This is some weird shit. Ok so Mastodon have never really done anything normal but the monstrous quartet’s fourth full-length is officially freakin strange. The concept (of course there’s a concept) is a collision of time travel, ghostly possession, spirit worlds, and Russian wizards, and the music is no simpler.
First single ‘Divinations’ mixes warped country twang with wrecking ball metal, ‘Quintessence’ could be a pop song if it wasn’t for the devil voices and Brann Dailor’s drumming, and four-part epic ‘The Czar’ sounds like 15 bands playing at once. Not one of those bands made Mastodon’s previous albums though. Here, the irrepressible roar of 2004’s ‘Leviathan’ and the ragged edges of 07’s ‘Blood Mountain’ have been smoothed over and replaced with a cleaner, more psychedelic but somehow more streamlined power, Troy Sanders’ vocals have gone from rawsome bark to grungy croon and the prog factor is way off the scale. It’s going to drive some people mad.
If you can get over the oddness and softness though, this record is capable of taking you on a real ride. A journey that doesn't stop for ages either as the serpentine riffs and layered hooks get into your head and refuse to leave. It's an album made to stay with you for... well, forever really. And from a band that don't need to work anywhere near this hard anymore (Mastodon have just about become the Radiohead of metal now, not quite above criticism but guaranteed to sell a certain amount of records regardless of what weird and wonderful directions they go in), that's mighty impressive whatever your opinion of prog rock.
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