There’s a saying about first impressions being misleading, and this certainly was the case the first time that this reviewer listened to the latest, sixth full-length offering from Atlanta’s finest musical export. The initial wave of reaction which not so much swept over me but lapped mildly at my ankles was one of being under-whelmed.
However, it would be fair to say that ‘Once More…’ is very much what could be described as a “grower” – as the more you listen to it, the more you get into its groove. Certainly, it lacks the immediacy of its predecessor, ‘The Hunter’, and that perhaps explains the initial feeling of disappointment – and, indeed, “wtf?” – as it fails to grab you by the balls immediately and force its attention upon your addled rockers’ ears. Rather than delivering a sucker punch front and centre, it dances around the listener, probing and jabbing and looking for an opening through which to squeeze itself into your listening psyche and therein embed itself…
But, when it eventually finds its way through, the effect is as hypnotic as that which you have come to experience from a Mastodon album – and also a slightly different beast as well. As mentioned above, it is not as immediately impactful, as punchy, as either its immediate precursor or indeed the previous ‘Crack The Skye’ opus magnus. It’s a more melancholic, haunting affair – which is inevitable and understandable given some of the very personal issues which it addresses – more psychedelic than progressive in its overall feel; that being said, it does have its heavier, edgier moments, and enough of a plethora of them to please fans of the harder end of the band’s musical spectrum.
One thing that does become clear with repeated listens is just how much of a well-rounded album it is, the songs flowing into one another with the grace and ease of the Chattahoochee River following its course from the southern Blue Ridge Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, their moods ebbing and surging from their outwardly calm source to the broiling, seething undercurrents generated by the darkness of the lyrical subject matter. It’s an album which, at first, is not comfortable to listen to, as it pushes the boundaries of the Mastodon sound, but it soon turns the mood from one of initial disappointment to one of dark delight and all-encompassing aural satisfaction.
Tread Lightly / The Motherload / High Road / Once More ‘Round The Sun / Chimes At Midnight / Asleep In The Deep / Feast Your Eyes / Aunt Lisa / Ember City / Halloween / Diamond In The Witch House
Recommended listening: High Road.
Once More ‘Round The Sun is out now on Reprise Records.
Mastodon play the main stage at Sonisphere on Sunday July 6.