31 Records To Listen To Instead Of Mastodon's "Once More 'Round The Sun"

“I mean, it’s a terrible record, man. I just don’t get it. If you’re gonna put out a record like that, just do a fucking side project or something, ya know?” -Phil Anselmo on Metallica's "Load"

It's clear as crystal that "Once More 'Round The Sun" isn't what got the initial mass of fans into Mastodon ten years ago at the time "Leviathan" was released. Yet it is exactly what got the second big wave of fans into Mastodon; at the time of "The Hunter"'s release. So what we've got here is a crowd of people who don't like the new sound, and some who adore it; plus the band making comments like "this is different stuff". The 'different' stuff answer might even be the case, but not in the way one might think it would be. "Crack The Skye" was different, yes, and so Mastodon, too. Why then the same thing can't be claimed to be true about Mastodon's next two records? If the band's decision to sing and abandon the growl on those were to be read as their mistake then "Crack The Skye" might as well been called into question; so, why it wasn't so? Because of the embracing of the prog rock structure. Yes, it is that simple. Mastodon, more or less, meant three things: mania, complexity, and a rock n' roll vibe most popular metal bands couldn't materialize even if they sold their collective souls to God, the Devil, and every demon in between; and "Crack The Skye" had two of those for sure.

Still, the entire argument about "Once More 'Round The Sun" not being Mastodon is only valid when seen through the scope of a fan who became a fan because of a certain understanding of the band's attitudes towards music at one point, something ceasing to exist now. Here is the problematic part with the notion of a 'band'. While it is always possible for an artist who produces music under his or her name to change the directions drastically every time he or she pleases, the same thing always causes major dispute for bands. So why is it so crucial for a band to go under the same moniker even though they realize what they're doing is in complete contrast with their origins? Obviously; recognition, fame, and factors of such. If Brann, Brent, Bill, and Troy were going to release the last two records as something other than Mastodon, neither Warner would have released their record, nor it would have reached the same number of people it has reached now. So their decision is a completely rational one if you've been wondering, and nevertheless one with numerous negative results.

Interviewer: Do you think that people who live from their music compromise on their artistry?
Steve Von Till: I don’t think it is a given, but I think it is more than likely true. There’s always an exception. Mastodon perhaps, time will tell. We love those guys and wish them the best, but they are in the belly of the beast and we’ll see how it goes. For us independence is important, even as people we are not willing to have people telling us what to do.

What Von Till said in that interview has been on my mind for the past three years. Up until the release of "The Hunter", Mastodon -- while always getting an equal amount of positive feedback -- have always been this weird band to most 'metal' listeners and/or critics; not because of the albums they're making today, but because of their otherworldly brand of metal. There have been always those who found them not particularly 'metal' and my claim here is that that the same people are now enjoying the new Mastodon. Mass media has been extremely supportive of the last two Mastodon records as they were never before. With Kerrang! awarding them the best album of the year title and so on. I believe that should be observed as a signal hinting us that something's very very wrong.

Why should they be enjoying what they've never been able to fully understand in the past? Because it has changed. Yes. And precisely in a way that it now pleases their pop-demanding ears. The songs lack instrumentality and are heavily vocal-driven. That's pop music, with the mere difference that it's been hailed as the contrary. That's also a sublime process of eliminating a threat in the music business that was Mastodon. Mastodon, if nothing else, manifested a hope for great music being possible through the medium of mass media and it sure as hell wasn't something that mass media wanted. Quite an amazing instance of situational irony when Brent shares his love for Zappa, whose long-time dispute with Warner is known to almost everyone.

Getting to the list, first, I wanna make a polite request to shut your pretty mouth up if you're one of the countless people who's enjoying the new record and simply continue your listen, for I don't aim at interrupting your nice experience, and please, don't come up with anything like this guy did; deathcore? Seriously, if you think early Mastodon is comparable to deathcore, you must be either out of your freaking lil mind or have found Mastodon thru a shitty magazine like Metal Hammer. In any case, my point here is simple: "Once More 'Round The Sun" isn't Mastodon, as with the one before it, and so I'm giving you a list of records, each of which can be counted as one damn good alternate choice. Enjoy your blast.

Artist: Holocaust
Year Of Release: 1997

One of the finest examples of prog metal, a relatively underrated record from heavy metal veterans; Holocaust.

Artist: Coalesce
Year Of Release: 2009

When TDEP were busy infecting their music with pop vocals, getting inspired by Justin Timberlake, blah blah blah, Coalesce recorded one of the most brilliant comeback records of the past ten years. Personally, I think it hasn't been topped yet.

"Days Of Fire"
Artist: Meatjack
Year Of Release: 2003

Meatjack were capable of nearly anything; anything, except making money out of their music.

Artist: El Grupo Nuevo De Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Year Of Release: 2009

Back in 2009, the now deceased Mars Volta were also starting to make 'different' records, but then at least w/ Omar you always have this insane variety of outputs that one of his countless records of that year perfectly matched the Volta sound.

Artist: Elodea
Year Of Release: 2010

This one's for those of you who are particularly fascinated by those Neurosis rip-offs on "Remission". Elodea's music is also an (unconscious) attempt to capture the Neurosis sound using a more 'metal' framework; and it sounds like early Isis, Meshuggah, Botch, and everything in between. Totally underrated compared to bands like Intronaut, the Ocean, or even Deadbird, if you ask me. I mean, just take note of that drumming; it's simply matchless.

