Monday, September 15, 2014

Mastodon - Once More Round the Sun (2014)
Mastodon, one of metal's most loved bands, created quite a stir with 2011's "The Hunter" which saw the band turn away from the technical songwriting and harsh vocals present on their previous four albums in favor of a catchy, almost traditional metal sound. On their latest offering, "Once More Round the Sun," Mastodon creates a sort of compromise between these two extremes. Each song is catchy, yet intricately arranged and visceral. Based around the band members' life experiences, this album is one that only Mastodon could have made. It retains their core psychedelic, progressive sound while maintaining a high degree of accessibility that is sure to rope in countless new acolytes.

Cuts such as "High Road" and "The Motherload" are as bombastic as one would expect from the band that made the epic "Crack the Skye." But while they are bombastic, the band's fundamental approach to songwriting has changed since their early days. Rather than write from a structural perspective, they let the songs flow naturally and stick closer to their 70's roots (i.e. Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy etc.) For example, "High Road" assaults you with a Godzilla-esque riff while "The Motherload" works its way into your brain with its infectious (to put it mildly) chorus. "Halloween" is the technical tour-de-force of the album yet the overall vibe is much more lighthearted than the fiery aggressiveness of, say, "Remission"-era Mastodon. Perhaps the weakest point of the album is "Diamond in the Witch House" which, before I listened to it, had me excited to hear Scott Kelly's latest collaboration with the band, but left me disappointed. It's certainly not a bad track; it simply lacks the focus and precision of the album's other songs.

That minor criticism aside, "Once More Round the Sun" is the album that is sure to unite long-time fans and new fans alike (though fans who exclusively prefer "Remission" and "Leviathan"-era Mastodon are sure to be put-off.) It clearly proves that a band can sound more "commercial" while not sacrificing its core identity. Admittedly, I felt nervous that the Mastodon sound would be even more watered down after "The Hunter" which was enjoyable but nevertheless didn't sit quite right with me. However, my fears have been allayed and this album now stands just behind "Crack the Skye" as my favorite Mastodon album. If you're new to the band then this is the perfect album to get yourself acquainted with them and if you're already a fan who wasn't too keen on "The Hunter" then this will be a pleasant surprise. I for one couldn't have asked for any more.


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