Mastodon-Emperor of Sand

In truth, Mastodon have never released a bad album. The Atlantean progressive metallers haven’t even released an average album. That doesn’t mean to say that numerous fans have had a disliking for the latter-day material however. Indeed, the previous two albums in The Hunter and Once More ‘Round the Sun seemed to polarize a small portion of Mastodon’s fanbase with a penchant for a more mainstream-based albeit still ultimately interesting style of groove-inflected metal. That said, those two albums didn’t have the ambition or indeed the emotional turmoil of Crack the Skye, or this year’s latest effort, Emperor of Sand. Both of these records are linked in that, behind the excellent musicianship and compositional bravado emanates a concept based on emotional times in the band members’ personal lives. Emperor of Sand is thus the honest, post-reaction to such emotional times, and it does a cracking job of displaying that in all of its powerful musical journey.


Emperor of Sand at first displays further ventures into where Once More ‘Round the Sun left off, though here there’s clearly a sense that the band are full of life. “Sultan’s Curse”, “Precious Stones” and “Steambreather” are but three of many songs in the latest album which, musically at least, feature a confident reliance on complex albeit raw musicianship, crafted on the backbone of well-executed songwriting. However, these songs also contrast the idea that Mastodon have fallen into a creative slump-In all honesty, they really haven’t, it’s just that the best parts are still to come. “Show Yourself” is lyrically inclined to produce one of the band’s most emotionally charged tunes, a three-minute, pacy number which proves each member is still at the height of their talents in the studio. However, beneath the musicianship and vocal prowess, you can already get the feeling that each band member has dealt with difficult times prior to the recording of Emperor of Sand. It’s felt in Dailor’s pained albeit honest voice, Hinds’ rumbling roar and even Sanders’ soaring howls. The same emotional result can be felt in the likes of “Word to the Wise” and “Scorpion Breath”, albeit to a lesser extent.


As said before, you may initially be thinking that Emperor of Sand is a mere continuation of the focused musical formula first worked on The Hunter, but such thoughts may be quashed when “Precious Stones” begins to play. It’s a driving song, full of life as always, but borders on epic, atmospheric soundscapes later on, charging the band’s ambitious side to take full control. “Roots Remain” and “Andromeda” almost feature a sludgier musical style which strongly resembles Mastodon’s humble albeit still talented beginnings, with the furious mid-section of both songs invoking the band’s more menacing musicianship. However, if it was down to one song that would be a stand-out highlight of the album, it surely has to be “Clandestiny”. One of the album’s shorter songs, but definitively one of the best on Emperor of Sand at exploring potentially new territories and reminding fans that the band still have it in them to produce exemplary complex instrumentation. The psychedelic flourishes in the mid-section, the twisting solos, and the almost ambient outro ensures that “Clandestiny” will stick to the listener’s brain for hours after the album has finished, and it simply proves that Mastodon are still at the top of their level.


Depending on which era of Mastodon you are more inclined to enjoy, Emperor of Sand deserves your undivided attention from the get-go. Sure, it’s not worlds apart from the last two records Mastodon have put out, but knowing the reality behind the album’s central concept will put things into perspective and suddenly you’ll learn why the songwriting is as fluid as it is, and why Mastodon as a collective seem so full of life. Once again, the band have written on of the most compelling, intriguing metal albums of the year. They simply never seem to stop doing so.



Released March 24th, 2017.


  1. Sultan’s Curse
  2. Show Yourself
  3. Precious Stones
  4. Steambreather
  5. Roots Remain
  6. Word to the Wise
  7. Ancient Kingdom
  8. Clandestiny
  9. Andromeda
  10. Scorpion Breath
  11. Jaguar God



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