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4 stars What really can I say about Mastodon. Ever since these guys came out, they have been receiving nothing but praise. I even have seen people describe them as the most important metal band out at the moment...and I have to agree. These guys have been surprising audiences and critics alike for over 10 years now have been wowing pretty much anybody who listens to them.

After the success and absolute madness that was 'Crack The Skye', the band returned to their metal roots with 'The Hunter' but where showing some slight touches towards a more contemporary style. Now they have pretty much gone fully contemporary. Musically the album has the band going towards the light of...popular music. Now don't get me wrong, they aren't doing songs with Avici or Nicki Minaj, but the band are sounding a lot more polished and poppier. The songs definite have a lot more focus on chorus and standard song structures with melodic phrasing. Drummer Brann Dailor's vocals are now way more prominent, which I believe to be a good thing because I think he has a brilliant voice. I have heard a few people criticise Brent's vocals on this album, but I think his vocals are better than ever. Now and then his vocals can be rather hard to interpret, but melodically they sound great. And as always, Troy's vocals are getting better album by album.

Now, this album isn't perfect, I do have some gripes. The first half does slightly eclipse the second half, but I overall don't think there is a bad song on this album. One slight gripe I have is with the production. Now having a lot more noticeable and catchier vocal hooks, I do feel that the vocals are a bit too low in the mix. While I do like Brann's vocals becoming more prominent I feel his drumming is lacking on this album. On albums like 'Leviathan' and 'Blood Mountain', Brann's drumming was almost Keith Moon in nature. On this album, they are pretty normal. Still impressive but nothing mindblowing sadly.

The opening track 'Tread Lightly' is a brilliant opener. An all out riff fest, the song also shows off the vocals from Troy and Brann, with some nice hooks and musical moments throughout.

One of the albums best tracks has to be 'The Motherload.' Having a rather 80's Ozzy Osbourne feel to it, Brann gives off one of his best vocal performances singing a great chorus. Probably the catchiest song on the album and a possible next single.

The album's lead single 'High Road' is the perfect choice. Starting off with a black metal influenced riff, the verses are heavy as hell before the chorus kicks in with a rather anthemic feel behind it. The real moment to shine on this track has to be the guitar solos in the middle 8. The music video for this song is also pretty great too.

'Chimes At Midnight' to me reminds me of previous track 'Black Tongue.' Packed full of kick ass riffs and boasting a brilliant vocal performance from Troy. One of the most interesting instrumental songs on the album and being more focused towards Mastodon's previous sounds.

'Asleep In The Deep' is probably one of the most unique songs the band have made so far. At times the song edges on pop/indie rock sounds before turning into a space rock mammnoth by the end. Some great vocals by Brann and Troy throughout too.

One of the oddest tracks on the album has to be 'Aunt Lisa.' Being rather ecclectic with its arrangements, it has some odd twists and turns, including an ending with female gang vocals.

The final and longest track on the album ''Diamond In The Witch House' is a song which features Scott Kelly from Neurosis. One of the least catchiest songs but musically interesting songs, it truncheons along like a Mastodon would do if they where still walking about today. I do think this sounds too familiar to Kelly's band Neurosis, but it does have some nice moments throughout.

In conclusion, this album pretty much proves the band can't make a bad album. Going into a more mainstream direction can be dangerous territory for certain artists, but Mastodon have been able to 'Tread Lightly' into a more contemporary style while still being true to themselves. Packed full of tunes and opening many doors for the band. Godspeed to them as they continue to make great music.


Genres: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Pop Rock, Sludge, Space Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2014

Report this review (#1199030)
Posted Friday, June 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars For the first few songs on Once More 'Round The Sun, I finally start to understand Mastodon. Over the last decade or so, the Georgian four-piece have basically become one of the metal bands that the masses collectively beat off to. All of their records up to 2011's The Hunter have been praised beyond belief for various reasons, from the intense energy and crushing groove of their early material to the progressive-sludge linings of 2009's Crack the Skye, Mastodon essentially had the metal world (or at least the critics) begging for more. And honestly, I never really got it. I mean, I dig Crack The Skye somewhat, being a big prog nut, but I could never really hear what people were gushing over, it was just a pretty good album that merged two metal genres pretty well. I guess if I focused on the instrumentation solely then it is pretty damn tight, and they certainly have a knack for a good groove, but I never really enjoyed it.

So come 2011 and Mastodon are tired of being Mastodon and (gasp!) decide to go mainstream and accessible. And honestly, I still didn't get it. To me, The Hunter is basically the Mastodon of before with shorter songs and less screaming. The cries of "radio-friendly hard rock!" went straight through me, because "Curl of the Burl" is actually pretty bloody heavy for modern radio. Some people I know went as far as to condemn them to hell - a good friend of mine even saying "that band is basically on the same level as Nickelback to me now". But even "accessible Mastodon" evaded me a bit.

