01. Sultan's Curse
02. Show Yourself
03. Precious Stones
05. Roots Remain
06. Word to the Wise
07. Ancient Kingdom
10. Scorpion Breath
11. Jaguar God
I must confess that I've never been a huge Mastadon fan. They've had the odd song here and there I've really liked (what's not to love about Curl of the Burl?), but I've never understood their immense popularity. I saw them live at Sonisphere a few years ago, and I still didn't get it. Having said that, they seem to be getting bigger and bigger to the point where they're on the cover of magazines and have become a household name amongst Metal fans across the world. I recently heard some old school Mastadon fans moaning about the direction of the new album, so I thought I'd check it out in case they'd made a record I could finally get into.
I did a little research on Emperor of Sand before listening to it, and apparently it's a concept album about having cancer, but told in the form of a story about a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. It's a reflection of mortality based on the real life experiences of the band members and the people close to them. I like the concept, as it's a fascinating one that anyone can relate to, and has plenty of depth and scope for interesting and compelling lyrics.
The opening track Sultan's Curse is a riffing monster and feels like a real journey because there's so much going on musically, even though it clocks in at just over four minutes. It's followed by Show Yourself, which is a short snappy track that makes for a great lead single, but has a much more commercial sound than something I'd expect from Mastodon.
For the most-part of the record, they still have that heavy lo-fi sound that comes across like a detuned Queens of the Stone Age playing Black Sabbath, but with complex arrangements and time signatures that make them so popular in Prog Rock circles. It's all very clever, and I'm sure it is both lyrically and musically a work of art.
Personally, I really like Show Yourself and the epic final song Jaguar God, but the album as a whole isn't going to change my mind about Mastodon. I appreciate that it's a well written and performed album, it's just not for me. Thousands of people will disagree with me on this, but that's cool. Enjoy!