Mastodon return with the much anticipated follow up to 2012’s The Hunter with their sixth studio album – Once More Round The Sun. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush), the album features first single High Road along with ten other bone-crushing progressive metal numbers.
In recent years, Mastodon have gone from all out hectic, frenetic, screaming loudness to a more subtle, toned down, delicate approach. Gone are the days you feared for vocalist Brent Hinds vocal chords and in come the ones filled with tonality, accessibility and a more refined listening experience. 2006’s Blood Mountain was the last time we heard this frantic style from the Georgian four-piece, with The Hunter and now Once More Round The Sun following their new clean-living recipe to crafting their trade. It has become a case of which sound do you prefer for the fan-base, and one that usually brings a definite answer one way or the other.
Whichever way you slide, Once More Round The Sun will entertain. We kick off with opener Tread Lightly. The guitars are huge, the vocals are hard but retain that tone and sit well in the mix. It’s still pretty hectic, there’s plenty going on, but that’s a good thing. We don’t want Mastodon falling too far from the tree do we? The Motherload follows suit with a strong chorus, and a more conventional song structure.
First single from the album High Road opens with a classic riff – a small cry back to their roots perhaps. It’s a real groovy number, and showcases Mastodon at their best. The clean vocal approach works well over these sorts of riffs, lending a chance for us to sing along over the juggernaut of fretwork at play. It boasts another truly engaging chorus along with a solo full of harmonies, contrasting the utter heaviness off the rest of the song. It’s great.
As the album progresses, we continue to be treated to lessons in the art of progressive metal. There are riffs a plenty in Chimes At Midnight as well as Ember City. These song structures are diverse, keeping us on our toes, wondering where we are heading next on our Masto-thon. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). The title track is perhaps the ‘poppiest’ number on the album, sticking to catchy verses and choruses taken in with ease, with Asleep in the Deep showcasing the bands ability to play without all that distortion, using a fiddly, overdriven riff as a backdrop to some outstanding vocal work.
Once More Round The Sun is a terrific listen for any fan of hard guitar music. The riffs are there, the epic solos and ‘heaviness’ is there. The vocals are clean and are a welcome continuation of this new approach from Mastodon. The shift in style may well divide opinion on some fronts, however one can’t find much to flaw on this album with such refined songwriting and such a hugely meticulous delivery. A very agreeable listen throughout.