With Metallica a punch line to a thousand drummer jokes and Black Sabbath’s legacy in ugly disarray, the Iron Throne of Metal is in glorious dispute; a sea of subgenres dork it out for dominance and the right to lift the golden metallic chalice to their lips. Atlanta’s Mastodon have probably come closest, and all without being anthemic or even, at times, especially metal. But there’s no denying the band’s badass swagger, whether in the lumbering troglodyte sashay of their early grumblings or the slick downturned facerippery of last year’s The Hunter. Other bands might be meaner, sicker, or more brutal, but Mastodon are burlier and bigger than almost all the competition, bucking the current upturned-cap thrash trend with their widescreen lysergic vistas, kicking ass, and traveling astrally in a way not seen since bands like Rainbow stood high on the silver mountain of ’70s hard-rock dominion.
RUNNERS-UP: Ghost, Tombs, Three Inches of Blood