Monday, 16 June 2014

Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun Review

Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun [Sludge]

Was tempted to add one extra star for the album art alone

After the disappointing The Hunter, Mastodon immediately redeem themselves with their latest. Well, nearly.

Good things first; the music is direct and immediate. Some punchy production (but not as great as Blood Mountain) here. The band only saves their progressive passages for the bridge in every song, which is kinda bland, but hey, being accessible isn't a bad thing. There are a lot more guitar solos on this album than I remember in any of Mastodon's albums. The emphasis on this album is catchiness, and most of the songs deliver in that aspect. The band manages to maintain its progressive flair in its instrumentation despite the made-for-pop-radio song structures, and I think that is quite a remarkable feat.

Now the bad, goddamn are those vocals atrocious. Their disability to keep a tune on their own choruses is somewhat embarrassing. The album would have been infinitely better if it were instrumental. There could at least have been screaming instead of heavily autotuned vocals that still fail to deliver. Also, when viewed in the band's context, this is still very far from their best work. I am not against the direction of the band; Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye sound so different from one another but are both considered some of the best metal albums of this century. This album tries to combine the elements of speed and aggression from the former and the spacey atmosphere of the latter, which makes for a rather inconsistent listen rather than a mind-bending one (especially with the heavy sludgy guitar tone). There are instances where the elements go hand in hand ('The Motherload', 'Chimes At Midnight', 'Feast Your Eyes') but also many times when the songs completely halt the pace of the album. One example is the curiously slow 'Asleep In The Deep', a very uncharacteristic song by Mastodon. Some may love it but I wasn't completely sold on this track.

Still, this ain't a terrible album by any means. There are some really good songs here, and this might have been the album they were trying to create with The Hunter. 'The Motherload' is one hell of a tune. 'Aunt Lisa' seriously throws back to the older days of the band, with some really unexpected curveballs. The closer 'Diamond In The Witch House' ends the album in a relatively strong note.


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