Mastodon – “Andromeda” Track Review
This is a high stakes return. Mastodon might seem like the most comfortable of metal bands, riding high on critical esteem and, thanks to 2011’s The Hunter, a level of mainstream acceptability, but the Atlantans find themselves in a vulnerable position. Their last album, 2014’s Once More Round The Sun, felt like a satisfying take on a holding pattern: enough to satisfy, but a release that ultimately left fans asking: what next? Can the intricacy of old re-emerge in new and exciting formations, are the band capable of taking that next great leap to headliner status by serving up some serious hits, or have Mastodon, whisper it, plateaued?
The signals have been mixed so far. The trippy sulphuric thrills of lead single “Sultan Curse” certainly suggests the band have plenty of bulldozingly brilliant riffage to uncork (as well as some nifty hooks), but the track felt too muddy to conquer and too straight forward to overawe. “Show Yourself”, on the other hand, brushed depth to one side as it rode the herky-jerky rhythm and assaulted the listener with hummable grooves and catchy lines.
But what of “Andromeda”? Well it would appear that the plot has thickened. Drummer/lyricism Brann Dailor explained that their new material would address fighting cancer and the concept of being aware that time is running out and you existence is at an end. “Andromeda” tackles these themes directly with a brutal opening assault that is heavier than anything witnessed on either of the proceeding singles. It’s to Mastodon’s credit that they manage to emerge from such a remorseless churn with so much drive and dynamism. In one elongated instrumental break, Mastodon are pummelling away, bloodying their fists to the bone, but there remains an incredible grace to guitar line that guides us through this onslaught and back to the (comparative) serenity of the vocal.
Following in the footsteps of Once More Around The Sun, this is complex and expertly crafted metal with a psychedelic pop wash (the hook has a sun drenched and shamanistic vibe), but it is far removed from the gargantuan Gordian knots of old. Mastodon appear content ridding riffs, delivering bombastic beatings and asking existential questions with an ear for the arenas. They are certainly too good and “Andromeda” is too damn immediate to be passé, but there is a sneaking suspicion that Mastodon’s imperious phase may be at an end.