Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun (Reprise)

Wednesday, 25th June 2014
Rating: 9.5/10

Three years on from The Hunter and here we are again with the beast from Atlanta and a new hour-long  set of riffy jams and melodic explorations from Mastodon. The appropriately titled Once More ‘Round The Sun is both exactly and more than the sum of its parts, if that makes the least bit of sense in contradictions. It pushes further into the realm of ‘songs’ exemplified by The Hunter but refocuses and even enlarges the instrumental interplay of all the band members and their obscene talents. It’s Mastodon being Mastodon, a force of a band that by this point really doesn’t have a whole lot left to prove but still strives to produce excellence time in and time out.

It also kinda goes without saying that at this point Mastodon can play just about anything and much like Agalloch, still be uniquely Mastodon. Initial single “High Road” (curiously featuring vocals from guitarist Bill Kelliher, no less!) typified this to a t, even with the grower of a soaring chorus. “The Motherload” on the other hand frontloads the song with an impeccable chorus before launching into a back-half full of instrumental explorations and melodic absurdity. Be it the guitar harmonizing, the still frentic-even-when-grooving drum playing or the now increasingly complex vocal layering, the sound of the band remains, each time out newly focused in new and peculiar ways.

For me this makes 3-of-3 that producer Nick Raskulinecz has managed something enormous with a band without sacrificing anything about their particular identities (Deftones in 2012, Ghost last year). Aside from a couple of particularly poppy numbers (like the title track and late-album monsterwork “Ember City”) this is the band seeking the same sort of realm they did with The Hunter but achieving much cleaner results (and mind you, I personally love The Hunter). Scott Kelly once again takes on guest vocal duties in album closer and longest track “Diamonds In The Witch House”, a track which serves as a particularly dark closing chapter to what is predominantly an up-beat album and is all the more successful for it.

For those (not that they are many but they are very vocal) looking for Leviathan or Blood Mountain part II, it won’t be found here. Moreso than The Hunter there are many aspects of this album that share DNA with those works but this is a band working on a different level and working for very different goals. The riffery is still paramount and the song-writing, though now ever-tempered with melody and song-craft in mind, is still very much Mastodon. Another trip around trip around the sun, another fantastic piece of work from one of the best in the business.

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