Saturday, 22 April 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Telekinetic Yeti - "Abominable"

By: Andre Almaraz

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/03/2017
Label: Sump Pump Records

All in all, the recording has a huge sound and the production is absolutely amazing. It has everything you could ever want and I would rate it as a perfect 10. The album is truly remarkable and is sure to go down in history as one of rock’s greatest debuts. These guys are definitely heavyweight contenders to find their place at the top of the scene

“Abominable” CD//DD//LP track listing:

3.Stoned and Feathered
7.Beneath the Black Sun
8.Himalayan Hymn

The Review:

Telekinetic Yeti is a two piece stoner/doom band from Dubuque, Iowa and their debut album, “Abominable,” has just been released in March 2017. Quite frankly, this album is a fucking monster from start to finish. Imagine a mash up between Bongzilla, Pelican, Stinking Lizaveta, and Kadavar, and that will get you close to the same universe as the one where Telekinetic Yeti’s musical mastery is born. Album opener and title track, “Abominable,” starts the recording off by lighting a mighty fuzz bomb in your ear. The song is like a left hook to the face and tips you off to hang on tight for a wild ride to come. The drummer means business and lets you know right away that he is out to blow your mind. At just over three minutes in length, the song is short, to the point, and punchy as all hell with vicious vocals to seal the deal. Although the album is mostly instrumental, there are three songs with vocals and this is one of them in a big way. 

The second song, “Electronaut,” is instrumental. It has the quintessential stoner rock/doom groove with a nice touch of prog. This one is right out of the acid soaked, psychedelic 60s scene and a perfect instrumental rocker. At just about five minutes long and drenched with gargantuan riffs, the song keeps the action going strong. Third track, “Stoned And Feathered,” answers right back with the banshee vocals. This one has more of a 70s slam groove going on. This baby is so bouncy and catchy that even the fillings in your teeth will be rocking. The use of effects and melody within it are undeniable as well as unforgettable. The band has also released a music video for the tune which is really fun to watch.

The fourth song, “Colossus,” is instrumental. This one begins with some hard rocking riffs, which is the main theme of the entire album, but then gives way to some dreamy passages adding some spacey mellowness and again, a tasteful touch of prog. This is the longest track on the album, telling its epic story with a haunting melody that will get inside your subconscious and never leave. When “Lightbearer,” kicks in, you are hearing the last song on the album with vocals. This one is a bonafide jam from start to finish with a barrage of ferocity, harmony, and melody. Sixth song, “Apophis,” is the heaviest song on the album in my opinion, making it a personal favorite as I am a huge fan of the heavier stuff and backbeat rhythms. At barely over ninety seconds in length, its untimely end is truly my only slight disappointment of the album and I sincerely hope they explore this slower, heavier, and more doomed out/sludge driven aspect of their dynamics much further in future releases.

Seventh song, “Beneath The Black Sun,” begins with that awesome mellow/spacey trip that they are so good at creating. Some high register riffing makes the bass guitar really stand out up front in this one. The album’s closing track, “Himalayan Hymn,” again begins with the mellow dreamy stuff and then kicks into become a full on chest pounder. In a nutshell, the yeti is a mystical beast. It is not only telekinetic but also a space traveler, a time traveler, and telepathic. One aspect of the album that I found particularly interesting is how Telekinetic Yeti like to start the barrage right away in their songs, and then end several of them with a relaxing outro whereas most other bands do the opposite; they tend to start their songs with long, drawn out intros, eventually building up to when the band kicks in. Telekinetic Yeti smashes you in the face right of the bat and then cools down after the assault is over. I thought that was a cool twist on the status quo of the genre which works well to their advantage. Another notable aspect that makes the band interesting and unique to me is that while three of the songs have vocals, the other five are instrumental, another cool deviation from the norm.

