Emperor of Sand

Last updated
Emperor of Sand
Emperor of sand cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 31, 2017 (2017-03-31)
RecordedOctober – December 2016 [1] [2]
Label Reprise
Producer Brendan O'Brien
Mastodon chronology
Once More 'Round the Sun
Emperor of Sand
Cold Dark Place
Singles from Emperor of Sand
  1. "Show Yourself"
    Released: February 3, 2017
  2. "Steambreather"
    Released: August 25, 2017

Emperor of Sand is the seventh studio album by American heavy metal band Mastodon. The album was released on March 31, 2017 through record label Reprise Records. The album's first single, "Show Yourself", peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in 2017. The second single, "Steambreather", peaked at number 18 on the same chart. It was ranked on several year-end lists, including at number three on The Independent's "Top 20 Rock & Metal Albums of 2017". [3]

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Mastodon (band) American heavy metal band

Mastodon is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, formed in 2000. The group is composed of Troy Sanders (bass/vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar/vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitar), and Brann Dailor (drums/vocals). Mastodon has released seven studio albums, as well as a number of other releases. The band's 2002 debut album, Remission, garnered significant critical acclaim for its unique sound. Mastodon's second full-length release, Leviathan, is a concept album based on the novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Three magazines awarded the record Album of the Year in 2004: Revolver, Kerrang! and Terrorizer.

Reprise Records American record label

Reprise Records is an American record label founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operates through Warner Records, one of its flagship labels.



Emperor of Sand is Mastodon's seventh studio album. [4] [5] The album was recorded at the Quarry in Kennesaw, Georgia and mixed at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles. [4] The band worked with record producer Brendan O'Brien, with whom they collaborated on their 2009 album Crack the Skye . [4] The songs were recorded as originally arranged, then they revisited each track to edit and refine the sound. [4] Drummer Brann Dailor completed his drum tracks and began drafting lyrics while guitars and bass were being recorded by other band members. [4]

Kennesaw, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Kennesaw is a city in Cobb County, Georgia, United States, located in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. Known from its original settlement in the 1830s until 1887 as Big Shanty, it became Kennesaw under its 1887 charter. It had a population of 29,783 according to the 2010 census. Kennesaw has an important place in railroad history. During the Civil War, Kennesaw was the staging ground for the Great Locomotive Chase on April 12, 1862. The city is perhaps best known nationally today for its mandatory gun-possession ordinance.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles is often called by its initials L.A.. It is the most populous city in California; the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City; and the third most populous city in North America, after Mexico City and New York City. With an estimated population of nearly four million people, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean-like climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis.

Record producer Individual who oversees and manages the recording of an artists music

A record producer or music producer oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer's music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album. A producer has many, varying roles during the recording process. They may gather musical ideas for the project, collaborate with the artists to select cover tunes or original songs by the artist/group, work with artists and help them to improve their songs, lyrics or arrangements.

Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth both appear as guest vocalists on "Scorpion Breath" and "Andromeda" respectively. [6] Kelly has appeared as a guest vocalist on every Mastodon studio album since Leviathan (2004). [7]

Scott Kelly (musician) American musician

Scott Michael Kelly is one of three founding members of Oakland, California experimental metal band Neurosis, in which he is a vocalist and guitarist. He has been writing and publishing music since 1985 with Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot, Blood and Time and his solo acoustic project. He is also involved in a project named Shrinebuilder involving Al Cisneros, Scott Weinrich, and Dale Crover. The first album from Shrinebuilder was released in October 2009. He has also guested on six studio albums by the band Mastodon. In addition to his musical projects, Scott, along with his bandmates in Neurosis, is co-owner of Neurot Recordings. Beginning in April 2011 he began hosting a monthly 3 hour streaming radio show on Scion A/V.com channel 5 called KMBT. He previously owned and operated an Internet radio station of his own called combatmusicradio.com that featured weekly shows from him as well as others such as Eugene S. Robinson, Joe Preston, and others. Since December 2008 Kelly has written a blog, named We Burn Through the Night. In addition to information about his projects this blog also offers personal thoughts and insights, as well as stories from his life experiences. He also has worked extensively as a solo artist, releasing 3 albums and doing over 400 solo performances worldwide since the year 2000. A native of the East Bay(VERY Far East) Kelly now resides with his wife Sarah and two youngest children in the woods of Southern Oregon. His most recent collaboration is an experimental noise project with Mike IX Williams, Sanford Parker, and Bruce Lamont. Corrections House will release a 7" record in early 2013 and began its experimentation on live audiences on January 21, 2013.

