Guitarist Bill Kelliher explained to ABC Radio
that as Mastodon was writing Emperor of Sand
, each band member was dealing with someone close to them suffering from illness. "Right when I started working on writing all my riffs and getting together with Brann [Dailor], we would get together and we would talk about our moms first," Kelliher said. "He would come over to my house, we'd have coffee, and his mom was in the hospital, my mom had cancer and was very very ill."