CD Review: Mastodon – Once More 'Round the Sun

CD Review: Mastodon – Once More 'Round the Sun
Reprise Records
All Access Rating: A

Mastodon - Once More 'Round
the Sun 2014
Heaven help the first-time acid taker if that poor sap's gaze should happen to fall upon the tripped-out cover art for Mastodon's Once More 'Round the Sun.

A vivid, psychotropic nightmare, this crazed eruption of bright colors and melting shapes somehow forms a fearsome, hallucinogenic monster that could only be the product of a fevered imagination. To those grappling with their sanity while in the throes of drug-induced paranoia, this alien vision could hasten a break with reality that might soon land them in the loony bin.

And yet, for Mastodon, Once More 'Round the Sun may be their most structured and focused effort to date, the proof being found in the tsunami-like surges of "Diamond in the Witch House" and the massive riffs and dizzying instrumental complexity – be sure to examine Brann Dailor's mind-boggling drum puzzles and the intricate, ingenious guitar interplay of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher closely – that are omnipresent throughout, as they are in the chugging first single "High Road," the blustery rampage that is "Chimes At Midnight" and the monolithic opener "Tread Lightly."

Explosive, energetic and wider than humanly possible, Once More 'Round the Sun is also a cleaner, even brighter and more accessible set of songs from a band that's not just relying on their enormous volume and unpredictable progressive maneuvers to impress. Here, Mastodon throws around big hooks like muscle-bound heavyweights in "The Motherload" and the propulsive title track, two of the most infectious tracks they've ever recorded, while the band's vocal treatments ring clear and are more expressive than ever, making the giant, gripping choruses of tracks like "Ember City" enchanting and more inviting.

Time to address the elephant in the room. If it's not already apparent, Once More 'Round the Sun could almost be described as "radio friendly," a scary thought for Mastodon followers, even as they're caught up in the swift melodic currents of "Halloween" and not fighting it. Well-crafted, these song are tightly constructed and provide an immediate impact, and yet they still allow listeners to explore and dig for atmospheric and mysterious passages, like those found in the spellbinding "Asleep in the Deep." Pack a bag. Many trips Once More 'Round the Sun are in the offing.
Peter Lindblad

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