Atlanta’s Mastodon unveil ‘Emperor Of Sand’; a technical, stormy mix of doomy metal and rock, with melodic singing and a good dose of grooviness added to the mix too. It’s an interesting concoction. The band have found themselves at a crossroad with fans as of late, with more mainstream-esque records being too tame and ‘safe’ for some. Yet, ‘Emperor Of Sand’ has a brilliant tone both musically and lyrically, and sees the band find their innovative streak once again.
The album’s title is centred around death, or the physical embodiment of it, the Emperor of Sand, being the emperor of time, with sand symbolising life’s impermanence. The choppy and doomy ‘Precious Stones’ hits this nail in hard with the line “Don’t waste your time / Don’t let it slip away from you”.
The metaphor of the sand being from an hour glass is also blatantly stated in the both beatific and riffy number, ‘Andromeda’; “Time watching as the sand flows through glass”. One of the album’s finer moments, the track at times is reminiscent of Pink Floyd‘s 1980 classic, ‘Comfortably Numb’.
The elated yet cataclysmic sound in the harmonious parts of the record are soothing, yet also juxtaposed with riffs that flirt with math rock style riffage and some of the record’s heavier vocals.
The album even manages to get some sci-fi-like synth in during ‘Clandestiny’, an interlude before more choppy riffage ensues. It shows off vocalist Troy Sanders‘ amazing vocal range, and also really encapsulates the boundaries that Mastodon push whilst staying relatively close to their foundations at the same time. Yet, the track’s idiosyncratic tone is married in parts with calamitous lyrics, “Give your life, so I can breathe”.
Lyrically pondering upon life’s impermanence and a chance for the band to flex their dynamic musical skills are both more than present in ‘Steambreather’. This is a groove centric cut to begin with, with heavier elements swarming into the song, and, despite being equipped with two solos, it manages to remain rather easy on the ears. The band have a great chance of a hit here.
Mastodon have compiled a record with ‘Emperor Of Sand’ that brings together multiple elements of their career so far. There’s plenty of groove and grit, harmonious vocals, and musical boundaries have been discarded by the band, whilst remaining easily accessible to listeners. All of this along with a heavy topic as a base for the album, they’ve solidified that they aren’t a band in decline.
Written by Dec Sherry (@decxsherry)
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.