Album Review: Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (2017)

Mastodon Promo from Facebook page.

Band:  Mastodon
Album: Emperor of Sand
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records / Reprise Records
Release Date: March 31, 2017

Since the release of Once More ‘Round the Sun, Atlanta’s Mastodon, have been very busy be it with touring, “trashing metal” which was really a misunderstanding, and well most recently writing a new album. While I have been a fan of Mastodon for roughly the past 15 years of their 17 year career, I can safely say they have yet to disappoint me. Sure some fans miss the aggressive tone from the first couple albums that since Crack the Skye the band has been going to a more progressive clean vocal style of music. All of which I fucking LOVE! It has always bothered me when people say oh there needs to be more growling in metal, or they’re singing now, what happened? For example the latest from California’s Suicide Silence, clean vocals throughout the self-titled album, what the hell?!? I swear if I see one more person trash talk Suicide Silence for doing they want to do and writing from their hearts the most raw album I have heard them release in years, I will lock them in a room playing the album on repeat until it breaks them from that mentality. Yes, the album is vastly different from anything they’ve done. No, we don’t know if they would have gone this direction if Mitch was still around. Point being, the new Suicide Silence album is pretty fucking solid whether you like it or not.

Back to Mastodon, in the bands ever changing sound, keeping fans on their toes wondering what might come next, yet they still manage to give the fans exactly what they want. This Friday the band releases their Eighth full-length album Emperor of Sand, an album that

“threads together the myth of a man sentenced to death in a majestically malevolent desert, the Atlanta, GA quartet—Troy Sanders (bass/vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar/vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitar) and Brann Dailor (drums/vocals), and conjure the grains of a musical and lyrical odyssey slipping quickly through a cosmic hourglass” (Mastodon Bio).”

Wasting no time to give the fans what they were looking for,  “Sultan’s Curse” (a song the band released a few weeks back) kicks things off in high gear, and has received praise from all the “big wigs” if that’s what you want to call them at Rolling Stone and Billboard. It is clear through out the album that they are reaching back to their past albums for influences on this one, all while keeping the new progressive sound afloat, giving you an album that really takes you on the journey. One could easily get lost in this record, if on the right drug or if you are just one that dives into an album just as one would a book or a comic and becomes the main character. Skipping from song to song or chapter to chapter just doesn’t happen when the story is as great as this one. You almost have to listen to it from start to finish, otherwise you miss some vital parts that would keep you alive if you were the man sentenced to death. OR, or you just miss the epic battle scenes in order to get to the violent end, whichever way this album takes you it should take you from start to finish with no gaps or skipping ahead.

There are some great songs throughout the record and then there are some really fucking great songs. Upon listening to Emperor of Sand a few times I have come across some of the best Mastodon songs that I have heard in a while. Most notably “Jaguar God”, the closing track of the album, a song that starts off peaceful and by the end if it doesn’t fire up the mosh pit, then I don’t know what will. This song captures some of what makes Mastodon so good, showing that they can do literally anything in a song and it would be held up to anything put out the past few years and stand ground. Another track that really blew my mind just as they did back in the Remission/Leviathan days was “Andromeda”, utilizing crunchy guitar riffs, Troy’s gutteral vocal style and an overall groove that keeps escalating until the grand finale of the song. We had previously heard this song in instrumental form and could tell it was going to be something special, possibly a “throwback or return to form” either way a crowd pleaser for sure! While the album has its quirks like the radio friendly “Show Yourself” it doesn’t take away from the fell of the record. Hell, for being a radio friendly song it sure is a hell of a lot better than most of the crap that’s played on the radio these days, so if this starts a new trend of good quality music again. . . Sign us the hell up!

I always enjoy listening to an album for the first time and feeling my smile stretch from ear to ear only for it to remain there throughout the entire record. Mastodon’s Emperor of Sand does just that and leaves you wanting more. Luckily for us here in St Louis, they will be coming to town April 27th at The Pageant to play a few songs, break a few bones and melt a few faces, for those of you not from here check out the list of dates and hit one up in a town near you 🙂

Tour Dates:

# indicates festival date. All other dates are headline shows.

04/14 Missoula, MT Wilma Theater
04/15 Seattle, WA Paramount Theater
04/16 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
04/18 San Francisco, CA The Warfield
04/20 Los Angeles, CA The Palladium
04/21 Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre
04/23 Salt Lake City, UT Complex
04/24 Denver, CO Fillmore
04/26 Kansas City, KS Uptown Theater
04/27 St. Louis, MO Pageant
04/28 Birmingham, AL Iron City
# 04/29 Jacksonville, FL Welcome to Rockville Festival
# 04/30 Ft. Myers, FL Fort Rock Festival
05/02 Washington, DC Fillmore
05/03 Toronto, ON Rebel
05/04 Cleveland, OH Agora Theater
#05/05 Concord, NC Carolina Rebellion Festival
05/06 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory
05/08 Boston, MA House of Blues
05/09 Portland, ME State Theater
05/11 New York, NY Hammerstein Ballroom
05/12 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE
05/13 Chicago, IL Aragon Ballroom
05/14 Cincinnati, OH Taft Theatre
05/16 Detroit, MI Royal Oak Theater
05/17 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
05/18 Memphis, TN Minglewood Hall
05/19 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live
05/20 Austin, TX ACL Live

Emperor of Sand releases through Reprise Records, a branch of Warner Bros Records this coming Friday, March 31 and will be available for you at your local music shops (Music Record Shop/CD Warehouse), and if not have them order it for you, Best Buy and if they are still around your town, FYE. For those that don’t like going to those types of shops and would rather support the band directly you can always buy one from the band on their tour at the list of dates above, and if you are still unlucky enough to not have a good music shop or a stop on the tour, the album will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon as well as just hitting up the bands online store!

Rating: 5/5

RIYL: Anciients, High on Fire, Royal Thunder, Priestess

The track-listing for Emperor of Sand is as follows:

Sultan’s Curse
Show Yourself
Precious Stones
Roots Remain
Word To The Wise
Ancient Kingdom
Scorpion Breath
Jaguar God

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