 All in all, the recording has a huge sound and the production is absolutely amazing. It has everything you could ever want and I would rate it as a perfect 10. The album is truly remarkable and is sure to go down in history as one of rock’s greatest debuts. These guys are definitely heavyweight contenders to find their place at the top of the scene. The drummer is an absolute beast which is something that sets this band apart from the crowd, but the songwriting and riffs are ridiculously strong as well, giving the album a surefire winning combination. I think fans of any kind of stoner, doom, and even just 70s hard rock/heavy metal in general could appreciate their music. As the band’s name itself raises curiosity, I have a feeling that Telekinetic Yeti are on their way to becoming one of the scene’s premiere acts in the near future. You should definitely give this album a listen and check out the music video for the song “Stoned And Feathered.” These guys definitely have their shit down and one listen gives you the feeling that these men are destined for greatness. Judging by their Facebook page, they seem to tour quite often. I hope to witness one of their live shows soon and I suggest you do the same if you get the chance. This is simply outstanding music.

“Abominable” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday, 20 April 2017

TRACK PREMIERE: San Antonio doom duo Cursus unleash devastating dirge "The Guardian" and pick their Top Five Doom influences

Artificial Head Records is pleased to announce the signing of psychedelic sludge band Cursus and with it the album will be released on vinyl/digital on 28th April 2017. Pre-order album here

Taken from the Latin word meaning “course” – specifically the mournful paths our ancestors once took to bury their dead – the San Antonio-based paring of guitarist/vocalist CJ Duron and drummer Sarah Roork first came into being in the winter of 2013 with the release of theirSummer Solstice Sessions” demo. Influenced by the likes of Om, Neurosis, YOB and Ufomammut, and deep in experimentation with different sounds, instruments and drone frequencies, the demo slowly unfurled colossal riff driven soundscapes that permeated and punched in equal measure.

Released through independently it quickly caught the ear of label boss and fellow Texan, Walter Carlos, who signed Cursus on the spot to his Houston-based label Artificial Head Records.

“I had toured with Cursus a few times over the years and I’ve always admired their massive sound. Their ability to crush bodies in the room with their songs is uncanny,” explains Carlos. “Initially, we were going to release a live cassette by the band from recordings they made while on tour. But as the project kept going, we decided that a full-length studio album would be better and we’re proud to have Cursus as part of our family.”

Three years on from the release of “Summer Solstice Sessions” and Duron and Roork have their debut album loaded. Produced in a basement-recording studio by close friend Chris Dillard, over six devastating songs Cursus summon personal and spiritual pains and turns each into amplified dirges packed with riffs, hypnotic string arrangements and spellbinding percussion. With the power of cosmic doom burning brightly, distortion slams hard into 6/8 rhythms as the Duron and Roork charter a longboat through a magnificent storm of ethereal destruction.

Cursus’ self-titled debut album will be released on vinyl/digital on 28th April 2017 via Artificial Head Records and you can stream a new track “The Guardian” ahead of the release next week.  

In addition to the stream, we have a double helping of Cursus, as we welcome CJ Duron to take us through their top 5 doom influences s.  So prepare to worship at the altar of volume, as we take our weekly trip into the extreme and turn the volume all the way up to 11.  Why do we go to 11,  because “It’s one louder, isn’t it?”

Winter – ‘Servants of the Warsmen’ 


Winter first came to our attention when we heard them in their early days back in the 90s.  Although I listened to stuff on the faster side, their drudging, intense low-end awakened me to a slower spectrum of heavy music. The video is a mix of rare live footage with an aged, torn film reel aesthetic, which we are fans of.

Acid Bath – ‘Toubabo Koomi’

Acid Bath had to be among the few influences I would mention.  Their approach went from beautifully darkened ballads, to wretched screams of pain. The way they weaved harmonies to capture the poetic nature of music itself, within the heaviest of riffs, left a deep mark on the way we saw possibilities of writing. The featured video captures them in their apex of their refined sound.

