Mastodon fans who have been pining for new music from the Atlanta-based progressive-metal quartet will be amply rewarded this year. The band will issue not one, but two discs in 2014: The first, the Nick Raskulinecz-produced Once More Round The Sun, due this summer, is the full-length follow-up to 2011's The Hunter. It will be followed by a winter-themed EP at year's end.
"When you hear everything, you'll know what's what and why it's so different," guitarist Brent Hinds tells MusicRadar. "The album has got the big songs and it feels more summer-y. The EP isn't heavy metal; it's more eerie and melancholy classic rock, kind of like Pink Floyd-y acid groves. It's probably going to be called Cold Dark Place. Some of the songs we recorded with Nick at Dark Horse [Studios in Franklin, Tennesee], but we're doing a couple on our own right now."
Nick has produced a lot of great rock bands - Foo Fighters, Rush, the Deftones. I take it his resume appealed to you?
"Well, you know, Nick was trying to hunt us down a few albums back. We have similar personalities, and we like the same kind of music. We wanted to get the chance to get to know him and to hang out - recording an album together is a good way to do that. I like him as a dude. He's really upbeat and likable.
"The way we worked with him was very different from anything we've ever done before. We recorded the guitar parts as scratches and then did the drums. I wasn't there when [drummer] Brann [Dailor] was laying down his parts. I think Nick thought that it would be easier and faster, and it probably is, but I like to be there in case there's some sudden changes. Later on, we went back and replaced the scratch guitars with real tracks. I just prefer to record everything for real at one time - that's just me. But it was a good experience to explore other options."
How did Nick push you guys during the writing process?
"I don't know if 'pushing' is the right word. He started making trips down to Atlanta from May to October of 2013. He wanted to just listen to what we had so far. We knew we weren't ready to record, but it was good to put everything out there. Sometimes you have something and you don't know how good it is, so it's like, 'All right, let's develop that.'"
The new record isn't a concept record like your earlier works. I understand that it concerns personal matters within the band.
"I think Brann said something to that effect. None of it's based on my personal experiences. To me, the record is about everything that can happen in a year. Relationships and life in general - it touches on all scenarios."
You and [guitarist] Bill [Kelliher] have always been major riffmeisters. Did you guys stockpile a lot of guitar hooks over the last three years?
"We have the same format we've always used. Bill comes up with riffs, I come up with riffs - that's our recipe. We go to band practice and jam. There's not a whole lot of 'Oh, I love that thing' or 'Your riff is better than mine' - none of that. It's more like, 'I've got this and I feel strongly about it, and we're gonna do it.' As long as it's something that's pleasing to the ear, and everybody in the band is into it, then we go for it. It's a democracy."
I read that you guys boned up on some horror films during the making of the album.
"We did a lot of John Carpenter, yep, and then we did The Shining by Kubrick. Troy brought in Chernobyl Diaries, so we watched that. We try to entertain one another as much as possible. As for myself, I've been watching horror flicks pretty much every day since I was three years old. I like the old stuff - you don't need any new movies when you've got the classics. That stuff is like a background canvas for me, something to stare at once in a while."
Any new guitars you're using on this album?
"I wish, but no there aren't. I've got the same guys just hangin' out, loud and proud."
There isn't a firm release date for the album yet, but you're eyeing the summer, right?
"I think it's coming out in June. Actually, I'm just making shit up. [Laughs] But you know, it's possible. Anything's possible."