Hey! Ho! Let's Fucking Go!
Mastodon are one of those bands who have this distinct ability of surpassing themselves at every turn. Once More 'Round The Sun is the band's sixth studio album and yet it feels so fresh, so innovative and genuinely brilliant. When Mastodon released The Hunter back in 2011 they themselves stated on many occasions that they felt like they'd be able to open up a lot more as they had released themselves of the 'shackles' behind constantly focusing on writing a concept album. A risky move, due to the fact that this is what brought them such success, but they were not wrong. The Hunter exceeded expectations much in the same way Once More 'Round The Sun will. If you really had to compare this album to something in their back catalogue, it feels like a hybrid of Crack The Skye and The Hunter - in your face tunes blended with huge soundscapes which makes for some truly addictive listening. Honestly you'll struggle to turn it off.
The album opens with a catchy, epic sounding Tread Lightly and as it moves into The Motherload you begin to fully grasp at what Mastodon were going for on this album. It's still chock full of punishing riffs and intricate madness, but there is this huge, almost classic rock, feel to some of the tunes. This is no small part to the ever increasing vocal duties for drummer Brann Dailor, whose clear vocals soar over the music seamlessly. Lead single off of the album High Road in particular feels like an old school Ozzy track. Even Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds get in on the 'soaring vocals' action. A criticism widely thrown at Mastodon are their vocal performances live, so it will be interesting to see how these translate on stage. Troy's performance on the album is particularly good, the bass lines rumble powerfully through each track and his vocals are absolutely on point. His excursion into Killer Be Killed has been nothing but a good thing it seems.
The band have produced a record which is different but not at all in a negative way - they've certainly explored their proggier side across the album so if you were hoping for an all out attack a la Leviathan you may be a little disappointed, but the album does still have its moments if this is what you were after. Feast Your Eyes sounds like a groove Metal track on acid, and some of the riffs and solos on Halloween are absolutely mind-boggling. The bizarre and eccentric Aunt Lisa is another highlight with the conclusion of the track sounding like a neurotic homage to The Ramones. Truly it's something you've just got to hear, it is a perfect example of the humour contained within the band.
This is an album which will polarise, there is no doubting that. But Mastodon have always been a band in Metal who refuses to allow themselves to be boxed in to any kind of sub-genre. Which sub-genre do Mastodon belong to in Metal? Who cares because they do what they do, and every time it is unique, brilliant and fresh.
It may take a few listens to get used to it, but there is no denying that Once More 'Round The Sun is yet another Mastodon masterpiece. Like with so much of their discography the more you listen to the album the more you pick up things, whether it be a delicate interchanging of riffs, a pummeling Brann Dailor drum fill or one of the many brilliant hooks and lyrics, the whole thing is just staggering.