The most recognizable aspect of the music of Mastodon is that their music is not recognizable for a particular aspect. Yes, they have their trademarks, such as unusual lyrical themes, shared lead vocal duties, and a wide variety of musical abilities and sounds. Much like a band such as Phish, there is no actual way to boil this band down into one particular genre because each album sounds different. Their newest album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, is absolutely no exception. In fact, the band is taking you Once More ‘Round the Sun, but you’re going in a different spaceship — in terms of the sound.
It was clear by the release of the album’s first single, “High Road,” the new album would be a further progression into their hard rock side. The album is certainly a way to find a new market. In the single, the band delves into the most “metal” sound they reach the whole album. The song features a driving chorus with emotionally laden chords, but still features Mastodon’s harmonic, trademark vocals from Crack the Skye, or even Blood Mountain. The track’s vocals, mainly delivered by bassist Troy Sanders, are produced much like Jill Janus’ on Huntress’ Spell Eater, the same is true for “Chimes at Midnight” but will be appreciated by fans of evolutionary hard rock, such as Led Zeppelin.
The album’s title track is musically a polar opposite. It features the “weaving” guitar patterns, achieved by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, first featured on an early track the band wrote, “Joseph Marrick,” but casts an evolutionary shadow on “Joseph.” The song is clear evidence that Mastodon’s songwriting has taken an evolution. This is clear because their use of vocals is prevalent. For the second time, drummer Brann Dailor takes a drivers’ seat role, balancing vocals and drumming. In perfect time, each member of the band contributes to this aspect, never failing on their harmonies or blend. Further, vocal editing and pitch correction is less than prevalent.
While the vocals should receive high marks, so should the instrumentation, which is borne of the combination of experimentation and the band clearly not limiting themselves to one school of thought. For that reason, this album could be enjoyed by many music listeners, especially anyone who likes music in the range from something as heavy as a band like Lamb of God, to a band as soft as Clutch.
One of the key, defining aspects of this album is the fact that it follows Mastodon’s trend: each album is a transition into another genre. For instance, Remission and Leviathan featured mainly guttural and unclean vocals, whereas Blood Mountain marked a new era of accessibility for people who did not listen to Mastodon, or heavy metal. This led to Crack the Skye, which proved that Mastodon had a far more progressive side, into The Hunter. Now, the band sounds a lot less frantic. The tunes are all very accessible. You can sing along, show your friends, and rejoice in the fact that heavy metal and hard rock are far more diverse than they used to be, and this was a major complaint for long time Mastodon listeners who misunderstand the works of Mastodon.
Because Mastodon’s sound has changed so much over the years, they can’t really be classified into a genre. Most people would agree that “heavy” bands like Alter Bridge could be categorized. While this is not negative, it is simply the music that they wish to write. For Mastodon, the case is different. They prove that they want to write more than just sludge metal, or prog rock. For Mastodon, music is a great experiment in which the performer is allowed to explore his or her musical polarities. Therefore, it is not possible to make an argument against Mastodon’s ever – evolving sound, as that is exactly the point of the band. Because of this, going Once More ‘Round the Sun is an amazing journey.
Key tracks: Asleep in the Deep, High Road, and Halloween.