Eyehategod – ‘Anxiety Hangover’

Eyehategod has a black place in our heart as one of the first sludge/doom bands I came across. Their start and stop, manic sound, made me realize how a song can take you into very different directions within that short experience. I really like the stock footage they use in ‘Anxiety Hangover’.  The juxtaposition of the perfect American family portrayal, with scenes of destruction, opens your eyes to what can lie behind facades.

Godflesh – ‘Slavestate’

I came across Godflesh in the early 90s. The fact that they came out with this pummeling sound created by two people and a drum machine at the time, blew my mind. That tone and aggressiveness sounded like a ten ton hammer slamming into a metal door. The video they created looks a little primitive at this point, as it came out when digital graphics were really fresh at the time. I liked the bleeding of colors, and the electro-nightmare trip feel that permeates the video.  

Neurosis – ‘Stones from the Sky’

Neurosis is a band that took me a while to understand. I would throw them on while I was working on artwork and it became very cathartic. It started to become a sound that was consoling in a way. Their music seemed more like movements than actual songs. The ability to let a riff breathe and take on different textures always followed me. The video ‘Stones from the Sky’ showcases their steady, expanding sound and features layered images which tell a story behind the scenes. All of these bands had a huge influence on the way CURSUS approaches song writing. They provided a soundtrack to our lives when we were finding out who we were, now I feel that they paved the way for who we have become.

Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

INTERVIEW: In Conversation with doom legend Karl Simon (Wretch/The Gates of Slumber)

By: Richard Maw

Karl Simon, formerly of The Gates of Slumber is back with Wretch- a street level doom band hell bent on bringing you back to reality with their traditional doom sound. Here we ask him about the band, the album and the upcoming European and UK shows.

Sludgelord: You have European and UK shows coming up, can you tell us what kind of set we can expect in terms of songs and if there are any surprises you might throw in?

Karl Simon: Well, we will be playing the majority of our record and a few TGoS songs that we feel are appropriate to this band.... maybe if people let Chris know they want to hear it we'll play “The Jury”. Which was first written way back when he was first drumming in TGoS on the old Sabbath Witch Demo 

Sludgelord: Is there any new material written for the next record?

KS: Yeah we are working on things as they come. You know it's a process. Write a song chuck it all away but one riff and start over. 

Sludgelord: The Judas Priest cover on your debut is a great choice. “Rocka Rolla” has always suffered a really bad press – certainly here in the UK. I have a lot of time for that album; what made you choose “Winter” to record?

KS: Chris really, really wanted to do it and it totally fit in with the vibe of our early jams, it was a cold and hard winter in 2013. 

Sludgelord: In terms of lyrical themes, the Wretch debut is less sword and sorcery and more down to earth; was this conscious choice?

KS: Yes, and this goes back to TGoS... we did “Suffer No Guilt” and it was something I was very proud of on a lot of levels. The record suffers from our inexperience and lack of budget and connections at the time, but the songs I think were some of the best things we did.  That record opened up doors for us and we got to revisit what we were trying to do with “Conqueror....” also a good record, though I think both were too long!   And if I'm honest too quick back to back and so was “Hymns”, I'm actually stunned at how good the stuff on “Hymns” is when I hear it now - I couldn't imagine playing like that again.  But, lyrically it suffers, badly because we were trying to do "a thing".  Gates could do music very quickly, but I didn't have the words on that one.  “Death Dealer” is pretty much a trope, it's not something I was really proud of lyrically, and I was kicking the edge of my abilities as a guitarist as well.  That was Jason's record on all fronts: better songs, better words... everything.  But I couldn't do the "Conan Crushing Doom" thing anymore.  

When we got Clyde on drums for” The Wretch” I had already been working on much doomier more Vitus-ized riffs and songs and his playing totally brought that crawling doom thing out in us.  Jason still had that bug on his mind lyrically but a lot of stuff was changed in the studio.  In a sense if “Hymns” was his record, “The Wretch” was maybe mine?  I dunno.  That's for other people to decide.  