But man, the first three songs on this new album have really clicked with me. They take the 'radio friendly' hooks of The Hunter, and make them better and more memorable, but they have amped up the intensity and intricacy of the instrumentals around them, which honestly heightens both aspects immensely. "Tread Lightly" is [%*!#]ing insane, with Brann Dailor's spastic drumming (one of the best parts of this record, and one of the best performances from this year, even if he does use the same snare fill a lot) and Troy Sanders' rumbling bass keeping the energy up for five straight minutes of intensity. It's here that the intricacy of Mastodon's instrumentals really start to come through, but they're amplified by the insanely catchy hooks. You can't tell seriously me that the vocal chorus of "The Motherload" isn't the catchiest [%*!#]in thing you've heard this year. It's so majestic and fun, but it doesn't compromise complexity for a memorable hook. Lead single "High Road" also has a hell of a chorus, soaring high above the sludgy and tight verses to lift the song up so high. You combine tight grooves, insane playing and proggy riffs with majestic and insanely catchy choruses that make everyone want to sing along and you've got a recipe for whatever the metal equivalent of a 'banger' is.

And then it just floats away. I honestly don't think the term "top-heavy" can be more true here, because the rest of the album just never matches the tight intensity of the opening three. I guess it's kind of hard to construct an album to follow such an explosive beginning, because if you keep going down the same path then the album gets repetitive, and if you change and pull out some songs with different moods, the energy dies and the listener gets bored. It's not all bad though, and the mid-album duo of "Chimes at Midnight" and "Asleep In The Deep" are probably at the same level as the openers, but for different reasons. These two are both more linear tracks, following pretty much the same mood for the whole track, and both are without an extremely definable hook. Of course, the pleb in me really just wants a bitchin chorus to come in and lift it up, and the latter of the two nearly does, but the songs are pretty solid in themselves. The former is a groove-fest, with the entire song being driven by a paced and insanely tight triplet pattern on the guitars. The latter is a slower song, really bringing out Mastodon's influence from stoner rock on this album, with a guitar pattern that reminds me a lot of modern occult-rock bands like Jess and the Ancient Ones.

But the rest of the album really just doesn't hold up, despite having moments. "Ember City" and "Halloween" both have relatively good hooks, but there isn't enough substance outside of the choruses to hold them up. Many of the latter tracks - notably "Aunt Lisa" and "Feast Your Eyes", have riffs that really don't lock into a solid groove and end up sounding like a slop of random notes, and then we have "Diamond In The Witch House", which is honestly just straight-up boring in its nearly 8-minute length, even though longer songs is something I normally lap up. The biggest problem with an album as top-heavy as this is that I want to turn it off as soon as I get to track seven. It's not bad in any way, but it just doesn't hold up its weight throughout. As for how it compared to the Mastodon discography, I can't really say, because as I said at the start, they have really not impressed me to this level in the past. I think that the combination of groove, melody, accessibility and complexity that they showcase in this album's opening quarter is really impressive, though, and even though this may be an 'accessible' album (I mean, I like it, so it must be), there's still a lot for the classic fans to love in here.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1255358)
Posted Thursday, August 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Once More 'Round the Sun" is the 6th full-length studio album by US metal act Mastodon. The album was released through Reprise Records in June 2014. "The Hunter (2011)" proved to be a big success for the band, and they´ve spend a lot of time touring in support of that album, which is part of the reason why there are 3 years between the two albums, but Mastodon have never been a band to release anything unless they are fully satisfied with the material they´ve composed, so they´ve also taken the time necessary to write the best possible material for "Once More 'Round the Sun".

"The Hunter (2011)" featured a less complex and more catchy and straight forward heavy metal sound, than the musical style on the earlier more raw, sludgy, and progressive releases by the band, and that stylistic change is continued and developed upon on "Once More 'Round the Sun". While the music on the album certainly is memorable with catchy choruses and powerful riffs, it´s not simple by any means and mainstream appeal is only present in smaller doses. Mastodon have not completely forgotten their sludgy past either and while the most hard edged tracks on "Once More 'Round the Sun" don´t compare in rawness to earlier material, some tracks are still pretty harsh.

And the variation of the material is one of the things that makes "Once More 'Round the Sun" such a great release. On the album you´ll find both heavy/stoner rockers, darker psychadelic tinged rock/metal tracks, and the above mentioend harsher sludgy tracks (and often all styles are combined). Another great feature is the attention to detail in the songwriting, which is something Mastodon excel in. While the music generally flows naturally and doesn´t sound constructed, these guys have obviously been through every second of music on this release to see if they could do anything different to make it sound better.

