I don’t expect this review to convert any new fans nor sway any old fans who either cry over the band’s evolution or want them to copy “Crack the Skye.” Mastodon has entered the same level of scrutiny of bands like Opeth. For fans that claim to be into “progressive” bands, many just want the same old shit shoved down their throats time and again.
“Emperor of Sand” is the natural result of a band that used their last 2 albums to explore a more melodic sensibility. While I’ll give you that maybe some of the results were mixed, there just is no denying that without a song like “The Sparrow” (from “The Hunter”), there is just no way a beautiful closer like “Jaguar God” could ever exist.
Still, people will complain because there are no 10 minute plus songs. Why does that even matter? A song should be as long (or short) as it need be. And to those who think “Show Yourself” is too poppy, when you hear that song on top 40 radio, let me know. It’s a catchy song but a GOOD one. Yeah it reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age. I happen to like QotSA though. So for me, like the whole album, it works.
On the vocal front, I was really blown away by drummer Brann Dailor’s development. His voice sounds better than ever and he sounds really confident. His voice works really well with Troy Sanders’ howl and Brett Hinds’ gritty style. They always seem to pick the right member to sing the right part. Musically, the band are as tight as ever and attack each song like they mean it!
Mastodon is back doing a concept which is something they do better than most bands. You can read about the concept all over the place, so I am not going to waste your time with the details but a concept about cancer is powerful. The songs really reflect that too. Brendan O’Brien really brings the best out of the band as well. No this is not “Crack the Skye Part II” and that would be pointless. Rather it is an album that sounds like it could have come right after that one. But again, without the two albums before this one, it would not have happened.
I find myself looking forward to the next track, track after track. No weak spots to be found. My favorites are “Ancient Kingdom” (those chimes!), “Jaguar God” (of course), “Clandestiny” (that middle section is amazing), and “Roots Remain.” To be fair, there is not a track I’d ever skip and I do rock the fuck out to “Show Yourself.” If you don’t, my guess is that you don’t like fun.
“Emperor of Sand” really combines everything that Mastodon have been working on style-wise for the last 10-15 years. If you still need them to sound like they did on “Remission,” there are bands out there right now who are ripping that sound off. If you need another “Crack the Skye,” just go listen to that one again. But if you are actually into a band PROGRESSING, then “Emperor of Sand” is for you.
1. Sultan’s Curse
2. Show Yourself
3. Precious Stones
5. Roots Remain
6. Word To The Wise
7. Ancient Kingdom
10. Scorpion Breath
11. Jaguar God
Label: Reprise Records