ALBUM: ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN
GENRE: HARD ROCK
Mastodon is a band from Atlanta, Georgia that have displayed multiple styles in their music, ranging from intense sludge metal to more accessible, prog-driven rock. Once More ‘Round the Sun is their upcoming sixth studio album under Reprise Records. The album is due for release on June 24th, 2014.
Fans of Mastodon are well aware of the constant evolution throughout their discography, from the sludgey days of Leviathan, up to the more accessible and prog-rock-esque The Hunter. The band has never made the same album twice, and with that constant evolution and some monumental releases (such as the aforementioned Leviathan) there is always an ample amount of hype and a set standard of expectations for a new Mastodon release. 2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun continues on the same hard rock-oriented path that was followed by The Hunter, but refines the sound and, as a whole, comes out as a very cohesive album. Not only that, but this record is massive, and having met (and possibly exceeded) the expectations, it is easily one of the best releases of 2014 thus far.
Once More ‘Round the Sun hits all of the sweet spots. With some very infectious melodies coming from not only the guitars, but the singing is always spot on as well, accompanied by some very fierce bass riffs and an onslaught of powerful drumming. There are a plethora of memorable moments from this record, with little room to leave the listener bored or underwhelmed. The riffs brought here are so incredibly catchy yet at times feel like a full-on nuclear assault, devastating everything they set out to, and that can mostly be attributed to how focused and articulated this album truly is. The flow from song to song feels organic and natural, and is incredibly inviting as well. Despite how punishing and relentless some of the grooves here are, they are still so pristine and slick that they’re impossible to ignore or forget. This is, ostensibly, Mastodon’s most accessible release to date, but that doesn’t take away the fire from the groovy riffs or the fury in the many fills and patterns.
Opener ‘Tread Lightly‘ sets the stage for the rest of the album as guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher introduce some absolutely monstrous riffs and melodies that feel so in sync with the workout that Brann Dailor gives his set of toms. Somewhat in the background, though clearly audible, is Troy Sanders ripping through the rhythm section with his bass guitar, with a very thick and pummeling intensity. This track also contains one of the most memorable hooks on the album (“Open your eeeyes!”), with Sanders’ melodious roar interspersed among some catchy melodies and a solo that gradually feels more beautiful and intense with every note. The way his voice melds with the ferocity of the guitars feels almost cataclysmic, a beautiful intensity that encapsulates Once More ‘Round the Sun‘s mood and attitude perfectly.
Even the more relatively subdued tracks, being ‘Asleep in the Deep‘ and ‘Ember City‘, feel gargantuan despite lacking the same heaviness found on tracks such as ‘Tread Lightly‘ and ‘Chimes at Midnight‘. ‘Asleep in the Deep‘, perhaps implied by the name, gives the feeling of swimming deep down into the depths of the sea and admiring the natural order of creatures of the sea and ‘Ember City‘ has much more space-like atmosphere with what feels like an intergalactic solo which takes the song to new heights. Along with the solo, this track also contains another incredibly memorable vocal melody by Dailor. When Once More ‘Round the Sun isn’t unleashing some pulverizing riffs and fills, it is treating the listener with a vast and soothing atmosphere that feels very open and wondrous.
Once More ‘Round the Sun manages to showcase a very infectious yet relentless side of Mastodon, and the songwriting is also very exceptional, although these traits can’t take away the bit of top-heaviness that this album displays. ‘Feast Your Eyes‘ fails to stand out as it follows the same formula as most of the songs here, although doesn’t come off as interesting or as memorable. ‘Halloween‘ is another track that feels a bit tired, as it twists and turns in many directions yet can’t maintain an exciting vibe or atmosphere. Some of the grooves and riffs on this track are good, but they inevitably fail to stick as much as some of the riffs on many of the preceding tracks. ‘Aunt Lisa‘ is, initially, a very interesting track, though somewhat loses its luster in the last minute where a woman is chanting “Hey! Ho! Let’s f**king go!”. Thankfully, the aforementioned ‘Ember City‘ and closer ‘Diamond in the Witch House‘ save the last half of this album a lot of grace.
‘Diamond in the Witch House‘ is incredibly reminiscent of Mastodon’s sludgier days, yet melds very well with the style that they portray through every track preceding this one. It is an ominous, haunting, and foreboding ending to this album that, while not quite perfect, does almost everything right. Once More ‘Round the Sun is a beautiful album by Mastodon, with a large appeal to those who might be into heavier music, as well as those who are looking for a more accessible hard rock endeavor. This isn’t Mastodon pushing the envelope or doing something incredibly experimental or outside of the box, this is Mastodon refining the sound that has been present for a few years now, and it is only inches away from perfection.