Monday, March 20, 2017

Mastodon : "Emperor of Sand"

Living in Atlanta it's hard to gauge just how big of a deal a new album from Mastodon is outside of the microcosm here. It feels like more of a fully realized vision that the past two albums.
"Sultan's Curse" doesn't find the band returning to the death tinged sludged fury of "Remission", but they do deliver what fans of the band have come to expect from them over the years. When I say "Show Yourself" is the band's poppiest song yet, it's not disparaging considering I love Taylor Swift, and this is one of my favorite songs on the album. To their credit it is poppy in the same way as Queens of the Stoneage can be. there is a really good groove to "Steambreather" . Brann seems to get the spotlight on the vocals for this one, and is a little more soulful of a vocal than I typically expect from him. "Roots Remain" finds Sanders more typical baritone bellow doing a call and response with the drummer's now more soulful tenor. While this song is not prog in the same way the term once described the kind of mathy ventures they embarked on. There are now longer passages that defy the formulaic arrangement motif, with guitar solos sprouting out around them.

They get more metallic on " Word to the Wise". It's concise and a more straight forward rocker than most on this album. The guitar solo finds a section where you find they have more room to stretch out and dig into their playing. There is a more prog metal tendency on "Ancient Kingdom" which also recalls others songs from other albums. I think they are had already raised the bar higher for themselves by the time we get to this song. Some of the mathy riffs that seemed like they were missing earlier in the album crop up in the more upbeat "Clandestiny". While there is nothing new the vocal trade off, everything fits really well on a melodic level. Two minutes in things the break down further shine light on their prog tendencies. There is a robotic voice that being to murmur. "Andromeda" which eventually features a guest vocal from Kevin Sharpe of Brutal Truth, has a heavier under current to it. The vocal hook plays out nicely on the chorus and there is a well balanced blend of the elements you expect from these guys.

 The obligatory appearance of Scott Kelly happens on "Scorpion Breath". Kelly's performance is more of a metal growl than anything we have heard recently from Neurosis. "Jaguar God' might be the band's first power ballad. It's a half a shade darker than the bulk of the album and takes me back toward some of the more compelling moments of "Crack the Skye" which likely the album I got the most repeat listens to. The signature angular picking of Brent Hinds is allowed to take center stage midway into the song when things pick up. Overall this might be the band's best album since "Crack the Skye" so it will be making the much envied trip over to my iPod and then I will see how it stands the test of time. For now I'll round it up to a 9.5 as some of the songs that didn't hook me in as strongly as the groovier poppier numbers still have room to grow on me.

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