Neurosis (band) American band

Neurosis is an American heavy metal band from Oakland, California. It was formed in 1985 by guitarist Scott Kelly, bassist Dave Edwardson, and drummer Jason Roeder, initially as a hardcore punk band. Chad Salter joined as a second guitarist and appeared on the band's 1987 debut Pain of Mind before being replaced by Steve Von Till in 1989. The following year, the lineup further expanded to include a keyboardist and a visual artist. Beginning with their third album Souls at Zero (1992), Neurosis developed a unique musical style crucial to the emergence of the post-metal and sludge metal genres.

Brutal Truth American grindcore band from New York City

Brutal Truth was an American grindcore band from Rochester, New York, formed by ex-Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, and Stormtroopers of Death bass guitarist Dan Lilker in 1990. The group disbanded in 1999, but reformed in 2006 and continued to release music until 2014.

Concept and lyrical themes

The concept and story in Emperor of Sand follows a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. [4] Themes of death and survival are woven into the song's lyrics, which were inspired by experiences members of the band had when family and friends were recently diagnosed with cancer. [4]

"At the end of the story, the person simultaneously dies and is saved," Dailor said. "It's about going through cancer, going through chemotherapy and all the things associated with that. I didn't want to be literal about it. But it's all in there. You can read between the lines."

"We're reflecting on mortality," bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders said in a statement. "To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It's 17 years in the making, but it's also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives." [8]

Troy Sanders American singer

Troy Jayson Sanders is an American musician, singer, and songwriter best known as a member of the Atlanta, Georgia metal band Mastodon, in which he plays bass and shares lead vocal duties with guitarist Brent Hinds and drummer Brann Dailor. He is also active in Killer Be Killed and Gone Is Gone, as well as being the current touring bassist for Thin Lizzy.


Emperor of Sand was released on March 31, 2017 through record label Reprise. [5] A snippet of "Sultan's Curse" was previewed on the band's website on January 25, 2017, [5] [9] and the full track was released on January 27. [9] The album's first single, "Show Yourself", was released in February 2017. Its second single, Steambreather, was released in August 2017.

Show Yourself single by Mastodon

"Show Yourself" is a single by American progressive metal band Mastodon, off of their studio album Emperor of Sand. It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in 2017, making it their highest charting song to date.

"Steambreather" is a song by American heavy metal band Mastodon. It was the second single off of their album Emperor of Sand, the follow-up to first single "Show Yourself". As of October 2017, it had peaked at number 18 on the Billboard US Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Following the album's release, the band embarked on a tour in the United States from April 14 to May 20, 2017, with support from Eagles of Death Metal and Russian Circles. [5]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Metacritic 78/100 [10]
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [11]
Consequence of Sound B [12]
Exclaim! 8/10 [13]
The Guardian Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [14]
NME (4/5) [15]
Pitchfork 7.6/10 [16]
PopMatters Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [17]
Rock Sound 8/10 [18]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [19]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 [20]

Emperor of Sand was well-received by contemporary music critics upon its initial release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 78, based on 24 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [10]

