Mastodon: 3 Epic Riffs

by Alec Plowman, May 13, 2019 . 4 min read

Mastodon: 3 Epic Riffs

Mastodon is a heavy metal guitar masterclass! In the past twenty years or so, Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher have written some of the most interesting and infectious riffs in heavy music. Some of them are in “best metal riff ever” territory, and if you’re looking to learn heavy metal rhythm guitar, you need to check them out.

So, with that in mind, grab your Bill Kelliher LTD Sparrowhawk or your Brent Hinds Epiphone Flying V Custom and let’s get riffing!

Sultan’s Curse

2017’s “Emperor of Sand” album ranks as one of Mastodon’s finest offerings. And, opening track “Sultan’s Curse” is a monolith pretty much from the get go.

Bill Kelliher’s opening riff is a gnarly beast – a deceptively complex gut punch that sets the tone for the album rather nicely. As the man himself noted to Guitar World:

“I’ve had that riff hanging around for probably six years… It didn’t have any friends. It was just a lone wolf. So I had that riff, and then I had the last riff, and then I had the bridge. But it needed time to come together. The riff was f–king awesome, but I just couldn’t get the verses or the chorus. But you know, you can’t force things. Even if you have a sick riff, you need the rest. That one took time to take shape, but it turned into a great song to start the album with.”

Check out the tab here.

Curl of the Burl

Mastodon has made great use of Drop-A tuning during their career. For a shining example, check out the heavy, yet oh-so slinky “Curl of the Burl” from 2011’s “The Hunter” album. It’s the sound of cavemen forming a classic rock band. That’s a good thing, by the way.

“I really didn’t approach “The Hunter” any different than our previous albums. We just decided—like we always do—to write and record a cool album that’s badass, and to do the best we can. I play guitar so much in Mastodon and my other bands that I don’t really block out time to write—if something comes to me while I’m jamming and it sticks with me, I’ll generally try recording it. But if I forget the riff or idea, then it probably wasn’t meant to be.”

Brent Hinds on writing for “The Hunter” (via Premier Guitar)

Check out the tab here.

Blood and Thunder

“The story of Moby Dick paralleled the lives of the four dudes in Mastodon so much, it was too easy for us to pick and pull similarities to Captain Ahab’s character and the pursuit of the whale, and the dedication, persistence and sacrifice… The longevity of his trip was almost like what we’ve done in our band for the past five years. So we just thought it would be cool to do something themed-not a direct concept album- but something themed with water and creatures, which we’re all fascinated with.”

Mastodon made their mark on the metal scene with 2004’s “Leviathan.” It was the moment the band dropped the concept album, based on Moby Dick, that the public realized they weren’t your run-of-the-mill metal act.

And, what better way to introduce that album than with what is probably the band’s signature riff: “Blood and Thunder.” Crushing, epic and downright mean sounding, it was an instant classic in 2004 and remains so to this day.

Check out the tab here.

What are your favourite Mastodon riffs? Let us know in the comments!

 



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Hello fellow Roadie fans, and welcome to the ultimate guide to guitar tuning! It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro or have never seen a guitar before — this guide covers it all.

Frederik Nielsen
May 8, 2019 . 8 min read

Whether you are a beginner or have some experience with guitars, you still may be wondering how to tune a guitar perfectly.

Alain Abou Atmeh
May 2, 2019 . 4 min read

Alternate tunings make life as a guitarist a bit more interesting, as it’s easy to get tired of just being famous all the time. That’s why we cover alternate tuning

Frederik Nielsen
May 1, 2019 . 5 min read

Ice-T is a legend. Not only can he claim to be the Godfather of Gangsta Rap, but he’s also very convincing as a TV cop.

Frederik Nielsen
May 1, 2019 . 3 min read

Keith Richards, half man, half cigarette, is the legendary guitarist of The Rolling Stones. Having been in the game for as long as he has,

Frederik Nielsen
Apr 30, 2019 . 3 min read

Drop D tuning is an awesome tool. If you want to write a guitar riff with heaviness, heft and grit, it’s great to have it in your tuning arsenal.

Alec Plowman
Apr 24, 2019 . 3 min read

The variety of guitars available goes far beyond acoustic or electric. From its humble beginnings as a lute,

Natalie Hagen
Apr 13, 2019 . 1 min read

Everyone loves a bit of bluegrass, and the wonderful sound of a mandolin that always comes with it. Personally, bluegrass reminds

Frederik Nielsen
Apr 1, 2019 . 3 min read

“Black Hole Sun” 

After mishearing a news anchor, Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell wrote “Black Hole Sun” in about 15 minutes

Alain Abou Atmeh
Feb 5, 2019 . 4 min read

14 years ago, the guitar world lost a legend. On December 8th 2004, a crazed fan killed Dimebag Darrell onstage.

Alec Plowman
Dec 9, 2018 . 4 min read

How many alternate tunings are there for guitar? A s#$%load. Here are some of the resources I’ve come across when surfing

Frederik Nielsen
Oct 8, 2018 . 3 min read

We all know that the best way to practice guitar is to put the hours in. But, sometimes, even the best of us need some guitar playing motivation

Alec Plowman
Sep 30, 2018 . 4 min read

So you’ve mastered your ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Hotel California’ and are feeling confident enough to step out of your room and

Ziad Saliba
Sep 12, 2018 . 5 min read

Today we’re going to listen to some John Fahey — old, but gold. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the Open C alternate tuning.

Frederik Nielsen
Sep 9, 2018 . 3 min read

Ah, good ol’ distortion lines! As someone once said: “There’s no such thing as too much distortion”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Alexis Baydoun
Aug 30, 2018 . 5 min read

Every guitar player has their favorite artist they look up to- a lead guitarist that outshines even the singer. You can understand the artistry that goes

TakeLessons
Aug 19, 2018 . 1 min read

Today, we’re going to have a look at borrowed chords, and the flat-six chord more specifically. Don’t know what either of those are?

Frederik NIelsen
Aug 13, 2018 . 4 min read

This week, “Vicious,” the new record from Halestorm has featured heavily on the Roadie office playlist. If you’ve

Alec Plowman
Aug 10, 2018 . 3 min read

Musicians like Joni Mitchell are a dying breed. Although I’m not big on folk myself, I have a soft spot for Joni.

Frederik Nielsen
Aug 8, 2018 . 3 min read

When you’re starting out learning the guitar, lead work can sometimes seem overwhelming. Riffs? Fine. Chord progressions?

Alec Plowman
Jul 30, 2018 . 3 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!