Mastodon Embrace Prog and Weirdness on 'Once More 'Round the Sun'

Mastodon Embrace Prog and Weirdness on 'Once More 'Round the Sun'
The lumbering behemoth known as Mastodon is a relative anomaly in metal. Their musical lineage and ability are nothing short of remarkable; their fan base has been largely respectful of their divergent and cerebral trajectory, multiplying with each output. Now on the verge of their sixth full-length, Once More 'Round the Sun, the band are burrowing deeper down the rabbit hole, further embracing '70s progressive rock archetypes alongside their characteristically complex, rip-roaring numbers.

Exclaim! chatted with Brann Dailor, whose drum skills and otherworldly lyric writing help define the band. He's a self-proclaimed lover of '70s prog — Genesis's sprawling 1974 concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a personal favourite — which has clearly flowed into Mastodon.

"That's the archetype we shoot for," Dailor says. "The free spirit of the '70s prog bands. They did whatever they wanted. But not that alone, there are so many other things that have happened since prog rock, like punk rock. There is that attitude that we put in there as well. We like to combine all that stuff. We aren't solely shooting for just being progressive, we also want to be raw, and just ourselves."

They are definitely themselves — no other bands sound like Mastodon, though many have tried, to varying success. Their divergence is part of the package, even if it alienates audiences, as the Coathangers' appearance on the track "Aunt Lisa" may end up doing. The song is a bizarre, uplifting, jarring track, with the punk band chanting "Hey ho, let's fucking go! Hey ho, let's get up and fucking go!" overtop.

"It's just weird. At the end, we just feel like, it's the end of the song, and it couldn't get any weirder, so we took the Coathangers singing that weird Ramones chant over it, and it just got weirder," explains Dailor. "We like to surprise ourselves, and we like to surprise the audience, whether they like it or not. They go 'ugh, I don't like that surprise.' But we like it. It's bizarre."

Though sonically the album shoots into multiple directions, lyrically the present became a fixation. Whereas their first four albums delved into their psychologically traumatic pasts to bizarre effects (for example, Crack the Skye takes the pain of Dailor's sister Skye passing away and couples it with astral projection and otherworldly discourse), both 2011's The Hunter and this album were inspired by what was happening at the time of recording.

"This one was particularly tough. It just manifested itself in the album, you know. I guess what I was speaking about, maybe in the past, the subject matter and things we draw from, we dug a little deeper in the past, whereas this is a bit more superficial," concurs Dailor. "Not superficial in subject matter, but things were on, things had just happened."

Once More 'Round the Sun arrives June 24 on Reprise. In support of the album, the band have several tour dates lined up, including a Canadian stop at Montebello, QC's Amnesia Rockfest on June 20. You can see the complete schedule here.

Read the rest of our interview with Dailor here.