Reviewed by Rene (@darthbx)
I’m old. I’m one of those old farts that has seen tons of shows in places that don’t exist anymore. I have heard and seen so many heavy metal bands come and go. Some were great and burned out fast (any band out of New York from the 2000’s). Some are still around and have lost their ways musically and are just not the same great bands they used to be (Metallica, Megadeth). Some were just awful to begin with (Coheed & Cambria and their ridiculously afroed singer). You also have the rare bands that started great and stayed great. For me, the band that personifies that “start great, stay great” mentality is Mastodon.
Mastodon is one of those bands that came out of nowhere right around the beginning of the new century. They took their Southern rock (Creedence, The Eagles, Black Crowes) influence and mixed it with their version of prog rock (think Rush but good.) and brought a new sound to metal that was part thrash metal, part stoner rock and all awesome. From their first ep, Lifesblood released in 2000, until now with, Once More, Mastodon has consistently created some amazing heavy metal music. They are one of the few bands, I think, that have yet to release a bad album. That’s unheard of now in heavy metal. They are so good that after I was first introduced to them from listening to their second album, Leviathan, a concept album based on Moby Dick, I went and read Moby Dick again. They are that good.
Which brings us to their latest, Once More ‘Round The Sun. This latest album is probably their best album yet and is the best heavy metal album I have heard since last year’s Carcass album. It’s one of the few recent albums that I can listen to from start to finish, never get bored and never skip a song. I must admit that the album on first listen wasn’t exactly what I expected after 2011’s The Hunter. It’s different, but a good different. Listening to it a few times while riding the subway got it into my head and driving to it got it under my skin. After a few days, I was singing the songs and jamming out to every song. Now, I can’t stop listening to it. And I can’t remember the last time that has happened. At least, not with newer bands. In fact, Mastodon is one of the only recent bands I truly love and think are as good as the metal gods of yesterday.
The album starts with the song “Tread Lightly”, which does anything but tread lightly. It’s got a deep, chunky riff behind it and the rolling guitar sound that Mastodon has perfected. It’s heavy, but groovy. It’s the kind of song that fills your ears with different sounds and keeps your attention. It’s a great opener. From there it keeps the momentum and never slows down. As I said earlier, the album keeps your attention from beginning to end. The band has grown musically with every album and it feels like they have grown together. Every part of the band sounds at their best. Every song sounds very different from the one before it, but they all sound great. I’m listening to it for the millionth time as I write this and I am still headbanging to it. It never gets old.
Stand out songs for me are: “Tread Lightly”, “The Motherload” (the guitar solos on this song are effing amazing), “High Road” (The video for High Road is the best LARP video ever created) “Once More ‘Round The Sun” (Imagine if Creedence played a Megadeth song) and “Chimes At Midnight”.
Highly recommended. If you’re not a fan of Mastodon yet this album will make you one. Or should.