It felt good to sing things more from my life; and I think the audiences connected with those songs more than with the earlier stuff, more on an "I can relate to that" level.  A song about a giant spider will appeal to some folks, but a song about being in the depths of depression or the desolate feeling of rejection or a relationship falling apart... everyone connects with that.  

With Wretch I wanted to continue to make that kind of music.  Make those kind of songs.   

Sludgelord: Having played with Chris Gordon on the mighty “Suffer No Guilt” opus, was he an obvious choice for Wretch? He has done a great job on the album- grooves and powerful playing.

KS: Chris and I just play very well together I get his drumming and he gets how to play to my guitar stylings. We did right out of the box.  I like to jam, Chris likes to jam.  I mean we fight about every week and I'm sure he's love to shoot me.  But we do work well together.  

Sludgelord: How did you get Bryce Clarke involved with the band?

KS: He was a player I'd seen around and I liked his style a lot. And one day I saw his lady in the bar I work at and I asked what he was up to, he came up and I played him some rough recordings Chris and I had done.  He was interested.  Gave him the demo and he came to the first jam knowing all the stuff. We came up with the coda jam at the end of “RIP” that day. He just took bass solo over the 8th note drone part and Chris and I just played along.  All doubts were gone from my mind then. 

Sludgelord: The power trio is a great band format -there are fewer people to argue with for a start- was it your intention to maintain the format with Wretch, as you had done with TGOS?

KS: Yeah, I mean I know Chris would like a keyboard player and or a second guitarist... and there are times I think it would be cool. And then there are times when I'm like "I fucking hate singing I wish there was a singer out there". But in the end nah. The sound is what we have.  Chris is the drummer, Bryce is the bassist, and I sing and play guitar.  That's the sound and it works. 

Sludgelord: The biggest bands in metal are now getting closer and closer to retirement; do you think that young bands will always come up, or are death, trad, doom and all other sub genres destined for something akin to the modern rockabilly scene - conventions, festivals and nostalgia only?

KS: Probably the latter.  I mean the legends of doom are playing the same clubs a band like us plays. You know? This is a cult thing with a crowd that is also getting older.... and who knows what is going on with this music thing anymore?  

I gave up on worrying about the scene and all that shit years ago.  

Sludgelord: Having read interviews with you in the past, it seems that you have really dedicated your life to doom metal: Is it a high price for a small reward, or have you got out of all this what you wanted?

KS: Well... ... I have gotten what was there to get.  If you think there is money in this. You're wrong.  Over the years people have gleefully hurled the "sell out" thing at me.... and rightly so - I did the same idiot shit; the circle is complete. 

I don't think you can set out to do Doom Metal, it's something you kind of have to have in you, maybe more than any other style of music. 

I've been in a semi depressed state since I was 5 years old.  I remember being that young and realizing on some level how futile and dumb the world is.  And I've not been proved wrong.  The depressions found a home in Ozzy's voice and Geezer's words. And in Wino's voice and Chandler's riffs and words.  The depression found a friend in drugs and booze.  

At this point man I've seen more of Western Europe than almost anyone in my town.  I've met some awesome people.  I've played some great shows.  So what there is to do, I've done

Sludgelord: You are playing Roadburn prior to your UK tour; are there any festivals or places you want to play in Europe or the UK which you haven't done in your career yet?

KS: Oh tons.  Lots of places I'd like to play again

Band info: official || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: HARK - "Machinations"

By: Jack Taylor

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/02/.2017
Label: Season of Mist

“Machinations” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Fortune Favours The Insane
2). Disintegrate
3). Nine Fates
4). Speak in Tongues
5). Transmutation
6). Son of Pythagoras
7). Premonitions
8). Comnixant 30
9). The Purge

The Review:

Such is the legendary status of Taint is that HARK is still somewhat unfortunately referred to in some quarters as ‘Jimbob’s new band’, much in the same way that Jason Newsted was perpetually ‘the new guy’ in Metallica. Yet I think if HARK carry on putting out material of the calibre of ‘Machinations’ then their status will usurp that of Taint’s in the near future.

