I’ve held off reviewing this for a while until I got used to it. I first heard the band just before their second full-length record Leviathan dropped, and got into Mastodon properly around the time The Workhorse Chronicles DVD was released. They’ve been a favourite band ever since, and each new album became a favourite that I’d listen to all year long. They always hold up. I saw them live a few times and it was always great fun.
Then when The Hunter came out, everyone started getting off the Mastodon train, at least it seemed. It used to be that this band could do no wrong in the court of public opinion and suddenly The Hunter was getting a lot of long-time fans feeling disappointed. I agree that it maybe doesn’t hold up so well as the others like Blood Mountain or Crack The Skye, but I really like half of it and like at least three quarters of it.
Still, the magical excitement phase was gone. Time went on, I got into other bands, Mastodon weren’t always on my mind all the time anymore. I wasn’t in a Mastodon mood when I first heard they had a new album coming out. The single “The High Road” didn’t win me over. The full stream of the album was released and with one quick listen it all seemed bland and samey and unexciting. I even started doubting The Hunter like everyone else. Then I saw the band live again and suddenly all these new songs came to life. It was like “Wow, hold on a second, the haven’t lost it at all!” I got given the new album as a gift soon after that and y’know what, I really fell in love with it.
Tracks like “Halloween,” as well as the single “The Motherload” and the Title Track are all joyous, uplifting and pure fun. Its not the crushing, pulverizing Mastodon of “Motherpuncher” or “We Built This Come Death” by a long shot, but the fun is undeniable. The record is a sort of feel-good sunshine album you’d never expect from these guys and yet it works absolutely perfectly.
Most of the album could still be described samey, but only in as much as it is consistent. The Hunter was perhaps too diverse, and as a result didn’t have the same lazer-beam focus that this does. This is a quick, easily digestible and smile-enducing journey through a new Mastodon who are in a good mood. That’s not to say its devoid of variety, just that its focused. Three songs stand out as being different for example; which are the aforementioned “High Road” as well as the Scott Kelly featuring album closer, and then the colourful “Aunt Lisa.” These moments contrast the speedy, light and happy fun of the rest of the record, and provide an essential change of pace that allows the whole thing to work and not feel too one-dimensional.
Elsewhere, the performances are great, the production job is crystal clear and the clean-vocals have never been more talented. Its brief, its focused and its fun.
Overall; Once More Around The Sun may not be to every Mastodon fan’s taste. It will never have the artistic depth of Crack The Skye or the crushing heaviness of Remission, but judged on its own merits its still damn good, even if its not what was expected. I personally like it a lot and I’d recommend people at least give it a shot, even if you’ve not been keeping up with the band recently.