Few bands have shown the immense development from album to album over the course of their career than Atlanta, Georgia’s Mastodon. Once More ‘Round the Sun is a case in point.

Listen to this new release back-to-back with 2011’s The Hunter, and the progression is impressive. Compare it to 2003’s debut full-length, Remission, and the evolution is remarkable. Mastodon have grown their compositions from knotty, monolithic masses of distortion to airy, hook-laden and triumphant compositional expanses, albeit with gnarly underpinnings. “Tread Lightly” melds buzzing guitar riffs and Troy Sanders’ unmistakable howl into a ferocious chug, and “High Road” boasts sinister counterpoint between the chorus vocals and accompanying chord progression. And while there is plenty of the concise playing that emerged on The Hunter, it is met with proggy nuances for which Mastodon have become know.

As with most Mastodon albums, there is a theme, and with Once More ‘Round the Sun, it is death. While not as involved as the concepts that they have tackled in the past, the compositional dexterity makes for a more innocuous take on what is generally feared. In fact, they seem to delve into death only to come out stronger, more intense, and with greater focus. Given the history of Mastodon and the challenges they have faced in their 14-year career, this plays out like their battle cry. And it is certainly one to behold.

Once More ‘Round the Sun is out now on Reprise Records.

Rating: 4/5 Stars