The band’s sophomore record is packed to the rafters with the excellent riffage that Jimbob has made a career out of, as well as his characteristic, punky yelp. Compared to their debut effort, 2014’s ‘Crystalline’, HARK sound more confident and better prepared. Gone are the slightly over baked moments of their first album – the chaff has been well and truly sorted from the wheat, and the band sound even better because of it.

Standout track is “Nine Fates”, which begins with a gorgeous old-school Mastodon intro before launching into a pulsating stoner rhythm. “Disintegrate” and “Son of Pythagoras” are also quality tracks, with the familiar but welcome exhibition of High on Fire-esque grooves and exquisite guitar pyrotechnics courtesy of the aforementioned Jimbob. It’s not like HARK are breaking new musical ground, but they are so good at what they do that it doesn’t really matter if they are or they aren’t.

Like ‘Crystalline’, HARK choose to end this opus with a short instrumental followed by a meandering, multi-faceted closing track, that culminates in a crescendo of triumphant guitar melodies. It’s a fitting way to end a solid second effort – I’m certainly looking forward to seeing this lot on the road in the near future, as these nine offerings are sure to sound gargantuan live.

“Machinations” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Artificial Brain - "Infrared Horizon"

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/04/2017
Label: Profound Lore

The artwork depicting a mournful android grieving the loss of another android is absolutely devastating as a visual, and that same feeling permeates the whole musical experience. It’s bleak, sorrowful, and violent.

‘Artificial Brain’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Floating in Delirium
2. Synthesized Instinct
3. Static Shattering
4. Estranged from Orbit
5. Infrared Horizon
6. Anchored to the Inlayed Arc
7. Mist like Mercury
8. Vacant Explorer
9. Graveyard of Lightless Planets
10. Ash Eclipse

The Review:

Death metal isn’t normally seen as an emotional genre. It might thematically play with fear, trauma, horror, mortality, religion, and related areas, but emotional depth isn’t something anyone points out when explaining or even defending death metal in a broader sense. It may be time to change that. Over the last several years there have been some releases that have helped broaden death metal’s range in this regard, but there may not be an album that has done so as effectively (and affectingly) as Artificial Brain’s new album ‘Infrared Horizon’

“So much deeper than programming” - from “Static Shattering”.

Anyone who has been lucky enough to hear Artificial Brain’s debut will be familiar with the general musical idea here: jangly, gnarled death metal, constantly churning and changing abruptly. The name and theme of the band has always been apropos; as both their debut and this new album resemble the sounds metal crashing and crunching violently, even for a metal band. It’s not just the harsh changes in course; it’s the force and feeling with which these sharp turns are carried out. Artificial Brain was a killing machine right out of the gate.

On ‘Infrared Horizon’, the band gives its killing machine a soul. That process starts with the absolutely stunning artwork for the album from Adam Burke, who has also recently done artwork for Vektor, Gatecreeper, and the upcoming Sólstafir album. The artwork depicting a mournful android grieving the loss of another android may not read is absolutely devastating as a visual, and that same feeling permeates the whole musical experience. It’s bleak, sorrowful, and violent.

None of this is to say that the band aren’t as sonically devastating as ever. In fact, they may have topped themselves in the ferocity department thanks to some well-timed, but absurdly fast palm muting in places. The technique was something Mayhem made use of during Blasphemer’s time with that band, but here it’s taken even further, even if it’s used more sparingly. You could argue that there are other places where black metal makes an appearance as well. The opening moments of “Static Shattering” certainly bear some resemblance to it, the title track sees the band somehow channelling 90s Enslaved at about a minute into the title track while still finding a way to blend that kind of sound into their own. If anything, it shows that the band are so sure of themselves that they’re willing to constantly throw in unique stylistic elements like these knowing exactly how to make them work within their framework.

