It seems a lot of longtime Mastodon fans seem to be uninterested in this new era of the band which relies on clean singing versus their traditional yelling of their earlier material. Personally, I love new Mastodon but my main gripe is a lot of the clean vocals are not reproducible live and it's clear that some of the more complicated vocal parts are just studio trickery.
Regardless, I really enjoyed their new song, "High Road" but the track was met with complaints about clean vocals again. Loudwire spoke to guitarist Bill Kelliher recently and he said the track was a solid representation of what to expect on the new album:
“Yeah, in regards that a lot of the stuff on the new record is very verse / chorus based. A lot of it was built as ‘less is more.’ We’ve done our really complex, mathy and even proggy records, but I think we write our best stuff when we strip it away from there. We focus on clear verses and choruses and add the proggy stuff in — salt and pepper it.
I feel like we’ve done that in the past, where something wasn’t complicated enough, so let’s make it more complicated. It’s like, no, let’s make the song simpler. It took us a while to sound as good as I feel like it does. It’s very clean sounding and with a lot of really catchy verses and choruses going on.”
Kelliher elaborated saying the band have gotten serious about vocal lessons and warmups which is reassuring for when I see them live on their upcoming tour. He further confirmed the band won't return to their early sound anytime soon:
“Lately I’ve noticed we’ve been doing lots of warm-ups, listening to vocal takes, taking voice lessons: stuff you need to do to keep your voice in shape. I would never have thought 10 years ago what we’d be doing in 2014. Now we’re taking voice lessons and warming up our vocals cords before a show. Just getting all professional, you know what I mean?
I think us screaming and yelling is kind of a thing of the past. But also, our music back then lends itself to more of that style of screaming because the music was really in that direction. We just kind of wrote in any old fashion, just kind of let it fly, let the shit fly.
We didn’t really know how to write songs, we just kind of threw riffs together and screamed over it and people liked it. I guess we just kind of matured and maybe we lost some fans who liked that about us, but we can’t continue to write like that on purpose. Every record to me is a snapshot of the frame of mind our band was in, who we were as people when we wrote those riffs.
I think it gets harder and harder as you get older to keep screaming and screaming and screaming about shit, you know? I think the songs we write are getting a little more rock, a little bit of rock going on and little more thought behind the groove. We’re constantly evolving and are more about the groove and feel rather than just playing as fast as we can or sounding as complicated as possible.
Let’s put more of our effort into writing a song that feels like something Zeppelinwould do, AC/DC or Black Sabbath. They didn’t play as fast or as slow as they could, they just made songs. I think we’re slowly gravitating towards that in an organic fashion.”
It's hard to blame these guys, they just aren't in the same frame of mind as they were 10 years ago. They want do create music that interests them. Additionally, Bill confirmed the band will play a second new song live called “Chimes At Midnight“ in addition to the aforementioned "High Road." The band's new album, Once More Round The Sun will be out sometime in June.