’ve seen them several times, but I’ll simply say this. If you’re a fan they’re playing tonight at Town Ballroom ($34, 6:30 doors) with Gojira and Kvelertak. Go see them.