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Mastodon – Emperor of Sand Review

Released by: Reprise Records

Release Date: March 31st, 2017

Genre: Mastodon



Brann Dailor | drums
Brent Hinds | guitars
Bill Kelliher | guitars
Troy Sanders | bass/vocals



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”


The latest 11 track offering from Atlanta, Georgia’s MASTODON titled Emperor of Sand is full of hooks and technical brutality that both old and new fans of the band will enjoy. 

MASTODON are an example of what it means to steadfastly stay true to your vision. Since forming in Atlanta, Georgia in 2000, the legendary American heavy metal act has released seven albums and have been labelled by Allmusic as “one of the preeminent metal acts of the early 21st century”.  Rolling Stone stated:  “Mastodon are a bunch of doom-haunted, myth-obsessed, meat-and-potatoes Southern badasses who have become the most important new band in metal.”   In 2009 MASTODON won the Kerrang! Award for Best Video Oblivion and later went on to win the Kerrang! Award in 2012 for Best Album The Hunter

Influencing many of today’s biggest metal acts without ever ceasing to push their own signature sound and desire to not record similar sounding albums MASTODON, have reinvented themselves again with Emperor of Sand.

Emperor of Sand is a fresh breath back to what some may regard as the classic MASTODON sound from their earlier albums.  It offers the same hooks and heavy riffs that fans expect without going into an overly radio friendly approach like the previous release Once More ‘Round The Sun.

When speaking about the album to Rolling Stone guitarist Bill Kelliher said “When I first heard it with the lyrics and everything, I was just bawling”.  He was referring to the track Roots Remain where the lyrics speak of a Grim Reaper like character who resembles Sultan and enforces a death sentence upon a desert wanderer.  This song sums up the concept of Emperor of Sand which deals with the personal issues that the band have endured as they saw family members battle cancer.

“When we’re re-learning the songs and sing the lyrics, we say, “Jesus, this stuff is deep, man,’“he continues, laughing at the band’s insistence on exploring heavy themes. “Why do we have to be so fucking deep all the time?” 

Emperor of Sand mixes the old doom, sludge metal roots with the modern production of MASTODON’s sound that was produced by Brendan O’Brien.  This latest release has a more experimental and progressive feel in especially in the vast vocal range of singer Troy Sanders in tracks “Clandestiny” where the singing shifts from very clear cleans to the heavier growls that old fans will be familiar with.  “Word to the Wise” and “Ancient Kingdom” are other stand out tracks when listening to the vocals on the album. 

This album is almost an hour long and sees MASTODON allow the 11 tracks to flow into each other. 

There is a combination of sounds throughout the album which expand the concept by the way of bassist Troy Sanders and guitarist’s Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, who experiment in heavy thunderous riffs without watering anything down.  The band’s drummer Brann Dailor, definitely does not underplay in any way by his constant technical abilities and diversity on each track.  Most notable tracks include “Sultans Curse,” “Show Yourself,” “Word To The Wise” and “Jaguar God“.    

The track Word To The Wise, reminded me of Crack the Skye which was a very successful and predominate release from MASTODON.  The riffs and drums played a homage to this era of the band and Emperor of Sand producer Brendan O’Brien also produced Crack the Skye.  The sound and approach from this track was a highlight of the album and took a step back in time to the renowned sound of the band.

Some fans have argued about this band changing their sound but it seems that they have developed their original sound into the modern setting with high production.  The fan base expands young and old, genders and a wide range of music fans because of the bands approach.  This is ultimately due to the band standing behind these songs when playing them live and the fact that they have never tried to be something they’re not.  When speaking about Emperor of Sand the band stated that they do not want to ever record the same album twice.  This method of bringing a new sound and style to each release and reinventing themselves with each release, separates MASTODON from the thousands of bands who keep releasing the same material that fans expect each time. 

Emperor of Sand is out now through Reprise and all good record stores.  I think that all old and new fans will enjoy picking up this album and attending the bands upcoming shows which can be found here:


Reviewer: David Bell

Rating: 8/10

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