Review Summary: Wonderful in the most unfamiliar ways.
Before I start, I'd like to get two things out of the way. First, I'm a huge fan of Mastodon's work, and would generally regard their sophomore album "Leviathan" as one of the defining metal albums of the century. Second, this album is nothing like anything Mastodon has released before, and therefore comparing them has no point. To truly form an opinion about this album, it's necessary to view it as an individual effort rather than expecting something similar to Mastodon's earlier work. Their sound has evolved, and while some might long for the sludge-inspired days of the early 2000s, this album is the clear next step in Mastodon's evolution into a more progressive, hard rock-ish band.
But, is that necessarily a bad thing? Absolutely not. In fact, for what it is, this is a fantastic album. If you actually take a moment and look at it as a hard rock album, nothing more and nothing less, instead of dwelling in the past and expecting "Leviathan Part 2," you'll almost certainly find it to be a wonderful listen. "The Motherload," the second song on the album, has possibly the catchiest chorus of any Mastodon song thus far, and proves to be an incredibly enjoyable hard rock experience reminiscent of early Ozzy Osbourne.
Other recommended songs include "Tread Lightly," the titular track, and the wonderfully unique "Aunt Lisa,"an ode to drummer Brann Dailor's "wild" aunt. However, with that being said, there's not a single "bad" song on the album, and every song feels necessary in its own way.
The only legitimate fault I can find with this album would be the lyrics. While not alarmingly poor, they lack a common theme, and can seem somewhat out of place on a Mastodon record. The lyrics are more comparable to your average classic or arena rock music than one would expect, though they match the band's new sound quite well, and are therefore passable at the very least.
When a band switches up their style, it's usually cause for alarm among fans, and this is no exception. Yet, this time, it actually works. Sure, OMRTS is nothing like any of Mastodon's earlier work, but it doesn't strive to be. It knows it's just as good, but in a completely distinct way.
This is a hard rock album, plain and simple. And a damn good one at that.