Emperor of Sand is Atlanta based alt-metal band Mastodon’s latest eclectic offering. The follow up to 2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun, the group’s seventh studio album sees Mastodon burst forth in all sorts of directions. Emperor of Sand is a poignant concept album based on a man’s exhausting journey through an unrelenting desert. During the writing process for the album, several of the band’s family members were diagnosed with cancer. Emperor of Sand unsurprisingly dwells on themes of loss, time, and mortality. The standout lyric from the album’s third track ‘Precious Stones’ – “Don’t waste your time, don’t let it slip away from you” sums up the album’s themes perfectly.

Musically, Emperor of Sand is also rock-solid. Drawing influences from all of their previous albums, Emperor of Sand expands on the band’s use of multiple vocalists, creating some powerful, soulful melodies. The technical brilliance of each band member is also clear to see in all songs. Drummer Brann Dailor’s octopus-like drum fills are the thunderous driving force of the album, while the guitar work of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher constantly impresses. Lest we forget Troy Sanders’ excellent bass-playing, which provides a great framework for some exceptional riffs and solos.

Emperor of Sand is the pinnacle of a band which has never been afraid to push the boundaries of rock and metal. The intimacy of the lyrics coupled with some masterful song writing makes Emperor of Sand stand out as not only one of Mastodon’s finest releases, but also one of the best metal records of 2017 so far.