It’s taken me a little bit to fully embrace Once More ‘Round the Sun, Mastodon’s newest album that came out in late-June, but now that I have, I can’t believe I had any hang-ups in the first place. I mean, how can you not love this? It’s a very good, hard-charging album with a GREAT album cover, but where does the artwork rank compared to the sludge-metal band’s other releases? Let’s rank ’em all, from least to most metal, and not taking the album’s themes into consideration.
6. The Hunter
Is it coincidence that the band’s weakest album has their worst cover art? Yes, but stay with me here. The bull’s tongue slowly creeping out of its mouth the further down you look is pretty cool, as is the bloodshot eye that implies the animal’s dead without actually showing any guts, but that’s where the praise ends — the album’s called The Hunter, and there’s dead meat on the AJ Fosik-designed cover. Too on the nose.
Now that’s better. Here we have a horse screaming in pain while purple fire burns his hide, because metal. Bonus points for the curly ring worms floating around the band’s name.
4. Crack the Skye
That’s what I imagine Game of Thrones looks like to someone who’s tripping balls. It’s hard to do stoner imagery that hasn’t been seen in a million Hot Topics before, but Crack the Skye mostly gets everything right, from the plethora of distracting colors to the rainbow shield to the glowing orbs. Also, there’s a bear, and more album covers should have bears on them, see-through or otherwise.
3. Blood Mountain
If Crack the Skye is Game of Thrones, then Blood Mountain is True Detective (and a good bad movie name). The deer-man-bear-pig creature was sketched straight from Rust Cohle’s psyche, and the more you stare at it, the less it makes sense. Why are there so many jewels on the horns? Do the side-faces eat like normal faces? Is it wearing pants? It’s simultaneously horrifying and intoxicating, like metal itself.
2. Once More ‘Round the Sun
It’s like a blitzed Tolkien fan vomited out colors, and I love it. Even better: it’s part of a larger visual series. It’s so outrageous and sprawling and where does the circle tunnel lead to that I feel like looking at it on psychedelics would be too much for the human brain to handle. We’re trained from birth to process Chinese dragon-tree monsters sober, but on acid? Oh boy. I need this on my van ASAP.
It’s fairly simple and muted, at least compared to Sun, but that’s part of its genius. You know how a picture tells a thousand words? Well, a Moby Dick-esque album cover with a sky of blood and darkness screams a million words, and they’re all F*CK YEAH.