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Disc review: Mastodon, 'Once More 'Round the Sun'

The Atlanta-born behemoth that is Mastodon continues to exhibit true growth with the release of its sixth studio effort, “Once More ’Round the Sun.”

Produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who has worked incredibly well with Rush, the album is beautifully produced and mixed, with the bludgeoning rhythm section of drummer Brann Dailor and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders providing a relentless bottom-end slam, while the twin guitars of Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds combine to form a wall of sound that does not sacrifice clarity for power.

As a result, “Once More…” sounds incredibly good at high volumes, due to the uncluttered and detailed mix. Which would mean nothing if the songs themselves weren’t strong. Oh, but they are.

By this point, Mastodon has largely abandoned the thrash-based screaming that informed its earliest (and heaviest) records, favoring instead a multilayered approach that values melody over pure might, more often than not. First single “High Road” offers a perfect case in point – here, a simply filthy guitar riff develops into a classic head-banger groove, but the song marries memorable melodies to the metallic strut, finally exploding into an indelible chorus hook.

There are also plenty of elements of the prog-rock complexity that made Mastodon stand apart from the herd when the band first started making noise in the early 2000s. “The Motherload,” “Aunt Lisa,” “Asleep in the Deep” – all are mini-epics that suggest a continuation of the prog-influenced “The Hunter” album, with the addition of more mature and concise arranging.

“Once More ’Round the Sun” is a fat-free affair; there’s no filler here, and every song moves with a decidedly purposeful gait. Sonically crushing and compositionally precise, the album is a modern metal masterwork.

Mastodon, “Once More ’Round the Sun” (Reprise)
Heavy metal

3.5 stars

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