Amongst the more positive articles was Calum Slingerland's review for Exclaim! . In it, Slingerland stated that "Drawing as much from their past as well as their present, Mastodon refuse to go extinct just shy of two decades of music-making. Emperor of Sand is at once emotionally powerful and musically arresting." [13] Anita Bhagwandas was also highly positive in a four-star review for NME , saying "Metal needed this album. It needed a record that’s doomy, heavy and magnificently multilayered, and Mastodon’s seventh album is exactly that." [15] Reviewing that album for Consequence of Sound , Katherine Turman wrote "From the incendiary solos of “Word to the Wise” to the evocatively personal/universal lyrics (“The throne of maladies/ It’s right in front of me/ Your malignancy”), Emperor of Sand proves cathartic for the listener and, hopefully, for the band members as well." [12] Rob Sayce wrote the review for Rock Sound suggesting that "Few bands out there twist metal into such bewildering, bewitching shapes, and – somehow – there’s little sign of their well running dry." [18]

In the review for AllMusic, critic Thom Jurek was more critical of the album, claiming "Emperor of Sand is not perfect; it doesn't attain the glories of the first trilogy. That said, it's easily on par with The Hunter and stronger than Once More 'Round the Sun, while being more diverse than any record they've cut. Arguments about quality should go beyond the aesthetics to embody process and honesty, which are what ultimately matters. In order to be true to themselves, Mastodon had to make Emperor of Sand at this time. There was no other option. As such, its urgency, sophistication, and emotional heft make it a necessary entry in their catalog." [11] Jordan Blum of PopMatters similarly concluded that "Emperor of Sand is by no means a bad album, but there's little here that the band hasn't already explored." [17] Contributor Saby Reyes-Kulkarni wrote the review for Pitchfork declaring "Mastodon haven’t gone past the point of no return in pursuit of accessibility. If anything, Emperor of Sand proves the opposite. Musicians often rationalize losing their edge by talking about “maturity.” Mastodon can now feel free to use the word without lying to their fanbase." [16]


Exclaim! Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums of 2017
Loudwire 25 Best Metal Albums of 2017
Metal Hammer 100 Best Metal Albums of 2017
Revolver 20 Best Albums of 2017
Rolling Stone 20 Best Metal Albums of 2017

In 2018, the first track of the album, "Sultan's Curse", won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The album was nominated for Best Rock Album, but lost to The War on Drugs' A Deeper Understanding . [26]

Commercial performance

The album sold around 43,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, making it their best selling album, as Crack the Skye debuted at number 11 with 41,000 copies in its first week. [27]

Track listing

All tracks written by Mastodon.

No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Sultan's Curse"Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds, Brann Dailor4:09
2."Show Yourself"Dailor, Sanders3:03
3."Precious Stones"Hinds, Sanders3:46
4."Steambreather"Dailor, Hinds5:03
5."Roots Remain" (titled "Eons" on the vinyl version)Sanders, Dailor, Hinds6:28
6."Word to the Wise"Sanders, Dailor4:00
7."Ancient Kingdom"Dailor, Sanders, Hinds4:54
8."Clandestiny"Sanders, Hinds4:28
9."Andromeda" (featuring Kevin Sharp)Sanders, Dailor, Kevin Sharp4:05
10."Scorpion Breath" (featuring Scott Kelly)Sanders, Scott Kelly3:19
11."Jaguar God" (featuring Mike Keneally)Hinds, Dailor, Sanders7:56
Total length:51:11



Chart (2017)Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA) [29] 3
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria) [30] 11
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders) [31] 12
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia) [32] 26
Canadian Albums (Billboard) [33] 4
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) [34] 16
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista) [35] 4
French Albums (SNEP) [36] 60
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100) [37] 11
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ) [38] 7
Irish Albums (IRMA) [39] 7
Italian Albums (FIMI) [40] 42
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) [41] 9
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista) [42] 6
Polish Albums (ZPAV) [43] 27
Portuguese Albums (AFP) [44] 10
Scottish Albums (OCC) [45] 6
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE) [46] 18
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan) [47] 5
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade) [48] 13
UK Albums (OCC) [49] 11
US Billboard 200 [50] 7

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