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From death to destiny: How Mastodon turned mourning into their masterpiece

Mastodon took 18 months of grief and heartache and channelled it into a masterpiece. In their most candid interview ever, the foursome open up about love, loss and living

It’s a gorgeous February day on Florida’s sun-drenched Gulf Coast. The temperature’s just tipping 21˚C and the beaches buzz with locals sneaking in some tanning time between winter thunderstorms. Mastodon bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders is enjoying a relaxing afternoon here with his family, and we find him in full-on chill mode. Easygoing and happy, he is approximately a million emotional miles from where he was just over a year ago, when his band started working on their seventh studio album, Emperor Of Sand.

“I had to miss the first few months of writing the new record because I was going through brutal therapies for cancer, side-by-side with my wife, and watching her be rearranged from the inside-out.” When he speaks these words, his cadence briefly stalls, as if a chill has passed through him. “I enjoy my personal privacy and so I’ve never spoken of it. But my bandmembers knew what I was going through.”

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