Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock
Released: June 24, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: National Uprising – Upcoming Releases
By Kris Kotlarik
These days, you’re far more likely to find Mastodon performing on the indie/rock festival circuit than in club venues. Case in point, during their most recent tour, it was revealed that their last show of the tour would be in Columbus. I thought Alrosa Villa was going to be packed for one of the best shows of the year until I saw that it was at this pedestrian festival, with such amazing talents as Kid Rock and Five Finger Death Punch both headlining over Gojira and Mastodon. If you couldn’t catch the sarcasm or somehow think that lineup was solid, here’s a link to a real festival, which of course isn’t located in the United States.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make (aside from the fact that Maryland Deathfest and ProgPower USA are the only awesome metal festivals on this side of the Mississippi River to the best of my knowledge) is that Mastodon has branched out to a more accessible sound that appeals to both metalheads and fans of other rock subgenres. Essentially, Once More ‘Round The Sun picks up where The Hunter left off. This comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing; while I’m not going to claim the latter is their best album, it’s not bad by a long shot.
The calling cards on their newest effort include highly catchy melodies at every turn, especially in the form of lengthy instrumental bridge sections. There’s also some interesting vocal and guitar distortion effects that are scattered throughout. Some songs have a traditional rock/metal structure, others are a little more ambitious, and some are a little bit more ballad-oriented. None of the songs are bad by any stretch, but a substantial chunk of them lack a certain punch in most parts to further draw in the listener.
The most satisfying song goes to “Chimes At Midnight,” which has the least linear song structure and the most unique (and heaviest) main riff, along with a solid bridge section. “Ember City” comes close, most notably for its chorus with dual vocal lines, and is also a great listen.
Many other songs have solid moments but aren’t complete tracks; for example, opener “Tread Lightly” has a sweet-sounding solo towards the end. The title track has a well-executed and fun chorus. The only track that I can seriously question is “Aunt Lisa,” which features a rather oddly-placed “Hey ho, let’s fucking go” chant that sounds like it was sung either by children or is actually the singer turned into a chipmunk. This part ruins an otherwise solid song.
The other songs all lie somewhere in between and do a good job of blending into the overall sound, which is neither a good nor bad thing. If I were to suggest other songs, I’d start with “Asleep In The Deep,” a downtempo, proggy number. The second half of “Halloween” is an instrumental jam session that ranks among Mastodon’s best.
I have a feeling that, much like The Hunter, this new effort will grow on me at some point down the line. I would also assume that much of this material will sound fantastic live…that is, if you can first wade through the horde of bros and/or hipsters.
Overall: It’s not perfect, but there’s more than enough solid parts to warrant a couple listens.