Emperor Of Sand by Mastodon – album review

Mastodon is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, formed in 2000 and composed of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and drummer Brann Dailor. Their musical style features progressive concepts and unique instrumentation. All four members participate in vocals, creating a unique blend of singing styles and voices.

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In 2002 they released their debut album called “Remission”. “Remission” to me was pretty solid debut album that showed how good of musicians Mastodon guys are. But, there is one thing that I did not like on that album and that thing is vocals. For some reason Troy’s vocals on that album never clicked with me. They have some sort of Death Metal-y sound but still they are clean vocals. Everything else about that album was stellar. Bass, guitar work and especially drums. I swear, Brann Dailor is one of the best modern drummers. I would give that album strong 7/10.

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But then in 2004 they released “Leviathan” and holy shit what an album that is. Opening song “Blood And Thunder” has one of the best guitar riffs of all time and Troy’s vocals are much better. They still have that sludgy feel but this time they fit really good with rest of instrumentation which is very sludgy too.  Every great thing from “Remission” is even better on “Leviathan” which makes this album absolute 10/10 in my books.

One thing about Mastodon always fascinated me and that is how much Pitchfork loves them. There is even a joke about that and it goes like this:

*Mastodon plays open E string*

Pitchfork:10/10

I mean they absolutely deserve it, but I am still very confused when you consider Pitchfork’s history with very progressive music. Remember, they gave Lateralus 1.8/10 and on top of that Mastodon’s approach to progressive music is mixed with a lot of sludgy influences.

Mastodon.jpgUp until The Hunter all Mastodon albums received universal fans acclaim but with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun fans were not satisfied with the direction Mastodon decided to take. Their sound slowly started to shift more towards mainstream rock while still holding that signature Mastodon sound that made them unique. Fans were pissed off. And you know what? I actually like “Once More Round The Sun” a lot. I would argue that songs like “High Road” and “Motherload” are one of their best . Mainstream rock desperately needed act like Mastodon is. Because almost everything in mainstream rock sounded absolutely the same. Mastodon gave us breath of fresh air and everyone should appreciate that a lot. Again, instrumentation on this album is amazing. Although I would not say that this is better than “Leviathan” but it is really good still. One thing that I appreciate about this album is Brann Dailor’s vocals. Him and Troy sound very good together. We have songs on Emperor Of Sand where same thing repeats, but we will get into that very soon.

This year Mastodon released their seventh album called “Emperor Of Sand”. So, what do we get with “Emperor Of Sand?

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Actually pretty solid. It is not better than “Crack The Sky”, “Leviathan” and “Once More ‘Round The Sun”, but those albums are either 10/10 or 9/10 in my books. Album opens up with “Sultan Curse” which starts with very weird opening. Brann Dailor playing with cymbals and then it explodes in classic Mastodon song we all know and love. Guitar riff in this song is absolutely amazing and drums are pretty good as always and on top of all of that guitar solo is pretty solid too.

Next song is “Show Yourself”. This is one of those more mainstream rock songs but guess what? I adore it on every single level. I even had it on #2 spot on my ranking of top 20 Billboard mainstream rock charts. I like how this song has two vocalists. Troy and Brann. Brann’s vocals are really good for this very radio friendly Mastodon songs. This is not the first time they have done this type of a song.”High Road” and “Motherload” are two other examples of great radio friendly Mastodon songs. I love how even though this song is very radio friendly it still has that signature Mastodon song that always divided them from other metal bands. Like those drums for example. I swear, Brann Dailor is one of the best drummers of this century. His feeling for groove is amazing. This guy is incredible and he really shows his talent on this song and on almost every other Mastodon song. His vocals are very on point on this song. Troy’s vocals on this song are much more “lighter” sounding which suits the song perfectly.

This is the part of the album where Mastodon becomes very uninteresting. Next three songs Precious Stones”, “Steambreather” and” Root Remains”  miss most of the things that made “Show Yourself” great.  Drums are again very good and this time bridge has very nice melody. Everything other than that is very uninteresting. Especially verses. What made “Show Yourself” so good was that verses are so nice to singalong and Brann Dailor’s and Troy Sanders’s vocals make perfect mix.   Almost everything in these three songs sounds like it is so half-arsed. Although “Root Remains” has a very nice solo which makes it kinda better than “Steambreather”.

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There is one thing that is very consistent throughout whole album. That is Brann Dailor’s drumming. Listen to the songs like “Show Yourself”, “Sultan’s Curse”,”Scorpion Breath” and even some of the worse songs like “Ancient Kingdom” and especially the song “Andromeda”.  After “Show Yourself” and “Sultan’s Curse” “Andromeda” is third best song on the album and Brann Dailor’s drumming is one of the main reasons why is as good as it is. Guitar riff is exceptionally good, just like all three vocalists. Especially Troy

 

 

 

Biggest problem of this album is in production. Seriously, have they maybe forgot to record the bass? It can be barely heard in the mix. Also vocals should be louder. Imagine how much better would album sound if bass was more present in the mix, especially those worse songs would gained a lot on quality.

Overall this is pretty solid album that could turn out to be much better. This album gets 7/10 and recommendation if you want to get more into progressive side of metal.

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