Mastodon Once More 'Round the Sun

MastodonOnce More 'Round the Sun
It seems there are two camps in the Mastodon universe: people who like Mastodon, and people who used to like Mastodon. Sitting between the two is somewhat uncomfortable. The band's talent, introspection and intelligence are undeniable. Drummer Brann Dailor is one of the most talented percussionists playing today, and their tunes offer something that 90 percent of "mainstream" metal bands don't offer: cerebral divergence and musical complexity devoid of pandering to clichés and stereotypes. On their sixth album they deliver the goods: psychedelic slide guitar solos, '70s progressive rock noodling, polyrhythmic grooves, duelling vocals and driving percussion that interweaves with the guitar enigmatically then crushingly.

Within this complexity lies the problem: they are now nearly devoid of the howling, hurly burly ball-crushers that dominated their legendary debut Remission (2002), along with its follow-up Leviathan (2004). Infrequently, those moments of being heavy-yet-brilliant resurface, such as on middle album track "Chimes at Midnight," along with the entire Scott Kelly (Neurosis) collaboration/album closer "Diamond in the Witch House," but they are disappointingly rare. Yes, bands need to progress, but often simplicity hammers a point home far stronger than progressive meandering. At least this time around Mastodon has scaled back the saccharine elements that watered down 2011's inconsistent The Hunter, making a more coherent, strong album on par with Blood Mountain (2006) or Crack the Skye (2009). That leaves us with an album that's good, but hard to get excited over.

Read an interview with Mastodon's Brann Dailor here. (Warner Bros.)