Holy shit! Now that’s what I’m fucking talking about! 2014 has started off a bit slower than 2013 with regard to great heavy metal albums. Over the past month, the quality has begun to pick up big time, but I have still been waiting for that one album to come and totally blow my socks off. Well it’s finally here and I can’t get enough of it. The sixth album from progressive metal veterans, Mastodon, could easily be described as a masterpiece. I have enjoyed some of the band’s past material, but never to this level. When the band began to branch out further from their progressive sludge comfort zone with 2009’s Crack The Skye, this is when I seriously began to take notice. Mastodon evolved even more with 2011’s The Hunter and now everything has fully come together with their newest release Once More ‘Round The Sun.
Moving further away from sludge metal has allowed the band to mix in faster paced songs that border on thrash. The quicker pace has also brought about more experimentation with guitar shredding on songs such as “The Motherload”, “Feast Your Eyes”, “Aunt Lisa” and “Ember City”. Now this is not mathcore level shredding by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly a deviation from their pre-2009 works. The album is also chock full of catchy hooks and choruses that you can’t help but groove out to. “The Motherload” stands out as one of the catchiest of the bunch.
Now if you are a fan of the band’s old school sound, do not fret. There is plenty of Mastodon’s signature psychedelic sludge sound. The band’s first single from the album, “High Road”, is excellent classic Mastodon complete with a plodding pace and excellent raspy vocals courtesy of Troy Sanders. “Asleep In The Deep” is another sludgy outing featuring perfect lead guitar overlay and a very trippy solo. The best of the slower paced songs would definitely have to be the album’s final track, “Diamond in the Witch House”. This is a long, almost eight minute epic with an acoustic open, trudging bass, heavy and grimy guitars and a very acid rock style lead guitar riff.
In addition to the mix of fast and slow pacing on Once More ‘Round The Sun, there are also a plethora of well written and catchy grooves. “Chimes At Midnight” and “Aunt Lisa” are two of the best examples of this newer wrinkle to the band’s sound. If you are looking for the ultimate head bobbing opportunity, look no further than “Ember City” with its great fast thrash/groove arrangement and crazy great vocals. Speaking of vocals. For those of you, like myself, that have always preferred the vocals of Troy Sanders over those of guitarist Brent Hinds and drummer Brann Dailor, you are in luck. The new album contains a heavy dose of Sanders fronted songs.
As usual the progressive elements are top notch. I would expect nothing less from such accomplished writers and musicians the likes of Sanders, Hinds, Dailor and second guitarist Bill Kelliher. The time signatures all work perfectly and never sound overdone or out of place. “Halloween” is definitely the most progressive and may contain the best musicianship of all the offerings on the new album. This is a song that is heavily bass and lead guitar driven with constant time changes and a seamless mixing of paces. Of all the great musical work from the band, the heavy and perfectly played bass lines from Troy Sanders definitely stand out the most.
Once More ‘Round The Sun literally does not have any weaknesses. This is one that I recommend listening to all the way through and it is one of those albums that you can enjoy right off the bat. You can listen to this one over and over again without ever getting board because you pick up something different with each subsequent listen. Having said that, it is truly difficult to pick out my favorite tracks, but I am certainly willing to try. The opener, “Tread Lightly” is a faster paced song with a catchy bridge and amazing ending solo. This is an absolute perfect way to start the album. As I mentioned above. “The Motherload” may have the catchiest sing along refrain on the album. “Chimes At Midnight” is extremely groovy and represents one of the heavier offerings on the album. “Feast Your Eyes” and “Ember City” border on more thrashy arrangements with excellent guitar solos and shred undertones. These are definitely my favs, but you truly cannot go wrong with any song on the album.
Mastodon’s latest effort continues to show off the band’s evolution and is easily their most complete and well rounded album to date. This is the type of album Rush had in mind when they began mixing hard rock and metal with progressive time signatures back in the 1970’s. It smoothly combines sluggish sludge riffs, thrashier songs, catchy grooves, great hooks and spectacular vocal harmonies while retaining all the progressive elements and excellent musical play that makes Mastodon so great. Once More ‘Round The Sun has easily and quickly shot its way into consideration for the best metal album of 2014 so far. This is a great album that both Mastodon fans and others who never quite identified with the band will absolutely love. It’s nice when a band can make experimentation and evolution work for them. Too many times bands either stick with a sound for too long or they move in a new direction that never really works out. With the new album, Mastodon has found the perfect combination of new and old. Whether you have previously been a Mastodon fan or not, make sure you do not miss out on one of the best releases of the year.
Once More ‘Round The Sun will release on June 24th. Take a listen and tell give us your opinion on the album? Is this their best album yet or do you like one of their others better?