Review Summary: Mastodon take the High Road, Once More ‘Round The Sun.
Mastodon has certainly developed a penchant for success. It’s like a stone rolling down a hillside, with each release the momentum builds, gaining speed. It started rather slowly with the group’s first releases (although the some-what instant cult following the band achieved in the early years would act as the push of the rock at the hill’s summit). Each release brought new success and new fans arguably culminating in Crack The Skye
, a progressive record with more of a focus on the psychedelic and flowing melodies than Mastodon’s trademark brand of sludge rock. The shift in sound was a rare best of both worlds for fans new and old. The album maintained all the usual Mastodon sensibilities that would hold the fans of their early days captivated, while the more accessible and less harsh realities of Crack The Skye
would bring many new fans to Atlanta band. For the rolling stone, the bottom of the slope seems nowhere in sight.
At this point it doesn’t really help to add background on The Hunter
and the years between then and now. The band more or less followed the same path and toned down some of the abstract soundscapes to make a record slightly flatter than its predecessor. Given the amount of success this Atlanta based group has had, the sound has progressed naturally without becoming stagnant in the process. Once More ‘Round The Sun
is a recreation of sorts without reinventing the group’s metaphorical wheel, becoming the band’s most accessible and mainstream studio effort to date. That’s not to say they have left themselves behind, rather it comes down to the natural progression of the band’s overall sound. Once More ‘Round The Sun
is far from a reinvention of anything the group has put out since the debut in 2002. Rather the sound has pushed on the bands internal boundaries, becoming all the more comfortable with the soundscape they present over ten years later.
Despite all the talk of an album being listener friendly, Once More ‘Round The Sun
maintains a certain Mastodon flair. In fact, the group’s 2014 release is easily the most coherent and consistent slab of music they’ve ever written. Tied together with punchy beats, sing-a-long phrases and infectious hooks (just check the title track for example), it’s no wonder Mastodon have the worldwide success they enjoy. For those with an ear for the instrumental dexterity presented throughout the record, you’ll notice that there’s a lot going on here. Once More ‘Round The Sun
is a flamboyant display of rushed beats and dancing tom fills, atmospheric crooning and some very able guitar leads. It takes multiple listens to fully absorb each and every aspect. Take the album’s closer for example; ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ might as well be from the Neurosis play-book but that doesn’t stop Mastodon from claiming supremacy (each member has proved their ability to meld themes into riffs, melodies and instantly catchy rhythms). If fans are looking for an older Mastodon sound in today’s music, this is the closest thing to pre-Blood Mountain
as Once More ‘Round The Sun
will get. Not that that’s a bad thing, Mastodon have certainly grown over the course of the last ten years, it’s important that there music grows as much as they do.
Overall, Once More ‘Round The Sun
is a welcome and highly enjoyable addition to the band’s catalogue, without conforming to modern day trends or forgetting the sounds they became famous for. With meticulous attention to detail, Mastodon has crafted one of the year’s highlights. It’s up-tempo, catchy and well… fun to listen to. Whether you’re a fan of new or old, there’s something to enjoy in Mastodon’s streamlined soundscape. It’s straight-forward but in no way is this a simple, bare bones approach to their progressive sludge. With Once More ‘Round The Sun
, Mastodon show they have a few trips left in them.