Album Review: Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

mastodon-emperor-of-sandMastodon – Emperor of Sand

Progressive Metal | Alternative Rock

85%

It’s very rare that you find metal here on Belwood Music, but an album as good as this is too good to pass up on. Mastodon is one of those bands that sets such a high standard as to bring in new listeners who are perhaps otherwise pretty unfamiliar with the genre. As an introduction to the band this is likely the finest example you could ask for. Emperor of Sand brings together a finely tuned balance between the accessibility of Once More Round the Sun and the ambition and experimentation of Crack the Skye. Built around belting choruses and blistering solos, with sonic hints of mysticism scattered throughout, were it not for a couple of filler tracks in the latter half this album could be considered an absolute masterclass.

Lyrically the record sees a welcome return to the band’s love of concept albums. It charts a tale of a desert wanderer who is marked for death. With a new theme to provide purpose, and given that it was inspired by real life battles with cancer, the band are at their most driven and most powerful. The incredible closing solo of ‘Roots Remain’ provided me with my first “fuck yeah!” musical fist pump of the year; a different league to anything else I’ve heard. ‘Ancient Kingdom’ packs so much into such a short space of time, with it’s powerhouse drum work, furious riffs and soaring vocals. But it is album closer ‘Jaguar God’ that truly stands out as being the band’s best work, building from it’s acoustic intro, spiralling headlong through dark and progressive soundscapes towards a solo that rivals the aforementioned ‘Roots Remain’. I’m surprised and delighted to say that Emperor is their best album in years, and yet more proof that they’re one of the best in the game.

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