Review Summary: Mastodon’s friendliest album yet sees them freer and more inspired than expected.
Mastodon have continually seen an abundance of praise and acceptance in the metal community, due to their unconventional blending of sludge metal and progressive rock. Their signature style could best be described as both mystical and relentless. 2011’s The Hunter
divided Mastodon’s fanbase, with some declaring they had abandoned their progressive insanity in favor of a more streamlined and conventional sound. The shorter song lengths and absence of distorted or growled vocals certainly didn’t help their case. It ended up being their most consistent and listenable release yet. The most interesting aspect of One More ‘Round The Sun
is Mastodon’s reluctant embrace of mainstream songwriting tropes. Much like The Hunter
, it sees Mastodon performing some light experimentation and unconventional songwriting in relatively conventional songs. Track lengths usually stay around the four-six minute length and rarely descend into technical guitar wankery. Consistency seems to be Mastodon’s recent focus, and this album is even tighter than The Hunter
in that regard.
One immediate difference found here is a heavy reliance on powerful choruses. Once More ‘Round The Sun
starts out strong with "Tread Lightly" and contains echoes of Leviathan
opener "Blood and Thunder." "The Motherload" follows suit and tops the opener by having one of their most melodic choruses they have ever recorded, topped only by "Ember City" later on. At some point during the writing process Mastodon figured out that the best song they ever wrote was "Oblivion." Half of the songs here try to replicate it, particularly the aforementioned "Ember City." While they obviously don’t reach the emotional weight of their best song, the attempt ends up with most of the album highlights. The change works for the most part, but unfortunately results in some truly weak moments, particularly lead single “High Road” and the outro chanting of “Aunt Lisa.” The missteps are few and far between though, with …Sun
representing an improvement from some inconsistencies of past albums.
"Asleep In The Deep" and "Halloween" are mid-tempo rockers that thunder along in technical guitar riffing and catchier qualities than on the earlier releases. Mastodon’s album closers were always an interesting discovery, being anything from the mystical prog jam "The Last Baron" of Crack the Skye
to the meditative "Pendulous Skin" from Blood Mountain
. "Diamond In The Witch House," clocking in at almost eight minutes long, is a corrosive doomy epic, and the most atmospheric of the album. Guest vocalist Scott Kelly’s tortured shouts fit the dissonant descending guitar riffs and tribal drumming, closing out another triumphant and surprisingly fun listen. A few riffs here and there begin to sound a little too familiar as the album plays out, but this quickly dissipates as this record reveals itself to be their most consistent and streamlined yet. One of the best aspects of …Sun
is how strong the songwriting is in a more mainstream sounding release. The choruses don’t sound like nothing, as they occasionally did in The Hunter
, and usually include large scale outros punctuated with classic heavy metal sounding guitar solos that shred their way to the end of almost half the tracks. Are they overused to cover up the absence of true uniqueness and mystical atmospheric textures the band were always known for? Maybe. But perhaps Mastodon felt the excessive sludgy intensity that had built their musical backdrop for so long had exhausted itself in favor of a more stripped back rockin’ approach, and the end result couldn’t be more satisfying.