Album of the Week 26-2014: Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun


Mastodon never ceases to surprise me. Despite the inaccessible nature of their psychedelic, progressive Sludge Metal, they’ve become one of the biggest name in the current Metal scene and – even more surprisingly – a welcome guest at many festivals. What is most amazing about them is that every album they release sounds different than its predecessor. Though ‘The Hunter’ didn’t really do anything new, it did strengthen their position as one of the more imaginitive contemporary Metal bands. ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’ does explore a new territory for the Mastodon sound; at times, it’s surprisingly melodic.

For those unfamiliar with the band: Mastodon’s fundament is made up from the violent Jazz rhythms of Brann Dailor – easily one of the best drummers in Rock music – with Troy Sanders’ tight bass playing keeping everything in line. On top of that, we have Hardcore-inspired Sludge riffs courtesy of guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher and three guys with decent voices; Hinds and Sanders primarily, but also Dailor. None of these guys has a fantastic voice, but they are suitable and since the playful rhythms, stomping riffs, spacious psychedelic passages, unpredictable structures and intricate guitar harmonies are so overwhelming, that’s hardly a complaint.

While ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’ is immediately recognizable as Mastodon due to all their trademark elements being in place, the album once again exceeds expectations due to to a higher dose of melody. The band hardly does any effort to hide that anyway; the opening salvo of ‘Tread Lightly’ and ‘The Motherload’ is surprisingly catchy by Mastodon standards. The first is a strong progressive Hard Rocker with a nice and dreamy chorus, while the latter is as a song quite possibly the most accomplished the guys have released so far; with memorable melodies and Hinds singing at his “Ozzy-est”, it’s a song you can just kick back to.

Other lighter highlights consist of the moving Progrock of ‘Asleep In The Deep’, which also contains one of the best guitar solos the band has ever recorded, the guitar harmony party that is ‘Ember City’, which has Mastodon’s most beautifully melodic chorus so far, and the surprisingly dreamy (given its title) ‘Halloween’, while fans of the more aggressive side of the band are served well by the Stoner Rock monster ‘Feast Your Eyes’, the delightfully brutal ‘Chimes At Midnight’ and the brilliantly titled dark epic ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ that closes the album. The awesome title track has a little bit of both, as does ‘High Road’. The vocal harmonies, by the way, are better than ever.

No, this isn’t better than the band’s 2009 psychedelic masterpiece ‘Crack The Skye’, but it’s about as close as it gets. No one who knows the band would have expected a part two of any of their albums and Mastodon does not disappoint: with ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’, the band once again expands their sound by exploring a different corner of their range. And that is exactly why Mastodon is one of the best bands in contemporary heavy music: they’re a band that keeps challenging itself. And that’s the only way to create such a string of albums that are so successful, both commercially and artistically.

Recommended tracks: ‘Tread Lightly’, ‘The Motherload’, ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’, ‘Feast Your Eyes’

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