Sometimes I think it’s great that Mastodon is free from the shackles of the concept album, having completed their “Elemental” 4-album stint with 2009’s Crack The Skye. Other times I am not so sure because albums like The Hunter come about. While The Hunter is a great album, it’s still hard to wrap my head around in the grand echelon of Mastodon supremeness. Great songs but a little directionless.
The same can not be said about their upcoming album, though. Once More ‘Round The Sun sees Mastodon at another pinnacle in their illustrious career thus far. Is there a concept in here? There’s always a concept in there somewhere but regardless, OMRTS is the greatest collection of songs Mastodon has ever put together and quite possibly their strongest album since Leviathan (Gasp!).
The riffs are greater, the singing is stronger, and the production is dirtier (Thanks to the indomitable Nick Raskulinecz). From the get go, OMRTS is seemingly so full of life and new found energy as the acoustic opening of “Tread Lightly” transmorgifies into one of the most powerful guitar assaults Mastodon has ever conceived filled with riff after humongous riff and vocal harmonies that are out of this world (Thanks to drummer Brann Dailor who’s taken on a more active role vocally). This is just the beginning, people! It gets so much better from here.
Dailor takes center stage on “The Motherload” and bares all with a masterful lead vocal performance coupled with the insane fills he ravages throughout. If anything, OMRTS sees a band that was already seemingly the best get even better. At everything. Dailor has really developed as a singer with a style that’s somewhere between Ozzy and Dio. It doesn’t make sense when you read it, but hearing it is fantastical. Meanwhile, guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds are unstoppable machines here apparently saving the most colossal riffage and sweetest solos for this album. Let’s not forget Troy Sanders, fresh from his stint with Max Cavalera and Greg Puciato in Killer Be Killed, who is absolutely on point during “Feast Your Eyes” with a thunderous yowl that guides the most balls out rocker Mastodon has ever written and performed.
If you were enticed to buy Once More ‘Round The Sun solely on singles “Chimes At Midnight” and “High Road” then this is the gift that keeps on giving. I know that Faith No More weren’t the first to use a cheerleader-style chant in a song but hearing the dazzling conclusion of “Aunt Lisa” (“Hey, Ho, Let’s Fucking Go! Hey! Ho! Let’s get up and rock and roll!”) inevitably brings back fond memories of “Be Aggressive”. And what new Mastodon record would be complete without the token appearance from Neurosis’ Scott Kelly who rears his head on the lengthy and sinister closer “Diamond In The Witch House”.
While 2014 has yet to conclude, I don’t see any reason why Once More ‘Round The Sun shouldn’t take the crown for “Metal Album of the Year” home now. Remaining metal acts with releases slated for July 1st and beyond: Consider yourselves warned!
Once More ‘Round The Sun is out on June 24th. Pre-orders are available here.