Mastodon - Emperor of Sand
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia the prog-metal behemoth that is Mastodon unleash their most personal of albums upon the world and the metal scene at large. What first strikes you on first listen is the simple well produced 'weight' of the record, everything feels heavy and proggy. Opener (and first single) Emperors Curse starts with a galloping, fast paced, hypnotic riff before diving deep into Queens Of The Stone Age style riffing on second track Show Yourself. A furious one, two hit of tracks that leaves the listener wondering what treats are coming next.
Talking of personal, the album is permeated and poetically referenced by the cancer diagnosis of drummer Brand Dailor's mother.
"At the end of the story, the person simultaneously dies and is saved," Dailor said in an interview with Rolling Stone's Jon Blistein. "It's about going through cancer, going through chemotherapy and all the things associated with that. I didn't want to be literal about it. But it's all in there. You can read between the lines."
"We're reflecting on mortality," bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders said in a statement. "To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It's 17 years in the making, but it's also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives."
From despair comes reflection and art and Mastodon's latest record is an album of inner reflection, frustration and pain; one you can take at face value or immerse yourself in. Take third track Precious Stones and its repeated lyric "don't waste your time, don't let it slip away" - a lyric that's sums up its authors feelings and thoughts and also something we can all relate to in one way or another.
Duties across the record are shared accordingly and its a richer, more varied tapestry for it. All members of the band hold down vocals at some point and all compliment each accordingly, especially guitarist Brent Hinds on the acoustically trippy album end track Jaguar God with its eclectic lyrics.
On earlier records especially on 2014's Once More Round The Sun drummer Dailor had a lot of the vocal responsibilities as well as drumming duties. On record this sounds fine but in the live environment it could be clearly seen that it was difficult to drum and sing at the same time. Time will only tell how the material on Emperor Of Sand comes across in the live arena.
A complete, energetic and heavy album from the Mastodon boys, one akin to the best in their back catalogue. Emperor Of Sand is an album that is very much needed in the Metal genre at this point in time.