All material on the album are as a result well written and intriguing (even the most simple vers/chorus structured tracks are detailed and interesting). The music is well performed too. Great organic interplay between all involved, and the vocals, which on the band´s early releases were a bit more one-dimensional, are now more varied with both clean and raw vocal styles featured in the music. Mastodon have obviously worked a lot on their vocal melodies and how they perform them, because the vocal part of "Once More 'Round the Sun" is more catchy, powerful, and memorable than ever.

The organic sounding production is also a winner and helps bring out the best in the music, so all in all "Once More 'Round the Sun" is a high quality release by Mastodon. With the success of "The Hunter (2011)" I was wondering if Mastodon would strip down their sound and aim for an even more mainstream oriented sound on "Once More 'Round the Sun", but I don´t really think that´s the case. "Once More 'Round the Sun" is equally as adventurous as "The Hunter (2011)" and it´s nice to hear that the band haven´t completely abandoned their progressive ways in search of commercial success, even though the more simple sound on this one and on "The Hunter (2011)" are a far cry in sound and style (not in quality) compared to the more progressive predecessors. Mastodon seemingly insist on not settling or getting too comfortable and I find that greatly charming. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1283087)
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am examining some records from 2014 to get an idea of the music of modern times. Sometimes I grab music which dwells in a genre I am not used to, or especially found of. I though listen to it carefully and try to find glimpses of glory also there. Mastodon is an example of such a music. I had heard that band was progressive and inspired of many of my favourite bands. That made me curious and I wanted to hear their latest, the be exact their sixth record "Once More 'Round The Sun" from 2014. The cover is colourful and interesting even if I don't really like monsters on records.

The musicians to be credited for this record are Troy Sanders(vocals, bass), Brent Hinds(vocals, guitar), Brann Dailor(drums, vocals) and Bill Kelliher(guitars). I am not going to be so detailed now. Quite early I understood this music wasn't something for me. It just felt so nasal and American in vocal style and the instrumental parts was almost just heavy. Heaviness often exaggerates and this was the case here. I heard from time to another fine parts of instrumental music, for example in "The Motherload"(6/10) which is one of the most interesting songs on the record. "Tread Lightly"(6/10) and "Asleep in the deep"(6/10) are also quite good songs but over all I have very hard to understand or appreciate these kind of sounds.

I guess Mastodon has something great to offer for people who like agressive and hard music. For people more into sweaping melodies and nice voices, it's not perfect at all. My song to song rating ended at 2.5 stars which I in this case have to lower to two stars. Not extremely bad, but nothing for me.

Report this review (#1380868)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars I was introduced to Mastodon by a youthful co-worker many years ago, who recommended their album Leviathan to me after hearing that I liked Dream Theater and Opeth. I wasn't impressed, and sort of hated it. I gave the band another chance with Blood Mountain. I didn't hate it, but wasn't impressed. The band's style of noisy, distorted, "sludge" metal failing to grab my attention despite the group's instrumental talent. With Once More 'Round the Sun, the third time seems to do the trick, because I think that this is actually a entertaining, well executed, and ass-kicking piece of heavy metal.

The band has shifted their sound to feel a bit more bite-sized, relying more on melody and hooks than walls of distorted noise. The song writing isn't very ambitious or complex, but the energy the group puts into the savage riffing, explosive drumming, and tone of the songs out weighs this short coming. Take for example the very catchy "The Motherload," which is a heavy, fuzz-filled crunch fest that features blistering and gymnastic riffing, a prodigiously busy rhythm section, and memorable vocals that grabs hold of, and sticks with you.

The consequence of this is that the band is leaning more mainstream, which may not appeal to fans of this web site. I feel like Mastodon is what a band like Isis would sound like if they opted to sell more albums to stoners in their early 20's instead of those seeking a full-blown art rock experience. I'm not passing judgement, just saying that the band has focused on hooks backed by their instrumental chops, so don't expect any epic compositions or experimentation.

While more listenable than other Mastodon albums, Once More 'Round the Sun will probably only appeal to fans of the heavy "tech metal" genre. A confident 3 star release.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1497792)
Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars Sometimes, becoming generic is not bad at all!

Because Once More 'Round the Sun is a pretty generic Mastodon album. It mixes the fierceness and merciless riffs from Leviathan with the more progressive and melodic compositions from Crack the Skye, forgetting the weird and failed experimentations of the strange Blood Mountain and the too commercial and felicitous The Hunter.

The result is a very stimulating album which maybe does not hit the high levels of the two aforementioned albums (Leviathan and Crack the Skye) but reaches a very worthy third place in the podium of this band's career. Its progressive-sludge metal in its purest form, where Mastodon are the one and only specialists.

Best Tracks: the first five tracks of the album are just amazing! After that the album becomes a bit more irregular with some lackluster tracks like Feast Your Eyes and the not so impressive Ember City and Halloween. Diamond in the Witch house is an authentic return to the sludge metal roots of Mastodon, nevertheless!

