Before you do anything, take a close look at the track listing above. If a lot of it looks familiar, you probably already own the out-of-print "Lifesblood" EP — and only you can decide if four more early tracks, for a total of 28 minutes of music, is worth shelling out full price for.
But let's assume for a moment that, like most people, you've been bowled over by the ferocious, subterranean math/myth metal assault of MASTODON, and as they look to the future and an improbable major label deal, you're peering into the mists of the past. What you find here, on the band's first venture into the studio, will be familiar to you — Brann Dailor was already a freaking god of over-the-top drumming and fills that flow like choppy water over rapids, and Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher and Troy Sanders already had their strange, ferocious avalanche-of-riffing style well developed.
Songs here are a lot thrashier, with more quirky blast beat parts, sections where things are slightly less refined, more likely to maniacally grind for two minutes (see "We Built This Come Death") than to embark on a shambling, shaggy album side of an adventure. There's a mania to this older stuff that's refreshing to hear after being away from it for a while, but it's definitely a primal-ooze version of the same MASTODON that's made such a dent in the music world – you'll know who it is within seconds, it's just a slightly more raw, ham-fisted antecedent.
The production isn't quite the massive wall-of-doom you're used to, either, but there again, there's a ragged edge to it, the same sort of clattery, caffeinated mania that fueled no-budget classics like "Dimension: Hatross" (that's VOIVOD, kids). It all boils down to an intangible quality you can just as easily call "hunger" as anything else – this is the sound of a band working day jobs, playing squats in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia, cobbling together this apocalyptic vision of epic clusterbomb metal, without having the slightest idea whether it would even work, much less that it would take them to at least the semblance of a musical career. This is MASTODON getting its sea legs as a band, facing the gale, and going after that fucking whale with a lunatic vengeance.
Do you need it? Shit yes, you do. Convince some uber-collector nerd to buy your copy of "Lifesblood" to finance the purchase, if necessary.