October 22, 2014

Music Review: Mastodon

 

Once More ‘Round the Sun turns the page.

Music Review: Mastodon

It’s such an outlier for a band to expand their size and scope with every album that a band like Mastodon either gets marginalized or taken for granted. To say that the band's latest album, "Once More ‘Round the Sun," is a stunning piece of work with metal edge, psychedelic grooves and prog musicianship is par for the course is true, but it is also why Mastodon has emerged as the greatest metal band of the past decade. It’s also why they’ve been the most under-appreciated band of the decade.

There are two ways to listen to this new album: with ears old or new. If you’re new to the Mastodon oeuvre, "‘Round the Sun" shares a striking resemblance to 2011’s "The Hunter," which is 50-plus minutes of pulsing drums, riffs on riffs and vocals from the bowels of somewhere uninhabitable. Fans who bought early stock in Mastodon will certainly find this album enjoyable but will notice that long gone are the days when the band did concept albums based on Moby Dick or time travel by means of solar plexus.

Such a drastic change in attitude proved to be a backlash for a band like black album-era Metallica. There is no criticism with Mastodon because change has always been part of the band’s M.O. along with the music being really, really good. When Metallica released "Load" in 1996, the backlash was due in part to the band changing their sound and cutting their hair. It was largely based on Metallica taking riffs and scrapple and forcing them into something that could be a decent Metallica sound.

"Once More ‘Round the Sun" is a far cry from that. Songs like “Tread Lightly” and “Halloween” retain bassist Troy Saunders’ epic howls where “High Road” and the standout “The Motherload” not only have clean vocals but vocals sung well by band MVP, drummer Brann Dailor. That’s where you hear the difference between a band evolving compared to an artistic shift, maybe-kinda-sorta image based. The guitar work of Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds remain top notch as Kelliher delivers riff after riff and Hinds’ solos grow deeper and more intense with each take.

"Once More ‘Round the Sun" is a step forward for the band, as well as one of the year’s best releases.