"Subject To Change Without Notice"
Artist: Keelhaul
Year Of Release: 2003

People/and or websites like Last.fm usually suggest bullshit like Gojira and Red Fang when asked about a similar band to Mastodon. Wrong. The answer's Keelhaul.

Artist: Zebulon Pike
Year Of Release: 2008

Prog metal band of the decade, period.

"Strap It On"
Artist: Helmet
Year Of Release: 1990

Sick, sharp-edged riffage w/ some pissed-as-hell vox on the top.

"Dollars For Red Books"
Artist: Four Hour Fogger
Year Of Release: 1999

If Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson came up with Sunn O))) when they tried to pay tribute to the Melvins, Four Hour Fogger was what Brent and Troy came up with, trying to do the same thing, their own way.

"Ruder Forms Survive"
Artist: Capricorns
Year Of Release: 2005

This is what happens when a punk/metal act gets influenced by a band like Oxbow.

"Redemption Is Only Skin Deep... It's Time To Cut Deeper"
Artist: Social Infestation
Year Of Release: 1998

Way better than Killer Be Killed. Way way better.

"Dimension Hatröss"
Artist: Voivod
Year Of Release: 1988

Who were the first prog metal band again? Sorry, I didn't catch you.. dream what? you mean Voivod? Right on.

Artist: Larval
Year Of Release: 1996

The term heavy-rock always sounds out of place, unless you're applying it to Larval.

Artist: Sweet Cobra
Year Of Release: 2003

Like Keelhaul, Sweet Cobra have a long-running history of touring/friendship with Mastodon, but unfortunately they don't get to play with them on the same bill anymore, obviously because they aren't as crap as phonies like Ghost to be liked by fans of Mastodon at this point.

"Ruins III"
Artist: Ruins
Year Of Release: 1988

Recommended for those of you who think could use more of that 'Bladecatcher'/'Capilarian Crest' type of madness on the (bass) fretboard, that is neither virtuoso nor fancy.

"It's Hard To Write With A Little Hand"
Artist: Lethargy
Year Of Release: 1996

Get your faces melted while Brann and Bill manifest mathcore at the time it hardly existed.

"You Ruin Everything"
Artist: Pigs
Year Of Release: 2012

From "Lifesblood" up until "Leviathan", the vox on Mastodon albums were extremely noisy, paying tribute to the kings of noise rock/metal: Unsane.

"Only Time Can Tell"
Artist: West End Motel
Year Of Release: 2012

The problem isn't with singing, the problem is with bad, pop-infected singing; the problem is that Brann, the same person who spoke in disregard of Britney Spears back in 2004, has been digging her shit for the past few years.

"Ideas Of Reference"
Artist: Psyopus
Year Of Release: 2004

Do the math yourself.

"Taste The Sin"
Artist: Black Tusk
Year Of Release: 2010

The success of bands like High On Fire and Mastodon gave enough credence to the idea of pacing up sludge that many bands started to ape that. One sole record out of the Savannah scene's numberless fast-paced sludge albums/bands that was just as flawless and classy -- more hardcore-rooted than math/prog but still close -- as early Mastodon was Black Tusk's "Taste The Sin".

"In The Arms Of God"
Artist: Corrosion Of Conformity
Year Of Release: 2005

COC's most intricate, unique effort. Highly recommended if you crave some jazzy drumming like that of Brann's on a metal record, for it is none other than Stanton Moore playing drums on this monster of an album.

"Beyond The Lightless Sky"
Artist: Hull
Year Of Release: 2011

Still underrated as fuck.

"Mother Teacher Destroyer"
Artist: The Hidden Hand
Year Of Release: 2004

"Blood Mountain" had major stoner rock vibes to it, especially considering the clean vox. I believe I even saw Troy wearing a Hidden Hand tee in one of the recording sessions.

"In The Eyes Of God"
Artist: Today Is The Day
Year Of Release: 1999

Wanna hear more of Brann's magic on drums? Today's the day.

"Fiend Without A Face"
Artist: Fiend Without A Face
Year Of Release: 1998

If you're curious to find out about the roots of Mastodon's surf-inspired curiosities that went down in metal history (e.g. 'Megalodon''Deep Sea Creature''Divinations'), you're in for a real treat.

"Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds"
Artist: 16
Year Of Release: 2012

"Hold Your Horse Is"
Artist: Hella
Year Of Release: 2002

One of the other names considered by Brann and Bill, before they picked up Mastodon, was Satanic Rainbow. Also, Bill played in a band called Girdle, who had this one record called "Satanic Love Songs". Just saying.

Artist: Papa Wheelie
Year Of Release: 2002

A little too stoned to catch up with one's Mastodonian definition of sludge, but still savage enough when it gets to the vox to count as a record you might wanna listen instead of Mastodon's ridiculous brand of pop metal; and yes, this is Metallica's Jason Newsted playing pissed off stoner riffs on the guitar -- wonder why people ignore his most brilliant project, Papa Wheelie? People are full of shit.

Artist: Mammatus
Year Of Release: 2006

Want psychedelia and want it dark like in "Revenge Gets Ugly" or "Crack The Skye"? Get into Mammatus.

"Transnational Speedway League"
Artist: Clutch
Year Of Release: 1993

The sonic definition of sickness; heavier than any death metal record released in the 2000's.

Artist: Men At Work
Year Of Release: 1983

There were days listeners could actually go pick a pop record, and run into some music, too. This final record is for those of you who desperately want to listen to pop music and knowing Mastodon's last few records have been poppy and all, plan to buy "Once More 'Round The Sun".