Ladies and gentleman, Mastodon is back. After the weird, incoherent and hectic One More ‘Round the Sun, their new LP seems like a fresh breath of great, hard, intense ideas, while maintaining modern, dark The Hunter-like sound.
At first, I didn’t like the singles at all. They seemed to be imitative, to be the same old ideas Mastodon counted on since their debut. And oh my, how wrong I was. When you put them into context of whole LP, they fit so well. Emperor of Sand is a gloomy, murky album. It’s full of anxiety, dissonances, angst and beautiful melodies, which highlights those former features. I had similar impression while listening to The Hunter, but here it seems to be even more vivid, contrasting, heart-wrenching and terrifying. Yes, it is all we could wish for.
While on Crack the Skye Mastodon wanted to add some King Crimson to their sound; on The Hunter they became heavier and darker; on One More… punk-ish?; on Emperor of Sand they added a lot of their own version of old-school Appetite of Destruction. And it fits more than I could ever expected.
The only thing I found not appealing about Mastodon’s latest LP is its length. It’s just too long to be fully comprehended. There’s too much going on there. It felt right in case of a conceptual Crack the Skye or more structured The Hunter, but here it’s just a set of good songs that are listed just as they fit the best. This lack of structure and sometimes overwhelming amount of information can be a little bit startling.
Despite that, Emperor of Sand seems to me as one of the most accessible set of songs by Mastodon. As an album is not as stunning as their progressive masterpiece Crack the Skye, but it really is a close competitor when it comes to The Hunter. It’s more glam, rushing, sometimes even pop, but also very heavy and does not abandons progressiveness. This could be considered as entry-level Mastodon album for listeners, who likes to listen to some great metal songs – maybe not whole albums in one take, but to find a magnificent imagination, variety, and metal ideas.
Listen to: Sultan’s Curse, Steambreather, Roots Remain, Jaguar God