Mastodon stand tall as one of the few bands that transcend the metal genre and appeal to a wide range of music fans from the indie world to classic metal-heads and those with a penchant for the more progressive and experimental end of the heavy music spectrum. On their sixth album in a dozen years they bring together all the disparate elements of their musical make-up, from the pummelling thrash gallops to the psych and pop-laden rock songs, in the process delivering their most cohesive and representative album to date.
Lead single ‘High Road’ set a high standard ahead of the album’s release and though it is one of the highlights it sits in excellent company with the rest of the album. It is a relentless journey through mazes and roller coasters of shredding riffs and avalanche drumming that gives the album a bristling momentum. When the dust momentarily clears and the quieter moments appear, like the mid-paced ‘Asleep In The Deep’ and closer ‘Diamonds In The Witch House’, it feels like a chance to gather breath before the brutal onslaught resumes. At nearly an hour long it is a record that is both exhausting and exhilarating.
The moments that standout tend to be those that take a sideways step from the metal template. There is the ridiculous drum intro to ‘The Motherload’, the Faith No More-ish gang chant on ‘Aunt Lisa’ and the positively cheerful, sparkling central riff on ‘Feast Your Eyes’. All subtle elements yet central to making Mastodon such a fascinating band. The other evolution on this album is their ability to forge such a visceral, surging tension in many of the songs’ verses and then taking it to another level in the chorus. ‘High Road’, the epic soar of ‘Ember City’ and the monolithic grandeur of ‘Tread Lightly’ are all prime examples of the vocals on Once More ‘Round The Sun being a major step up for the band.
Modern metal might get bogged down in its own sub-genres but Mastodon are one of a number of bands still combining new and polymorphic sonic angles to expand the ever-popular world of loud, heavy and intelligent rock music.
this review was first published on FasterLouder