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Review: Mastodon’s ‘Emperor of Sand’ Is Their Most Ambitious in Years

Our take on the proggy metal band’s seventh album

Review: Mastodon
, 'Emperor of Sand
'

Mastodon's seventh album is 'Emperor of Sand
.'

Jimmy Hubbard

Perma-frowned doomsayers Mastodon are back with yet
another friendly reminder that someday everyone will die. This time, it comes
in the guise of seventh album Emperor of Sand, a lofty concept piece about a man
wandering a desert with a curse over his head set to swirling, frenetic guitars
and gut-rumbling drums. “Don’t waste your time/If it’s the last thing
that you do,” goes the chorus to Emperor’s boogie-metal “Precious
Stones,” and the band largely took that advice to heart. The LP is
their most ambitious outing since 2009’s proggy Crack the Skye
following two relatively pared-down LPs – and at its best (the radio-ready
pop-rocker “Show Yourself,” the triumphal outro of “Ancient Kingdom,”
the Zappa-inspired synthesizer-and-bells duet midway through “Clandestiny”)
it’s a glorious metal miasma. At its worst (guitarist-singer Brent Hinds’
mumbly, off-key acoustic intro to “Jaguar God,” the noodle-y “Steambreather”),
it’s a potent reminder that, yes, indeed, time is precious. Mostly, they find a
middle ground that pays homage to the burly heft of Mastodon past and the heady
rock they’ve always aspired to make.

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