A review on Mastodon’s seventh full album Emperor of Sand.
“Every record that we do is gonna sound different, because we always want to evolve and create our own musical path. And every record will be different. We do not wanna write the same record twice.” That is a statement from Troy Sanders from the press release on Mastodon’s seventh studio album Emperor of Sand. Mastodon are one of the few bands that can honestly say they have tried and in many ways succeeded in attempting to make every album different than the last. In the metal world, they are a highly respected and long running act that is one of very few that can incorporate every band member as a vocalist along with their respective instrument duty. Since the year 2000 [Bubble on Conan] Mastodon has been a step above many other metal acts in just about every aspect.
As for every album being different, Mastodon definitely offer something unique in Emperor of Sand where each song is meant to be taken separate AND altogether with the album. The story of the album follows a wanderer in a desert who has been given a death sentence that eventually dies and is also saved in the process. This character and story parallels a cancer patient going through treatment and other issues revolving death. This is the type of devotion to writing that I think has been missing in a lot of metal and rock albums in the past few years. The days of high selling singles and Spotify playlists are what many artists are aiming for now. What Mastodon are doing with Emperor of Sand is proof that there is at least one active band that is still trying to push themselves creatively without resting on laurels.
My first introduction to the new album was the single “Show Yourself”. All things considered, this is a good standard metal song with a nice hook and memorable guitar solo. I’d be lying however if I said that got me excited for Emperor of Sand. It was when I got to hear the album in full and heard the opening track “Sultan’s Curse” that I realized Mastodon had something enormous coming.
Hearing the opening chime hits that lead into deep hitting drums and guitar riffs is everything you could hope for in the music of Mastodon. Add along some strong vocal performances from three of the four bandmates and you have the opening of a massive experience. It sets up the story as well as changes speed several times to give you a showing of everything coming in Emperor of Sand. The guitar work in “Sultan’s Curse” is fantastic and I can’t stress enough that everything about the guitar performances from Hinds and Kelliher in this entire album is worth the full price to own. I have listened to this album several times all the way through and am still finding sequences and solos that impress me. They are furious, deep, do not repeat each other. After you get past the first two songs on Emperor of Sand is when you start to love this album. Everything starts to open up and Mastodon becomes unhinged. Songs like “Steambreather”, “Roots Remain” and “Ancient Kingdom” are heavy and powerful while still holding up to Mastodon’s claim of something new.
In “Ancient Kingdom” you hear what Mastodon does best. The vocals get loud but you still hear every guitar chord and beat even throughout the changes and sixty plus seconds of entrancing guitars. It’s at this point in the album that you’ll want to start replaying tracks because there is so much to take in while listening and it really can’t be done on the first attempt. And if that is the only complaint I can make then you already know that this album has a lot to enjoy. The fact that you will want to hear many of these songs if not the entire album on repeat just to get everything included is a testament of how good some of these songs are. There might be one or two tracks that won’t stand out as much, but that does not take away from the overall quality of the album.
I can’t really say if this is Mastodon’s greatest work or not as I like their albums all for different reasons, and the debate on which of their seven albums is best will be argued in YouTube comment sections until the site finally dies. One thing that can be agreed on however is that Mastodon can consistently deliver over the years. Overall, Emperor of Sand offers a rich story with amazing music that may have your neighbors complaining about being played too loudly. If you are looking for a metal album that unleashes some amazing groove and guitar solos, then you need to get lost in the desert with the Emperor of Sand.