Reviewed by Adam Smith
Mastodon are one of the most celebrated bands in metal, breaking down genre boundaries and reinventing the wheel over the course of several albums in their storied career.
Metal, post-rock, prog-metal, sludge? Depending on which song is being played, the Atlanta heavyweights can be described as any of the above and it’s this bold experimentation that has turned them into one of the most revered alternative acts in the world today.
Troy Sanders and co have been open about their desire to bring their breed of metal to the masses, provoking apprehension within their core fan base. Fears that the troupe have strayed into Foo Fighters territory could not be further off the mark, though. Once More ‘Round The Sun is a continuation of the sound developed on The Hunter, completing Mastodon’s transformation from cult heroes to arena-ready rock titans.
Album opener, Tread Lightly is the perfect introduction to the new Mastodon. Soaring riffs, mind-bendingly complex drumming and ghostly melodies mesh to create a truly inimitable, epic sound. Lead single, High Road, epitomises the new direction. It’s catchy while still encapsulating the band’s musical expertise and distinctive vibe.
Aunt Lisa will perhaps be the most divisive track here, solely due to its frankly bizarre cheerleader chants. Remember mOBSCENE by Marilyn Manson? It may work for theatrical rockers, but the shoe just doesn’t fit with Mastodon. Whether it was included ironically or not, it’s one of the few creative missteps on this scintillating album.
Ember City is a contender for the best Mastodon song ever made, juxtaposing a catchy chorus with haunting riffs to great results. It evolves from a chorus-led track into a masterful jam session and back again. Halloween follows a similar formula, closing in a whirlwind of solos and ferocious drumming. Rather than conforming to the boundaries of mainstream rock, Mastodon are absolutely decimating them.
Once More ‘Round The Sun may include some of Mastodon’s most radio-friendly moments yet, but there’s nothing here more accessible than Curl of The Burl from The Hunter. Will this album appease prog fans yearning for a return to the Crack The Skye sound? Probably not. Could it elevate Mastodon to unprecedented new heights? It would be a disgrace if it didn’t.