4 August 2014

Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun

The joy of re-reading your earlier attempts at doing a blog..... When I first started doing this, my blogs were like punk songs - short, sharp and to the point.  One of the earliest posts was 'Blood Mountain' (cleverly linked here) which I am placing on here so you can see how my style has changed.  But the first question I stated on that blog is still relevant today - When a band drops something that was part of their original identity, does that make them any less relevant?  Mastodon are not known for lying on their laurels, but I have to admit that after 'Crack The Skye', I sort of feel out with Mastodon.  Some much so that I am still to listen to 'The Hunter', I have heard many good reports about it but I have heard just as many bad reports.  This band still gets a lot of press and attention, but each time I have seen them they seem to lack something.  Maybe it is because they were in the process of morphing, but now it is time to see the results of the period away from their music for me.  'Once More 'Round The Sun' has been the second album by Mastodon to crack the US top ten in consecutive time with 'The Hunter' on its chart debut.  But many an album has made the top ten and turned out to be fool’s gold, is this the case here?

From the outset the change that was hinted at in those early albums and delivered half cooked on 'Crack The Skye'.  The album opener is called "Tread Lightly" and the prog elements of the band are in the driving seat, the riffs are of an epic proportion and it is all just a massive introduction to their new sound.  It is a mixture of that earlier aggression, but it does not rely on that the previous shouty vocals and almost hardcore delivery.  It is just breath taking; also it has one of the shortest and impressive solos I have heard for a while.  "The Motherload" is next and the band has become sort of like 'Pandemonium' period Killing Joke on this number, it has a Middle Eastern flavour to the sound.  It is also has a riff for the ages and it is nice to see a band take their formula and adapt it without forgetting where they have came from (see Mayhem, it is possible).  It is still miles away from their origins in some ways, such as with the clear vocals and the riffs whilst being unmistakably from the Atlanta legends, there is a clear sound which is totally unlike anything I have ever heard from them.  This is going to be a true classic number on their live show for years to come. "High Road" is another slice of rock that will have quite a lot of the fans who had left Mastodon for the vultures after 'Crack The Skye'.  It was the first single off the album and it does seem like a strange choice to be honest, it is not as accessible as the first two tracks, but it is a cracking number.

The title track is next and the energy level is picked up, it has that classic Mastodon feel with a sea of noise coming over the listener and all the aggression being played out in front of the listener to an exquisite moment.  It is such an improvement that you feel slightly annoyed when the song finishes that there is not more.  "Chimes At Midnight" is a slow starting number, which quickly descends into the sort of song that the band used to make on 'Leviathan'.  It was the second single to be released off the album, again it is not the one I would have went for myself, but it is another part of an brilliant picture that the band is slowly forming on this album.  "Asleep In The Deep" is a slower number that gives the audience a little rest bite (in a given sense of the word) and it shows that Mastodon has improved massively again in terms of song writing since I last listened to them.  Honestly, it might not be the best song on the album; but by deity is it such an improvement on 'Crack The Skye'.  "Feast Your Eyes" is the first song on the album which is not spectacular for me, it is a straight forward rocking number and is played very well; but the overall impression left on me is forgettable.

"Aunt Lisa" is another riff which could have easily been off one of Mastodon's earlier works, but there is a more prog influence on this one mixed up again with that Middle Eastern guitar worshiping that has became the bench mark of this album.  The female chanting of 'Hey, ho, let's fucking go' is also very catchy.  "Ember City" is another special track on this album for me; the groove that the band lays out here is up there with the best songs of the band's career.  If it was not for "The Motherload" it would have been the song of the album.  It is just hypnotic and so engaging that no sooner is it finished then I want to start it from the beginning again. "Halloween" continues this rich and exquisite vein of form.  It just sounds so easy for the band to just knock out each song with so little effort but you know that they have been honing their skills and it is with extreme dedication that works like this exist.  Ending the album is "Diamond In The Witch House" which has their usual contribution with Scott Kelly from Neurosis (I have met this man, easily one of the most scary dudes ever but what a gentleman).  It is the longest song on the album and it is also the perfect ending as well.  With the current sound of Mastodon being to form into a more accessible and far reaching noise that is approaching the promise of the early releases, it is nice to hear them with Scott Kelly sounding like a prog Neurosis.

To say I am blown away by this album is an understatement. The band have completely turned around from their sound from when I last heard them, so after I have finished this blog I will have a look at 'The Hunter' as well.  Maybe I am being hard on 'Cracke The Sky' but it was an album that just consigned the band to the past for me.  Even with all the pundits loving it and giving it album of the year, it was cold and distant.  This album however, this album is the polar opposite to that record.  This is a band who has hit their groove in a devastating form; it is almost perfect with only one track not quite reaching that high tide mark that this album will undoubtedly become in the future.  If this is the best they do, they will have left a remarkable album.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost

Top track - The Motherload 

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Mastodon website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for our Deezer users

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