Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Mastodon's Emperor of Sand is your soundtrack for the coming apocalypse

Mastodon show their class on their bleak but brutal seventh album. Photo/Jimmy Hubbard
Mastodon show their class on their bleak but brutal seventh album. Photo/Jimmy Hubbard

Doom laden riffs, down tuned bass, drum rolls and deathly growls about "oceans of sand and rust" and sultans "giving orders to take your head".

If you want a band to soundtrack an apocalypse, a Game of Thrones marathon, or, perhaps, another dodgy Donald Trump press conference, you couldn't go wrong with Mastodon.

Which makes right now as good a time as any for a new album from the wonderfully bearded metallers from Atlanta.

They've been plugging away for 17 years, always playing underdogs to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Lamb of God.

But Emperor of Sand is as pure of a display of Mastodon's class as you can get.

It's a beautifully deranged album, full of bruises for all to see. "Don't waste your time / Don't let it slip away from you / If it's the last thing that you do," goes the mournful Precious Stones.

It makes you wonder, what happened? Cancer, apparently, to family and friends of the band.

"I didn't want to be literal about it. But it's all in there. You can read between the lines," said frontman Brann Dailor when announcing the record.

So it's easy to piece together their gloomy lyrics. "The sky opened up and swallowed us whole/ We watch as it all crumbles down," is how they describe it on album centrepiece Roots Remain.

Mastodon's new album Emperor of Sand shows their class.
Mastodon's new album Emperor of Sand shows their class.

It could be depressing, but Mastodon's knack to turn those topics into stampeding anthems feels life affirming. That's not all: in the age of Trump, those lyrics could be interpreted differently. Look at that cover art: the fire, the power, the pitchforks and the album title itself.

It's unlikely he's a fan. But if the leader of the free world only listens to one death metal record this year, it should really be this one.

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

Label: Reprise
Verdict: Gusty effort from metal's most underrated act

- NZ Herald

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