Mastodon's Troy Sanders Talks New Album Once More 'Round the Sun

"The four of us are digging it very heavily."

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Mastodon has one of the most celebrated discographies in modern metal, so any news of a new album is great news. We caught up with bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders to discuss the band’s forthcoming album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, which is slated for a release later this year on Warner Brothers Records.

“The songs all revealed themselves as what we’d hoped they’d sound like,” Sanders told us in February, immediately following the album’s tracking. “It’s big hugs all the way around. The four of us are digging it very heavily.” The album—which took the band from their hometown in Atlanta to Franklin, Tenn., for recording late last year—was just mixed by producer Nick Raskulinecz (Deftones, Rush, Alice in Chains, The Hold Steady). Now the Atlanta quartet is just waiting to solidify a release date.

“The idea was generated before we recorded the title track on the record, but the title was thought up many months ago,” Sanders said earlier this week about Once More ‘Round the Sun. “After we finished the two-year touring cycle on our last record, The Hunter, we were kind of gearing up to go back to our rehearsal space in Atlanta. And we were starting the effort, the time, the blood, the energy, the months of driving, the recording and the long process between recording and the release day.

“In a nutshell: we’re fortunate enough to do this again, but there’s this feeling of this yearly cycle. It’s not a bad thing. We get to go tour a bunch, we get to record a bunch of songs we love. It’s embracing the positive—the wonderful side, to be able to have the same four dudes who love doing what we do so much. And like anything in the Mastodon world, it’s open to interpretation.”

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Bill Kelliher tracking guitars

Sanders said the album’s 60-or-so minutes are pure, authentic Mastodon. It launches off as a progression from The Hunter, which saw the band trimming back on song runtimes and pulling away from heavily conceptual pieces like Crack the Skye or Leviathan. “We’re all over the world as far as themes go,” Sanders said. “But there are a few sprinkles of epic goodness.” And with three vocalists—Sanders, drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Brent Hinds—expect a pretty even split from what Sanders dubs the traditional Mastodon vocal tag-team.

“A lot of people ask us if it kicks off where The Hunter left off,” he said. “And to a large degree, I suppose yes. We recorded it and took it on the road with us, and then we headed back to our rehearsal space and started working out ideas. I’ve had a lot of time to ingest this record, and it’s solid. It’s a large slab of granite. I’m once again completely proud of these guys.”

Brann Dailor at the mixing board

Unlike many Mastodon albums of the past, Once More ‘Round the Sun’s sessions left the band with some extra material. The band ended up cutting around 30 minutes of music, which Sanders hopes to see as an additional EP after the album release. “We didn’t want a 90-minute album. We like to record around the 60-minute mark. That’s what our favorite records are. We’re in love with all 15 of [the songs], so they might all see the light of day in some platform or another.”

As far as the songs themselves, Sanders has a few favorites. One includes “Diamonds in the Witch House,” which has an expected guest spot from longtime collaborator Scott Kelly of Neurosis. “I think subconsciously that we’re trying to involve him with every album enough to have a full set of songs eventually,” Sanders said, laughing. “I think his performance is great, his part still gives me chills. That’s a great sign.” Another early standout is “Ember City,” which was the first track Sanders contributed lyrically and vocally in the writing process for Once More ‘Round the Sun.” “But I’m a big fan of every song on the record,” he added.

And with a band that’s got such powerful album covers like Leviathan, Crack the Skye or The Hunter, what can we expect there? Oakland-based artist Skinner, who specializes in “psychedelic nightmare paintings” (his words), will take the reins on Once More ‘Round the Sun. “It’s going to be a work of art for sure. It’s going to be very eye-opening, very striking. It’s from another dimension, and a lot of our music is geared toward that idea—taking you to another planet on songs. It’s out there, and I think it’s incredible.”

Mastodon does not yet have a release date set for Once More ‘Round the Sun, but you can catch them starting late this month on their North American tour.

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