New music: Mastodon’s Emperor Of Sand

Mastodon Emperor Of Sand album

On my desk at work is a Post-It note with the names of four bands a metal-loving former colleague recommended after learning that my musical tastes took in the likes of Bad Brains, Minor Threat and more.

Alongside Baroness (a real favourite in the last couple of years), Torche (can’t decide) and Tides From Nebular (haven’t checked out yet) is written Mastodon, the Atlanta heavy metal band that has just released its seventh album.

I’m not quite as up to date with new music as I’d like – though perhaps this blog will help remedy that. In fact, it’s only in the last month that I bought a second-hand copy of Mastodon’s 2004 album Leviathan, which rocks in all the right places and is heavier than a lot of what I listen to. 

So, knowing I’ve got a fair bit to catch up on, I’ve fired up Spotify to listen to their new one, Emperor Of Sand.

Mastodon band picture
Mastodon (pic: Jimmy Hubbard)

Mastodon is, notes Stereogum, “among the most important American metal bands to come along in the last 20 years or so” and that other indie(ish, very ish these days) music site Pitchfork gave Emperor Of Sand an above average 7.6 rating, saying:

Full of melodic singing and zig-zagging riffs, the new Mastodon LP reins-in the Atlanta metal band’s technical abilities without watering them down—though it smooths out some of their angular edges

There’s a better written, more extensive review of Emperor Of Sand over at Consequence Of Sound, which says it’s a “solid, thoughtful entry” in the band’s discography.

But, as we’re talking metal, and I’m a big Metal Evolution fan, I really wanted to know what Sam Dunn had to say about it, and he starts the below video review by noting that Emperor Of Sand is 2017’s most anticipated metal album (unless Tool get around to putting anything out), before deciding it’s “good not excellent”.

But Emperor Of Sand does get an ‘excellent’ rating from Kerrang, which – as did Pitchfork – makes not uncomplimentary Metallica comparisons, concluding the album is:

A mature, provocative and at times genuinely beautiful piece of work, it demonstrates that Mastodon need bow to no-one, confirmed fans Metallica included

For me it’s slightly jarring to listen to Emperor Of Sand because my only Mastodon reference point is Leviathan, but on first play it’s an excellent counterpoint to the band’s earlier work, one that has clearly worked in more melody (at times sounding closer to Baroness). And for a band whose is called Mastadon Rocks (dot com) they certainly still do.


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