The members of Mastodon have all gotten the itch to start working on the group's next album in earnest, bassist and co-vocalist Troy Sanders recently explained. In November, the band was whittling away at a selection of fresh guitar riffs and song ideas in their home base of Atlanta.

The prog-metal rockers issued their seventh studio effort, Emperor of Sand, in 2017. It was quickly followed by the Cold Dark Place EP later that same year. Subsequent work in 2018 led to the act setting its sights on a new full-length for 2020. Now, Sanders has given a brief update on the status of the album.

"The long touring process for Emperor of Sand ended in July, and we all took a couple of months off," the musician told Kerrang. "Then we all started calling each other with the itch. Through November, we've been in Atlanta, sifting through ideas. We're always moving forward."

Sanders continued, "We're constantly creating. When we're out on tour, we're always coming up with lyrics, riffs or half-songs on voice notes and the Pro Tools [digital audio workstation] rig we take out with us."

In 2018, the group's longtime manager Nick John died following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Earlier this year, Mastodon tour manager Bob Dallas also passed away. And the band is paying respect to those late associates by harnessing its grief via music, according to the Mastodon bassist.

"Artistically, we usually respond well to tragedy," Sanders said. "It's all part of life. It's going to happen one way or the other. The four of us are brutally thankful that we have Mastodon to channel that energy through, to find something beautiful, and to create something that lasts forever."

Last year, the group covered Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" in honor of John, with Mastodon's new version titled, "Stairway to Nick John."

"As soon as someone like that passes, you try to figure out, 'How do I let the world know that this person existed and how important they were?'" Mastodon drummer Brann Bailor told Full Metal Jackie of John's enormous Zeppelin fandom. "And this is the best way that we could do that."

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