Artificial Brain arrived fully formed in 2014, both musically and thematically. They weren’t a band in search of their voice; they’ve had it from moment one. With ‘Infrared Horizon’, the band shows us all just how rich and complex and wide ranging that voice can be. If you thought the band was just a talented band with a cool theme, they’ve made an emphatic statement about just how much more than that they are. Artificial Brain are much deeper than programming.

‘Infrared Horizon’ is available digitally here and a CD/LP copy here (EU) and here (US/NA).

Band info: Facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: "Years of Sorrow" by Bone Man

Bone Man is a psychedelic rock band from Kiel, Germany. The trio was established in times of all-embracing teenage angst and has been concerned since these days with all the human absurdities one is exposed to in a world of mundane welfare and mental poverty.

While their live shows are usually characterized by a good deal of raw energy with several guitars already falling victim to their excessive performance, generous heaps of melancholy and hidden folk elements are to be found in Bone Man's songs as well. Aside from folk rock and 70s progressive rock, their musical influences include 90s grunge bands such as Soundgarden and the versatile music of John Frusciante.

Since 2009, Bone Man have been touring constantly through Europe, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. During their ten-year band history, they published nine releases altogether: A demo album, one EP, three split releases, one single and three full-length albums on vinyl and CD.

Their upcoming album titled III is scheduled for April 22nd and will be released on Pink Tank Records. This is all about raw fuzz rock, rage, human deficiencies, the mental abyss and the inner swamp lands. You can preorder the album here

So to hell with waiting another few days for the record, today we can exclusively reveal a brand new track entitled “Years of Sorrow” which you can check out below.  We have also include a few words from the band casting more light on what we can expect from the album

"We wrote this album in a relatively short period of time (autumn of 2016), yet sometimes you'd have older bits and pieces flowing around, like short melodies and text fragments that never made it into full-fledged songs. "Years of Sorrow" is such a song – here, some elements of older, more melancholic origin blend with new material of more cynical nature to create an array of contradicting emotions that fits the overall concept of the album."

Band info: facebook

Monday, 17 April 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Mastodon - "Emperor of Sand"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 31/03/2017
Label: Reprise Records

“this is the best album in a long while from the band, it is accessible without straying that far from the band's template and still finds the band in a modern class of one. Time will reveal just how good this record is, but my feeling is that this one will stand the test of time.”

“Emperor of Sand” CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. Sultan's Curse
02. Show Yourself
03. Precious Stones
04. Steambreather
05. Roots Remain
06. Word To The Wise
07. Ancient Kingdom
08. Clandestiny
09. Andromeda
10. Scorpion Breath
11. Jaguar God

The Review:

Mastodon, over the course of their first four albums, were on the cusp of immortal metal greatness. “Remission” remains their high point for fans of their heavier work. “Leviathan” is generally regarded as classic. “Blood Mountain” is to “Leviathan” what Motorhead's  “Bomber” was to “Overkill”. “Crack The Skye” was an immense work- but a little too smooth for some tastes. After that, things got a little... less interesting. I've always found “The Hunter” to be underwhelming and “Once More 'Round The Sun” was good, but not great- and, time has shown, perhaps a little too safe and friendly- certainly for me, at any rate.

At the time of “OMRTS”, I pondered whether the record would ascend to greatness- sadly, for me, it did not. This time around, Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, AC/DC et al) returns as producer and the band visit personal loss as an inspirational wellspring again. Naturally, there is a story line here- rain, Arabia, telepathy... all very Mastodon. I'll leave you to figure it all out.

