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Ear to the Ground: Mastodon’s “Chimes at Midnight”

The metal gods build on their legacy of brutality while infusing their raging tunes with a cinematic element.

The second single from Mastodon’s sixth studio album shows remarkable growth in the band’s approach to songwriting and recording. But those of long hair and denim vest need not worry: When the Atlanta sludge lords drop Once More ’Round the Sun on June 24th, you’ll hear that they’re still as heavy and brutal as ever.

“Chimes At Midnight” sounds instantly cinematic. The guitar work between frontman Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher heaves and hos with the sonic interplay of two men who’ve played together so long they can read each other’s thoughts. Over contrasting arpeggios and chunky riffs, an eerie lead approximates the Theremin of an old horror movie. The song then shifts gears into a hard-driving rhythm that’s like a battle tank with a throttled turbo engine. The seismic tempo shifts are almost progressive. But between the unpredictable arrangements and the more intricate interplay of riffs and leads, there’s much more going on than with so many lifestyle bands who can’t get past Black Sabbath’s 1972 opus Vol. 4.

Even if you’re a longtime fan who’s attached to Mastodon’s early recordings, there’s no denying the band is evolving in a way that stays true to their original sound while pushing the limits of the genre further than many of their peers.