Art is a cyclical beast. The same can easily be said of Grammy Award nominated hard rock juggernaut Mastodon. The group’s four members recognize the importance of life’s omnipresent cycles on their sixth full-length album, Once More ‘Round the Sun. The band orbits around themes of loss and rebirth, twirling a sonic spiral of its signature robust riffing, hypnotically haunting soundscapes, triage of dynamic voices, and thundering seismic grooves. At the same time, this particular collection proves personal for Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders.
Mastodon’s own collective cycle encompasses a staggering string of accolades. Whether it’s the public endorsement of peers as diverse as Metallica, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, CeeLo Green, and Feist or unanimous praise from the likes of Time and Rolling Stone, the band continue to make an impression at every turn. 2011’s The Hunter saw them achieve their highest chart debut yet, reaching #10 on the Billboard Top 200, while the single “Curl of the Burl” notched their second Grammy Award nomination in the category of “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.”
As far as rock ‘n’ roll goes, their legacy irrefutably stands alone. However, that legacy expands yet again with Once More ‘Round the Sun. In order to uphold a modus operandi of experimentation and evolution, the boys enlisted the talents of super producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Alice In Chains, Deftones) for the very first time. They holed up in his Falcon Rock studio in Nashville throughout the fall of 2013, cutting what would become Once More ‘Round the Sun. Given his passion for the band, Raskulinecz immediately clicked with the musicians.
It’s indisputable that Once More ‘Round the Sun is Mastodon through and through. Kelliher’s twelve-string acoustic guitar ominously heralds the record’s onset during album opener “Tread Lightly” just before crashing into an unmistakable roar from Sanders. Hinds churns out a psychedelic slide guitar solo during the title track that entwines with Dailor’s drums in entrancing, yet enigmatic union. The Kelliher-penned first single “High Road” pummels with an intense polyrhythmic guitar groove before snapping into another unshakable refrain from Dailor.
Then, there’s “The Motherload.” Sharring vocal duties between Dailor and Sanders the track cruises from a propulsive six-string onslaught into an riveting chorus - one of the band’s biggest to date. Nodding to their roots, “Chimes At Midnight” sees Sanders call out the words “Hearts Alive,” making a connection to the centerpiece of the band’s critically acclaimed 2004 breakout Leviathan. On the other end of the spectrum, Hinds delivers a raucous and raw departure in the form of “Halloween.” Wielding a thrashed-up punk riff, the song eventually explodes into incendiary soloing from the axeman in homage to his favorite holiday. However, the biggest surprise comes during “Aunt Lisa,” an anthemic send-off to Brann’s late aunt featuring Atlanta femme punks The Coathangers on a rousing gang vocal.
Everything culminates on the expansive finale “Diamond in the Witch House.” Boasting a vocal call-and-response between Sanders and Neurosis’s Scott Kelly, on his fourth Mastodon collaboration, the track unfolds in cinematic fashion over eight minutes punctuated by Kelliher’s hulking riffs. Mastodon continue to prevail artistically, and this particular rotation, Once More ‘Round the Sun, upholds that tradition of progression.
Mastodon Once More 'Round The Sun Track Listing:
1. Tread Lightly
2. The Motherload
3. High Road
4. Once More 'Round The Sun
5. Chimes At Midnight
6. Asleep In The Deep
1. Feast Your Eyes
2. Aunt Lisa
3. Ember City
5. Diamond In The Witch House (feat. Scott Kelly of Neurosis)