If the story and concept and even genesis of the album is very Mastodon, is the music?! “Sultan's Curse” certainly is- it's a great opener, angular riffing, off kilter drums- it has the band being noisy bastards again- great! From there, though, things are not exactly what you may expect. Truthfully, “Show Yourself” is closer to Queens of The Stone Age than anything on “Remission”. The vocals are clean, the rhythms surprisingly straightforward. Make no mistake, it's a great song, but...

“Precious Stones” is more like it; Brann Dailor is very busy behind the kit, the vocals soar, there are changes aplenty and all that makes for a winning track. The listener will become aware here that the record is NOT going to rely on harsh vocals. Really, that is a word of warning to anyone who is expecting a wholesale return to the band's past. Production wise, there is nothing to fault here: the sound is big, very well balanced and superbly mixed. You can hear absolutely everything and the album sounds as massive as the band's name implies.

It's a focused listen too; only the closer strays into epic length territory, with most other tracks in that four to six minute bracket. Looking at all these factors- producer, song lengths, vocal delivery- it is an easy assumption to make that this is an album perhaps akin to Metallica's fifth album- edges smoothed out, hooks silky rather than spiky. However, that may also be doing a disservice to the record and the band.

“Emperor of Sand” is very much a Mastodon record. It's quirky, unpredictable and still technically very proficient and even progressive. The vocals are a clear nod to more mainstream designs- and showcase the band's best vocal work to date in respect of clean singing. The drums are still extremely busy, the guitar work is still very much complex and lead heavy. Tracks such as “Steambreather” have iron-clad riffs at their core. Similarly, “Roots Remain” is heavy and vocal heavy in equal measure with some inspired riffage to boot.

“Word To The Wise” is weighty and catchy and recognisable, immediately, as Mastodon. The band have always had a unique sound (and bands that do tend to rise above the rest) and that sound is very much present and correct. There are even throwback type tracks to previous records. “Ancient Kingdom” would fit in on “Crack The Skye” perfectly, but there is nothing as extreme as “March of The Fire Ants” here, alas.

Once across the halfway point of the record, on first listen, I realised that Mastodon still do sound very much like themselves and also that “Emperor of Sand” is nowhere near as much of a dynamic shift in sound as was “The Black Album”. The best comparison I can make here is to band's produced by Mutt Lange: the change from before and after is clear, but the band is still recognisable. I am talking “Powerage” to “Highway to Hell”, “On Through The Night” to “High and Dry” (yes, I realise that AC/DC and Def Leppard are very strange comparative examples). To put things in direct terms, tracks like “Clandestiny” are way beyond what anyone would think of as mainstream rock or metal, but they are still oddly listenable and hooky and sound fantastic.

Mastodon is still Mastodon, they are just not the band in your back pocket anymore. The angular riffing and time feel of “Andromeda” further hammers this point home: “Pyromania”, “The Black Album”, “Back In Black”, “1987”, “Eliminator” and all other blockbusting examples of lucrative sound changes this is NOT. It's still proggy, weird and even hard to follow in places. The percussion overdubs tell a story of  considered precision, the changes and constant fills and rolls tell you that the band are still doing it their own way.

The intro to “Scorpion Breath” could be straight off “Leviathan”, as could the vocals and even the structure, it's just that the overall effect is slicker. Regardless, it's a great track and a wonderful piece of music. By the time of “Jaguar God”, I was convinced by the record and won over by the band once again, after a few years of tepid interest. Naturally, the closer is the epic track on the album and makes use of quiet/loud dynamics across the nigh on eight minute playing time. In many ways, it is three tracks in one and makes for a fantastic ending.

In summary, then, this is the best album in a long while from the band. It's streets ahead of the last two, certainly. Once again, time will tell in regards to its place in the pantheon of Mastodon's greatest albums but it pulls off a mightily impressive trick: it is accessible without straying that far from the band's template and still finds the band in a modern class of one. Time will reveal just how good this record is, but my feeling is that this one will stand the test of time. 

“Emperor of Sand” is out now

Band info: facebook