The belting choruses were catchier than ever. Devilishly catchy. But where was the artsy creativity and chest-pummelling aggression? After already becoming more toned down on Once More ‘Round The Sun, had these dudes finally decided to pack in prog metal for full-on Foos-esque arena rock?
Fortunately not. Emperor of Sand is as album that needs time to warm up and stretch it's muscles, because once it reaches fifth track ‘Roots Remain’, it finds its stride. The songs stay terse, but become more dynamic - juxtaposing fleshy distortion with light spacey twanging. And then like a round of shots ordered at the end the night, they leave their heaviest tracks for the album’s finale – two riff-laden bruisers ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Scorpion Breath’ and an eight-minute leviathan ‘Jaguar God’ that builds slowly before plummeting into a mean thrash section topped off with a melancholy axe solo.
At this stage, Mastodon seem to be juggling their crowds well – catering to the fans of their more hooky new stuff and their heavy old shit. Personally, I’d like to see the singalong choruses of the first half and savage instrumentation of the second half of this record melded together more. Regardless, this is still a hard-hitting gauntlet of tunes.