Emperor of Sand

Warner Bros. (2017) Kevin Fitzpatrick

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand cover artwork
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand — Warner Bros., 2017

There have been few bands as exciting to watch their ascension into music legend than Mastodon. What's that you say? No, the term 'legend' is not hyperbole. Mastodon is just that good. And if there's any justice in this cold, cruel world, that legendary status will be hermetically sealed with Emperor of Sand.

Emperor of Sand is mastodon's seventh full-length release and like previous albums is based around a very specific concept. In this case, the band takes on their biggest subject yet. Death itself.

It would be nice if this were a hypothetical concept as with past albums, dealing with transcendental meditation and the like - but death and how we take it on and fight against it or how we deal with it as survivors once our loved ones have passed is something that's been all too real for the band since 2014's Once Around The Sun.

Emperor of Sand once again shows the versatility of drummer Brann Dailor, who provides the storyline and lyrics in addition to his duties on the throne - no mean feat as he is without a doubt one of the best drummers in the business, not to mention providing key vocals on the majority of the album. One standout being "Steambreather", which showcases the strength and depth of his vocal ability.

The album opens with "Sultan's Curse" - a burner of a tune that both encapsulates everything the seasoned listener has come to expect from the band, but also serves as the perfect primer for the uninitiated.

"Show Yourself" is next - an impossibly catchy tune that I guarantee will be an ear worm for the weeks to come.

Emperor of Sand marks the return of producer Brendan O'Brien to the proceedings - not seen since 2009's Crack the Skye.

O'Brien serves the band well here as he did previously, offering a warmly balanced tone with that hy-pro glow that keeps the focus on the music, not the members.

Of course, that's not to be dismissive of the work put forth by Dailor, co—lead vocalist and guitarist Brent Hinds, Bassist and co—lead vocalist Troy Sanders and guitarist Bill Kelliher.

There's a symbiosis between these guys that is truly, truly remarkable. A precision and capability that is becoming rare in this fix-it-in-post world that well enough in. Not one of them expendable and each giving every ounce of their talents to serve the songs and not themselves. On this first day of spring, Emperor of Sand is already the clear front runner for album of the year and this throne isn't bound to be usurped any time in the coming months.

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand cover artwork
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand — Warner Bros., 2017

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