Art is a cyclical beast. The same can easily be said of Grammy Award nominated hard rock juggernaut Mastodon. The group’s four members recognize the importance of life’s omnipresent cycles on their sixth full-length album, Once More ‘Round the Sun. The band orbits around themes of loss and rebirth, twirling a sonic spiral of its signature robust riffing, hypnotically haunting soundscapes, triage of dynamic voices, and thundering seismic grooves. At the same time, this particular collection proves personal for Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders.
The very title says something slightly different for each member. "Quite literally, Once More 'Round the Sun means a year-in-the-life," explains Dailor. "Lyrically, we were discussing things that happened to us recently, whereas in the past we looked further back for inspiration. It's about 365 days in this band. It was a tough and strange journey. We happened to be in the middle of completing a full rotation musically as everything else was going on."
"It's about being a man and trying to survive in the world. You’re facing all of the crazy shit that goes along with it," adds Hinds. "You've got to just keep rolling. It's the daily grind everybody deals with. It's grinding and rewarding."
Kelliher concurs, “A lot of crazy and epic things have happened in the nutshell of the past year. For me, I had recently gotten sober. I really focused my time on writing music instead of drinking and being hungover. We were in a different space here. Another year has gone by, and we wrote this record.”
Sanders smiles, “The title itself deals with a cycle. Writing, recording, and touring are kickass experiences that we get to relive over and over again. We’ve got the ability to strap it on and go out another time. I look forward to riding this out once more with my three friends.”
Mastodon’s own collective cycle encompasses a staggering string of accolades. Whether it’s the public endorsement of peers as diverse as Metallica, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, CeeLo Green, and Feist or unanimous praise from the likes of Time and Rolling Stone, the band continue to make an impression at every turn. 2011’s The Hunter saw them achieve their highest chart debut yet, reaching #10 on the Billboard Top 200, while the single “Curl of the Burl” notched their second Grammy Award nomination in the category of “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance”. In between scorching stages everywhere from Sonisphere and Download to Bonnaroo and Coachella, they scored the Josh Brolin sci-fi western Jonah Hex and have been sought out for soundtracks including Pixar’s box office smash Monsters University. As far as rock ‘n’ roll goes, their legacy irrefutably stands alone. However, that legacy expands yet again with Once More ‘Round the Sun.
Eagles of Death Metal is an American rock band from Palm Desert, California, formed in 1998 by best friends Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme. Despite their band name, Eagles of Death Metal is not a death metal band. The story goes that a friend was introducing Josh Homme to the death metal genre. When he played a song by the Polish band Vader and made a claim that the song was within the death metal genre, Homme then referred to Vader as "The Eagles of Death Metal". After hearing this phrase, he wondered what a cross between the Eagles and a death metal band would sound like. With that, the band was born.
Perhaps the most immediately apparent characteristic of the fifth Russian Circles album, Memorial is its wide range of emotion. Vacillating from somber-yet-soaring melodies on one track to pummeling metal heft on the next, Memorial sounds like an album with split personalities.
Where one song showcases guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz and bassist/keyboardist Brian Cook's mastery of lush melancholic melody, the next exhibits their most abrasive underground metal leaning sound, with washed-out 16th-note riffs and crushing rhythms. The band's penchant for endless hooks remains a constant, but Memorial embodies their most dramatic ranges in tone.
"We've always tried to balance our metal-influenced sounds with more nuanced, pretty, orchestral elements," Cook says. "But this time, it's far more polarized in that the heavy parts are much more blown out and exaggerated while the pretty moments are far more restrained, delicate, and atmospheric." In the two years since Russian Circles released their landmark fourth album Empros, the Chicago trio toured worldwide nearly incessantly, encountering many heavy acts whose music seemed needlessly complicated. "We set out to make a straightforward, intense, heavy record," Cook explains. "We subconsciously gravitated toward darker and more somber sounds. We wanted to get away from the overtly flashy."
In search of such a streamlined sound, the trio focused on each individual song having its own emotional and musical characteristics. As such, Memorial almost feels like stages of grief. That notion might be aided by 1) the album's clever structuring, in which it ends in the same place as it starts, and 2) special guest vocalist Chelsea Wolfe lending her hauntingly somber vocals to the album closing title track.
To a degree, the monolithic, juxtaposed moods on Memorial is the band's reaction to the proliferation of iPod culture affecting how bands write music. Today, most musicians are trying to mash together disparate elements with results sounding as unpalatable as cooking a meal blindfolded. Russian Circles wisely and deftly sidestep the trappings of genre amalgamation. "I want to hear a band with a broad palette," Cook says. "But it should find that weird balance with breadth and width. We wanted to make a record with more extreme peaks and valleys. I'm hoping that we can get away with making a schizophrenic record."
Memorial was recorded at the illustrious Electrical Audio studio in Chicago with the band's longtime producer Brandon Curtis of The Secret Machines & Interpol who also helmed the band's two previous albums, Empros and Geneva.
Every pair of tickets purchased online for Mastodon includes your choice of a physical or digital copy of their new, soon-to-be released album. You will receive instructions via email on how to redeem your album once it is released (date yet to be confirmed).
The new album from Mastodon will tell the story of "a desert-like version of the Grim Reaper," says drummer-singer-lyricist Brann Dailor. Across a dozen tracks of muscular, metaphysical hard rock, the still-untitled set, due out in spring 2017, grapples with themes of mortality – inspired by seeing close friends and family diagnosed with cancer in recent years. - Rolling Stone