Album number six of Mastodon’s career arrives at a very fitting time with heavy metal experiencing a rare moment in the limelight due to Metallica having just headlined Glastonbury. Though Mastodon have yet to reach the heights of Metallica, their career is beginning to take a similar trajectory to that of the trash metal legends. Having built up a cult following on the back of four albums of highly uncompromising metal, 2011’s ‘The Hunter’ saw Mastodon switch to a more polished sound much like Metallica did with ‘The Black Album’. On album number six, the trend continues with Mastodon making their most accessible album to date.
As well as being their most accessible album, ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’ is the simplest album of the band’s career with them embracing a mostly no frills hard rock sound in place of the highly conceptual prog metal of yore. The likes of Tread Lightly and The Motherload certainly owe more to the likes of Alice In Chains than they do to any prog influence. The transition towards this cleaner sound was obviously a conscious decision with the band employing Nick Raskulinec, best known for his work with the Foo Fighters, to handle production. Raskulinic recently made a bit of a mess of the latest Hold Steady album but he seems to have really clicked with Mastodon with his beefy, polished production really suiting the band’s sound.
Even though this is their most polished album to date, there’s still enough heaviness to keep the purists happy. High Road has a distinctive Pantera feel to it while Chimes At Midnight is even heavier bringing to mind Life of Agony. The heavy riffing, which the band is renowned for, remains too; the riff on Feast Your Eyes is particularly monstrous. What is lacking though is the experimentation of old. Aunt Lisa and the album’s closer Diamond In The Witch House are the only two numbers on which things get really weird. Aunt Lisa comes complete with a bizarre ode to the Ramones with the song breaking down into a gang chorus of ‘Hey Ho/Let’s Fucking Go’. It’s juvenile and slightly idiotic yet it’s still one of the highlights of the album. The latter of the two songs sees the band revert back to prog mode closing the album with a near on eight minute groove.
If Metallica headlining Glastonbury has put metal back into the limelight again, it’s also proven that for the most part people are still highly sceptical of the genre. For this reason, despite releasing their most accessible album of their career, Mastadon are unlikely to be troubling FM radio anytime soon. Nevertheless, this is still a fine album, one that should attract a new audience that only has a curious interest in metal, while at the same time appeasing the metal purists.