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Mastodon at the Royal Oak, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Seven has proven a lucky number for Mastodon.

The Atlanta heavy rockers' seventh album, "Emperor Of Sand," debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 last month -- its third Top 20 album -- and also at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart. The quartet recorded the album at home and in Los Angeles with producer Brendan O'Brien, and single such as "Sultanís Curse," "Show Yourself" and "Andromeda" have generated plenty of buzz.

Mastodon has plenty of touring planned to promote the album and will be visible enough to ensure that any rumors of extinction are greatly exaggerated...

Mastodon approached "Emperor Of Sand" in much the same way it has its other albums, according to guitarist Bill Kelliher. "I always want the next record to outshine the last one and be better than that," Kelliher, 46, explains by phone from New York. "So creatively, yeah, but it's not really something that's talked about, like, 'OK guys, lets huddle. This record we're gonna put in more chugga-chugga' or 'We have to play more solos' or 'We've gotta have a catchier hook We gotta have hits.' We don't really work like that. We just try to write for ourselves and hope for the best, I guess." Drummer-singer Brann Dailor adds that, "We don't ever enter any writing situation with any preconceived notion. We just continue business as usual, just kind of writing what we want."

Dailor, 42, says that despite a great deal of internal creative pressure, he and his bandmates have learned to how to cope with their own expectations. "There's a lot of days where you leave the studio feeling kinda of beaten up and a little bit frustrated," he says. "And those are the moments you have to sort of plow through and maybe say, 'Y'know what? Let's take tomorrow off.' Luckily we have those options where we can take a couple days off and say, 'I just need a minute away from this,' and then you come back to it rested and fresh.' You just kind of keep pushing along and hoping it'll reveal itself at some point."

The loose thematic thread about mortality that runs through the album comes from situations the Mastodon members found themselves facing during the writing process. "Brann and myself, our moms were ill and Troy's (Sanders) wife had some issues," Kelliher explains. "Friends around us, people were passing away left and right. It was kind of like the elephant in the room, cancer and people having a limited amount of time left on this planet, in the living world. So we were like, 'Duh, we should probably sing about that. That's what's on everybody's minds.' It's a real place. People can relate to this. If we were to write about candy canes and roller coasters, that would be doing all of our loved ones a disservice."

Working with producer O'Brien again for the first time since 2009's "Crack The Skye" was also crucial to the album, Kelliher says. "I forgot what a great producer he is," the guitarist notes. "He's funny. He moves really quick...He kinda steps in as a fifth member. When I was playing him demos he's like, he's got really quick, fast decisions. Heís like, 'Y'know this part here? Take it out. This part here, that's the meat of the song. You want to play that again, make that the focal point, sing over this part. He's really hands-on."

In addition to Mastodon, Dailor has launched an electronic music side project called Arcadea that's released the songs "Infinite End" and Gas Giant," with an album due out June 16. "This is with a really good friend of mine (Core Atoms) who I lost touch with for a little bit but he ended up moving to Atlanta," Dailor says. "He's a really interesting guitar play and I always loved his style and loved playing with him. He just called me up and said, 'Hey man, I got a bunch of songs I wrote on a keyboard I have at my house. Want to come and check 'em out?' He has another buddy who plays keyboardist as well and we thought we could do a really cool synth thing, like early Genesis or Yes, with acoustic drums and lots of robot vocals. We just started digging into it. It took us three years to finish 'cause my heart's in mastodon and I'm busy all the time, but it's finally done and we're really proud of it and can't wait for it to come out."


Tuesday, May 16. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.

Tickets are $32 in advance, $42.50 day of show, $67.50 reserved mezzanine.

Call 248-399-2980 or visit royaloakmusictheatre.com.


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