Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

With their first concept album since 2009’s Crack the Skye, Mastodon return with an album born out of personal tragedy during the writing process. Bassist-vocalist Troy Sanders’, drummer-vocalist Brann Dailor, and guitarist Bill Kelliher have all been faced with loved ones battling cancer. However, they appear to dealing with their circumstances in the best way possible; the therapeutic quality of heavy metal. With a string of European festival dates lined up for the summer, fans could be in for something refreshingly deep and dynamic.

I often see Mastodon as having a sound which bridges the gap between classic and modern metal. Heavy riffs, gripping melodies and due attention to songwriting detail. ‘Sultan’s Curse’ is an intense piece of modern metal – a galloping main riff and melodic fills complete with a well-crafted solo to finish. This could definitely open their sets with a bang.

Concept aside, this is just a great metal album. They’ve put their own personal stamp on it as they always do, only with more emotion than before.

For a concept album set in a desert where the protagonist has been sentenced to death, it certainly stays true to the setting in the music. The likes of ‘Steambreather’ and ‘Andromeda’ are very thematic and theatrical as well as displaying Mastodon’s signature sludge metal intensity. In terms of the album’s tempos, riffs, melodies and solos they are anything but formulaic. Much like the unpredictable journey through a barren wasteland.

Concept aside, this is just a great metal album. They’ve put their own personal stamp on it as they always do, only with more emotion than before. The euphoric highs of ‘Ancient Kingdom’ and ‘Clandestine’ stand out for the sheer brilliance of Sanders’ vocal. That said, Dailor and Brent Hinds have their fair share of tremendous vocal moments on ‘Roots Remain’ and ‘Jaguar God’ respectively.

However, it’s ‘Scorpion Breath’ which steals the show for me. It’s a heavy guitar-driven track which, as well as featuring Neurosis’ Scott Kelly for a vocal cameo, offers the best guitar work on the album.
An album which could well be their best of the decade so far.


Noteworthy Details

Personal tragedy translated into gripping music about the passage of time
Heavy riffs, scintillating breakdowns and satisfying solos
Great vocal performances all round

 

Rating

8/10


Take a look “behind the scenes” of the creation of the album’s artwork…


Track List
1. Sultan’s Curse
2. Show Yourself
3. Precious Stones
4. Steambreather
5. Roots Remain
6. Word to the Wise
7. Ancient Kingdom
8. Clandestiny
9. Andromeda
10. Scorpion Breath
11. Jaguar God