Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Having previously tackled the subjects of fire, earth, water, air and the natural cycles of nature in their previous albums, this time out Mastodon delves into a subject that is not so easily defined: the mysterious concept of time. And that means they don't have to connect all the dots lyrically as they tell the tale of a man who is fated to die in an unforgiving desert, it's just a matter of, well, time. The album's first few songs set the stage for the story as the man in question learns his fate ("Sultan's Curse") demands to know his condemner ("Show Yourself") and schemes about buying a way out ("Precious Stones"). But the real agony begins with "Steambreather" when the man starts thinking too much about his place in the cosmos, with the end result being that he's afraid of himself. To show that the self-doubt is universal and not just an American or western concern, "Steambreather" finds the man referencing the enigmatic Nazca lines of Peru, and other songs from opener "Sultan's Curse" to the closing "Jaguar God" also indicate that a wonderment about time and purpose are not limited to any particular culture or group of people. For that matter "Andromeda" moves the story a couple billion light years away from mankind as we know it. The bottom line, or the moral to the Emperor of Sand story is that each individual is in charge of their own life and there's no one to blame but the person in the mirror if the grains of sand in the hourglass slip away to frivolity. Each is his or her own emperor of sand. Of course if you're not interested in trying to follow the story and hang on every lyric, the above will just give you a headache. Never fear, Mastodon have produced another stellar effort of melodic prog metal here that's packed with their signature blending of headbang and heavenly, with songs like the angsty "Scorpion Breath" and the Foo Fighters-recalling "Show Yourself" being among many that could find themselves getting heavy radio airplay this summer. Mastodon are beginning a national tour in mid-April and likely they'll showcase some of the new music then, and fans shouldn't think too hard about whether to attend or not. Going will be sand well spent.

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Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

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