For Fans Of
Even in the seventeenth year of their career, Mastodon is at the stage where they’re considered arguably the most relevant and trailblazing acts in modern metal. This Atlanta quartet is widely known and loved for bringing their fusion of primordial, sludgy, hard-hitting metal with progressiveness and almost commercially catchy riffs. Now, teetering ever closer to their two-decade, they’ve created yet another masterpiece to add to their essentially flawless catalogue – ‘Emperor Of Sand‘.
Fans – metal fans, especially – are always quick to assume an entire record’s quality based on just one track, and when Mastodon dropped ‘Sultans Curse‘ two months prior to this album’s release, people were quite surprised. But much like every album that these prog-rock masters conjure up, you need to experience the entire record in its full complete form, from start to finish, to fully “get” it. Mostly because no matter how many times you listen to this heavy, masterful journey, there is always something new and interesting that you pick up on consecutive listens, like most of their other records.
Just like most of their other releases, each track on ‘Emperor Of Sand‘ is just pure awesomeness and filled with exciting guitar riffs plus magical explosions of sounds. In particular, ‘Roots Remain‘, ‘Jaguar God‘ and ‘Clandestiny‘ are, dare I say it, some of the band’s best songs to date, showing off their most technical and infectious attributes since the ‘Crack The Skye‘ era. However, lead single ‘Show Yourself‘, is the only weak song found here, with it really fitting in with the other tracks on offer. It just isn’t as complex nor as attention grabbing as many of the other, stronger tracks are, which I’ll chalk up as being a result of it’s overall simplicity and radio-friendly vibe.
Mastodon’s last album ‘Once More Round The Sun‘ left many people (myself included) a little unsatisfied, especially when it was following the incredible masterpiece that was ‘The Hunter‘. Yes, it was a solid outing from each of the veteran members, but it just lacked that certain… magic that you hear when experiencing a Mastodon album. This time they haven’t left any room for disappointment (well, save for ‘Show Yourself‘), delivering a cohesive collection of songs that fully explores the vast metal sound they’ve been slowly edging towards with each new record.
Furthermore, the things that I love the most about ‘Emperor Of Sand‘ is the potent combination of the ‘Crack The Skye‘ quality songwriting displayed and ‘Leviathan‘-era riffs that just sound monstrous; a perfect blend for any Mastodon fan.
We also see the return of two key elements that have helped garner Mastodon their legendary status over the years.
The first being enigmatic guitarist Brent Hinds solos, which sound larger and more shreddier (I know it’s not a real word, but it bloody should be) than ever before; as if he has found a new lease and it brings life and a pure rock sound that elevates their craft to utter brilliance. Drummer and vocalist, Brann Dailor, still continues to steal the show as his vocals improve with each new release, and he truly is the backbone of this band – both rhythmically and melodically. The second thing that I love dearly here being the trippy little instrumental interludes that first began back on ‘Crack The Skye‘, and here they set an engaging tone that takes you to another planet in-between being blown away by the sheer force of their groove-laden riffs.
‘Emperor Of Sand’ feels very much like a “Best Of” release from Mastodon, taking every single element that makes this band great and blending them all together to make a truly incredible album. The band’s continual push of the sonic envelope and development of their sound, whilst staying just outside of the mainstream is commendable. Few bands can sound accessible whilst also staying complex and crushingly heavy with their music. Although, admittedly, I can’t help but wonder what exactly would happen if they dropped the heaviness and the structured riffs and went full on proggy/spaced-out, because part of me does think that at this point, Mastodon is playing it kind of safe. Potential safety aside, Mastodon continues to knock it out of the park with one of their most powerful and overall impressive records to date.