Album Review: Mastodon
Mastodon’s seventh album “Emperor of Sand” continues the band’s trend of moving toward a more pop-centric, radio-metal sound that their fans have been avoiding. Newcomers and those interested in metal should start with Mastodon’s "Emperor of Sand" due to its strength in technical skill and treat it as a bridge to harder metal. But, this is not the progressive metal that is wanted or needed in the album.
While this album is not similar to Mastodon’s previous sound or to the nature of progressive metal, "Emperor of Sand" is still a strong album in terms of quality of individual songs. “Sultan’s Curse,” “Show Yourself,” “Steambreather” and “Jaguar God” are all incredible songs by themselves. What should be particularly noted throughout all of these songs is the skill that each member has in their instrument and vocals. Brann Dailor, Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds all contribute incredible vocals as they trade who takes lead vocals within each song, while Bill Kelliher and the others excel at their respective instrument.
The first three songs listed above, “Sultan’s Curse,” “Show Yourself” and “Steambreather,” are all fantastic songs, especially for listeners who are new to the metal genre. These are the core radio-metal songs, and for those who are deeper in the metal community and more interested in metal music consider these songs to be some of the worst on the album. So, these songs are simply strong for what they are.
While we will probably be hearing “Show Yourself” often on the radio this is not the type of music that metalheads wish to hear off of a Mastodon album. “Show Yourself” is an undeniably strong song on the technical side, yet it follows a similar pattern to most songs where there is the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. Progressive metal, which Mastodon was considered to be, does not and should not follow this pattern. Progressive metal builds over the course of longer songs to a defining moment where the musicians display intense technical and musical skills in their instruments. At just three minutes and three seconds, “Show Yourself” does not allow this to happen.
Instead of a more traditional progressive metal sound, these songs have much more of a pop/radio-metal sound. Following the simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus style, where the bridge is a guitar solo, almost all of the songs off of "Emperor of Sand" sound exactly the same. Although listeners may be intrigued by the the 51 minute album at first,it is doubtful that one can continue listening to this album multiple times without becoming incredibly bored of the repetitive songs.
The saving grace of Mastodon’s "Emperor of Sand" is “Jaguar God.” This is one of the only truly progressive metal songs off of the album. Running for nearly eight minutes, the final song on the album moves away from the simple sound that was used throughout and is one of the most enthralling songs. The technical skill alone, yet again, is incredibly strong along with the instrumental layering that is more unique in “Jaguar God". The return to more original progressive metal roots in the song through the layering can be seen by the slow increase in amount of sound as the song progresses. Those not interested in metal might not appreciate the greatness that is “Jaguar God,” but the metalheads can see that this is one of those progressive metal songs that allows itself to build up to its climax while being experimental and never leaves the listener bored.
Mastodon’s "Emperor of Sand" can be listened to and enjoyed by most listeners, newcomers to Mastodon will enjoy the simplicity of the sound and the ease of the listening, while long time fans will have more problems with the album, they can still find some enjoyment in the album by a few of the songs and the familiar sound. “Emperor of Sand" leans more toward the radio-metal sound and so it can be enjoyed by anybody.
“Emperor of Sand” was released on March 31st and can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and more online locations.