Mastodon
Emperor of Sand


4.0
excellent

Review

by TalonsOfFire STAFF
March 28th, 2017 | 1636 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Mastodon are back in full force with a classic metal edge and subtle hints at their past.

Mastodon are one of the most reliable, consistent bands still pushing the boundaries of what prog rock and heavy metal can be. Like many groups who enjoy continual mainstream success, they flirted with these developments while never compromising their sound or slowing down experimentations. Their latest, Emperor of Sand, has it all: catchy choruses, shredding guitar riffs and solos, and a weighty concept to allow for surprisingly emotional moments to shine through. Guitarist Bill Kelliher described Emperor of Sand as “a continuation of the last record,” which might be downplaying this beast for a number of reasons. Not only being a return to concept albums of old, … Sand sports their strongest riffs and beefiest sounding compositions since Crack the Skye.

Some fans have prematurely dubbed this as a return to those psychedelic, mind-bending metal jams of … Skye, but it does logically follow in the footsteps of more recent Mastodon records. This is most likely what Kelliher meant by his statement, as he also described … Sand as “deeper.” The most adventurous tracks on here do reach the lofty heights of previous epics, but this is primarily a blazing metal record of shredding riffs and classic metal tinged guitar leads. Many tracks have infectious choruses while also venturing into instrumental explorations. This is what modern Mastodon do best, and it’s difficult to imagine it sounding any better than on here. The music never stalls or feels tired, showing that Mastodon really are one of the most versatile metal bands currently making music.

They sound tighter and more consistent on Emperor of Sand than before, with not a subpar song to be found and a heady concept to allow for the songs to develop in unexpected, epic heights. This is the first concept album from Mastodon in nearly a decade, hinting at a return to the grandiose storytelling of older releases. It comes from a place of honoring the band member’s loved ones, while also grappling with one’s own mortality. Like all Mastodon records however, this has a sense of fun and controlled chaos throughout.

"Sultan’s Curse” energetically sets the stage for the protagonist’s mystical journey through sands of time, being among their most impactful album openers. The lyrics tell of the weary traveller, but the music has Mastodon sounding fresher than they have in years. This holds true for all of …Sand, with quicker cuts like “Precious Stones” and “Scorpion Breath” each packing a huge punch with dazzling guitar work while being among their shortest songs to date. Some tracks could go on even longer than they do, but it’s difficult to see this as a flaw when each one has so much going on.

Mastodon have always been massive sounding, and Emperor of Sand contains some of their most ambitious compositions yet. “Andromeda” sports a crushing main riff, but the song develops further beyond straightforward heaviness with spacier moments emerging as it goes. There are all kinds of subtle instrumental touches throughout … Sand overall, with the restrained use of piano in both album epics “Roots Remain” and “Jaguar God” adding to their emotional weight. The “Making of” videos for the album prove that the instrumentalists tried to create enough flourishes to add more dimensions to their ever-evolving sound.

The heavy guitar riffing, soloing, and incredible drumming remain at the forefront however, with Mastodon always knowing how to get the balance right. Guitar solos in particular are aplenty here, with the dual guitar harmonizing in “Precious Stones” recalling the likes of Iron Maiden and Death, while still sounding distinctly like Mastodon. There are so many strengths to Emperor of Sand that there is no point in remaining stuck with the mindset of what Mastodon used to be. They have embraced mainstream success in the best way that would be possible, by sticking to a high concept and shredding their way through an emotional backdrop while displaying their instrumental virtuosity amazingly.




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user ratings (886)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2017


16810 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

“Andromeda”



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ry7FStwey4

Digging: Tame Impala - Currents B-Sides & Remixes

Confessed2005
March 28th 2017


3890 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is cool on first listen. I enjoy everything the band have done but I don't think they will ever top Leviathan.

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Spacesh1p
March 28th 2017


7101 Comments


Need to check this given the hype.

Review is good but a bit long for me. I appreciate you describing the sound but sometimes it's overly detailed, in my opinion.

Digging: Deadbeat - Drawn and Quartered

Tunaboy45
March 28th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Excited to hear this, great review Ben.

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Titan
March 28th 2017


17982 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review Talons.....i see it the same way.....i swear i could 4.5 this



and yeah, those webisodes were a good watch



also, on another note, Sultan's Curse could easily fit on Crack The Skye

MeatSalad
March 28th 2017


17172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

best new music, smh boys. glad some can still enjoy these guys but their new sound is so fucking lifeless.

Titan
March 28th 2017


17982 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nah, this rocks hard

Confessed2005
March 28th 2017


3890 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I wouldn't say it is lifeless. It is definitely not as heavy but it is still musically interesting.

romulanrancor
March 28th 2017


7388 Comments


never even jammed this band really lol

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

BeyondCosby
March 28th 2017


1764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How did you get to hear it?

Sevengill
March 28th 2017


7412 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"How did you get to hear it?"

god, some people on this site are out of the loop...

necropig
March 28th 2017


3020 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

By the time he/she wrote that they could've searched yee auld internet and found the answer

Digging: Chaos Moon - Eschaton Mmoire

ScuroFantasma
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2017


10880 Comments


Nice review man, can't wait to hear this

Digging: Russkaja - Energia!

AdolfChrist
March 28th 2017


13034 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sounds like this will be a polarizing release.

Digging: Palehorse/Palerider - Burial Songs

Mythodea
March 28th 2017


4168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good review Talons, though I believe you don't mention the downsides much. Album is great and really packed with ideas. Andromeda, especially, is one of my favourites off this.

Sevengill
March 28th 2017


7412 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Really solid review (though I find the ...Titles far more distracting than just writing the whole name). I agree that the concept-album idea really ties this back to their strongest works.

Tunaboy45
March 28th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

waiting for that 5.0 acad review

Dewinged
March 28th 2017


6477 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

We are here! Shreeeeeeeeeeed!



Nice review Talons.



Digging: Motorpsycho - The Tower

MoosechriS
March 28th 2017


6138 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Looking forward to checking this out when it arrives.

sublimefan1991
March 28th 2017


811 Comments


Album art absolutely slays.



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