Mastodon have just released their sixth album. Harry Guerin comes back down to earth for a bit.
It's no easy thing to follow up an album that featured the career-defining lyric, "I killed a man 'cause he killed my goat", and when said record, The Hunter, also turned out to be your biggest to date, well...
But even on the first listen to Once More 'Round the Sun it's apparent that Mastodon have again worked that alchemy where pressure becomes confidence, turning out songs as catchy as they are technically accomplished and which justify the trippiness and listen-start-to-finish allure of that title.
Working with Foo Fighters and Rush producer Nick Raskulinecz has brought even more fluidity and crispness to Mastodon's blood and thunder. Here, the choruses seem to matter more than ever before; there's a greater sense of urgency and as for those solos... Sure, you get heavy and angry, but you also get hope and uplift, bringing to mind Lemmy's great quote about it being his job to make kids stand a foot taller. Their calling cards may be different, but Mastodon are in the same business. Market leaders, too.
And yet you couldn't say for definite that they're now at the peak of their powers. Among the many things Once More 'Round the Sun tells us is that this is just as much an adventure for band as listener, with wrong turns possible along the way. Right now, there are niggles about whether the long march of Diamond in the Witch House should've closed the record and whether Aunt Lisa tries to cram too much - screamo hardcore, prog, Faith No More Be Aggressive-style dynamics - into a song. Perhaps they're growers, and even if they're not a great nine out of a tracklisting of 11 is some reward, as is the prospect that there's better to come.
How many bands can you really, hand-on-heart say that about these days?