Conclusion: Once More 'Round the Sun supposed a very welcomed return from Mastodon to the right path after the disappointing and cheesy The Hunter. The classical ferocious riffs of the band are back, the vocals are better than ever and the mixture between sludge metal and prog is just great this time.

So I consider Once More 'Round the Sun an excellent album from Mastodon. Maybe it was not as groundbreaking as Leviathan and not so perfectly composed like Crack the Skye, but a great addition to every prog metal collection anyway.

My rating: ****

Report this review (#2085508)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This 2014 album was the sixth from Mastodon, following on some three years from 2011's acclaimed 'The Hunter'. Although I originally missed out on the debut, I clearly remember when I was sent their 2004 release 'Leviathan' and the impact it had on me. Back then they were in all the music magazines but moving to New Zealand just a few years later meant I lost track of what they were doing and it is only now that I am starting to revisit the catalogue. There are few bands who manage to stay together throughout their career, but the line-up on this one was the same as on the debut (and actually still is today), namely Troy Sanders (bass, vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar, vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitar) and Brann Dailor (drums). Over the years they have become renowned for their attention to detail, and how they mix many forms of metal to create something which is uniquely theirs. This means they can be playing something which is more akin to sludge and then surprise everyone with some incredibly melodic guitar twin harmonies which is totally out of character for what is happening musically yet also fits in perfectly. Then over the top of it all there are the dual lead vocals which add yet more melody to what is an incredibly heavy band.

But they are also not afraid to show what inspires them, and when listening to the title cut, one cannot help but be taken back to the Seventies, although in a far heavier and bass-led fashion. This song also contains samples of Lizzy's "Cowboy Song", and one wonders if this was a premonition of things to come given that bassist Sanders was asked to join that band for some live shows five years later. This is progressive metal in that there is a real refusal to accept boundaries or norms, creating music very much on their own terms, no compromise whatsoever yet somehow they create something which is incredibly easy to listen to and enjoy on the very first time of hearing. It is powerful and aggressive, yet with a layer of polish and versatility which belies the force of what is going on underneath. While it may not have the immediate impact of 'Leviathan' one can see why this is such highly regarded release and I am certainly glad that I have finally remade my acquaintance with the band.

Report this review (#2482587)
Posted Saturday, December 5, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the utterly dissapointing The Hunter, Once More 'round the Sun was a total back to form. And maybe for the first time on their career the band stopped pushing forward and took a look back, being the style of the album a combination of all the types of music they have done through the years.

We have some stoner influence ("Tread Lightly"), melodic and catchy songs ("The Motherload"), sludge anthems ("Diamond in the Witch House"), psychedelic stuff ("One More 'round the Sun")... and all of it is great. I specially love three songs of the record, which are within my favourite Mastodon tracks of all time. The first one is "Tread Lightly", the song that made me fall in love with the band back in the day. A stoner metal anthem that drowns you in its splendid guitar work. And the one thing that came to my mind the first time I listened to it was "oh my God, this guy can sing". As you already know if you have read my other reviews I really don't like the style of Troy on Remission, and although on the later albums it gets better it doesn't do much for me anyway. But it was on this LP when he released his full potential, and it crushes all his perfomances.

The other two songs on my top list from this album are "Halloween", an amazing melodic metal song, and "Diamond in the Witch House". The thing I really love about "Halloween" is the second half, when they go nuts with all that heavy riffs and solos. I think that the halts they do on the ending part are really cool to. And "Diamond in the Witch House" is simply speaking, the best sludge metal song they have put out. It features Scott Kelly from Neurosis and you can tell that his band has been a major influence on this song, because if you listen to the parts that he's singing is difficult to tell the difference between the two bands. The final part, with Kelly screaming his lungs out and that heavy as hell but trippy riff playing is an incredible moment.

The rest of the songs are good too, and I don't dislike any of them. "The Motherload" is a more commercial song, in the vein of The Hunter, but much more well written and with actually a very catchy riff and chorus. "High Road" has one of the best riffs on the album but the chorus doesn't do it for me that much, while "Chimes of Midnight" is another strong song with an incredible riff but much better in my opinion. "Once More 'round the Sun" and "Asleep in the Deep" are the more psychedelic part of the album and I frigging love em, specially the first.

The worst songs of the album must be "Feast Your Eyes", "Aunt Lisa" and "Ember City", and even so they have very memorable moments and are good songs even if they don't match the quality of the rest. I find very enjoying the final part of "Aunt Lisa", with that nice choruses sung by The Coathangers, and the riff that plays at 2:58 in "Ember City".

In conclusion, Once More 'round the Sun is not on par with the two masterpieces that Mastodon has already put out by this time (Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye), but it's not that far. It would definitely be a top 3 contender for me, a must listen for every fan of the band and a recommend one for all the others.

Report this review (#2649745)
Posted Sunday, December 5, 2021 | Review Permalink

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