Mastodon - The Hunter
Reprise Records
Prog/Sludge Metal
13 songs (52:54)
Release year: 2011
Mastodon, Reprise Records
Reviewed by Crash
Album of the month

I love Mastodon. Really, it’s a rare thing when you can watch a band grow from the beginning, not to mention a band that has grown as much as Mastodon has. For better or worse, the band have always had a knack for changing things up whether it be the sludge of Remission or the gaze at your shoes progfest that was Crack the Skye. That album got a lot of mixed opinions. Some fans lost interest with the shift, but others such as I welcomed the new sound. Even though I too miss the days of sludge, it was hard to argue when Crack the Skye was as good of an album as it is.

The Hunter is the name of the new album and judging from the artwork alone it would seem safe to assume that Mastodon has no plans in retreading their old ground. This is by far the bands sharpest and most energetic record. Even if a lot of the heaviness is gone, there is a lot for fans to love.

The first thing you might notice is that there are a lot of “singles” on the album. Only two songs go above the five minute mark and while it would be easy to cry “sellout” or make a mention about the more mainstream sound, it really doesn’t come across that way in the songs themselves. Like Devin Townsend Project’s Addicted, the format fits the attitude. Where Crack the Skye was atmospheric and climactic, songs like Black Tongue and Blasteroid are straight to the point and frenzied. This is not new territory for Mastodon. Each album had its fair share of the 3-4 minute verse chorus verse chorus etc. material, it just has never been this heavily emphasized throughout a whole album. Curl of the Burl is sure to have its detractors. It would fit in easily on hard rock radio alongside Queens of the Stone Age or other harder than hard rock bands. The song is accessible and catchy, but really makes the best out of the stoner riffs and makes it into a worthy single. I’d much rather here this overplayed on the radio than anything else this year.

Like Blood Mountain, the first half is where the album immediately shines. Stargasm in particular is especially ethereal. The driving riffs and layered vocals not only make it my favorite song on the album, but one of my favorite songs in the Mastodon catalogue. While it certainly is a rocker, it comes off as a condensed version of Skye as a whole. All of the elements that made that album great is crammed within one five minute nugget. For a prog fan, it’s almost more impressive to see a band pull off so much without succumbing to the temptation of the “epic”. The second half of the album is less flashy. Songs like Spectrelight and Bedazzled Fingernails bring back the intensity, but it often is a similar intensity first brought up from the earlier songs. Most of these songs are rewarding and show off the band’s songwriting skills without the pizazz of songs like Black Tongue.

As always, the band themselves are on top of their game. Since Leviathan I have believed that Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher were one of if not the best modern guitar duo in metal. Their riffs and harmonies always mix tech with good old fashioned rocking and there is only more of that to be had. While none of the solo opportunities are quite as emotional as the climax of The Czar. The Sparrow and the title track give Hinds plenty of time to wax his carrot. Bran Dailor’s drumming has always been one of the main focal points of the band’s sound, but I find myself paying less attention to him as a standout and more to his role as a drummer. That might make him less noticeable, but not less enjoyable. He is one of the best drummers in metal today. Troy Sander’s and co still sing. Many people have a problem with that, especially in a live setting. Well, live is live and the album is the album. The vocals are rich with harmonies. There is still plenty of aggression to be had.

There is one track in particular that just doesn’t fit. Creature Lives is the black sheep of this album. The overly simple bassline and vocal melody makes it come off as a joke. Luckily, it is a good joke. Imagine a demented campfire song about swamp beasts and you’ll get the picture. With the single Deathbound not getting put onto the album, it’s hard to see why that much better song would get ousted for an laughable albeit enjoyable track.

So that is The Hunter. If you have never been a fan of Mastodon then this is unlikely going to change your mind. If you are picky with the band’s material, then you’ll be taking no bigger a chance that with any other releases. And if you are like me and just really enjoy everything this band puts out, then you don’t need to hear me gush about it because you probably bought a copy last week. Is it my favorite Mastodon album? Far from it. But it still pretty great.

Killing Songs :
All or none
Crash quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Mastodon that we have reviewed:
Mastodon - Emperor of Sand reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Mastodon - Live at the Aragon reviewed by Brian and quoted no quote
Mastodon - Crack The Skye reviewed by James and quoted 97 / 100
Mastodon - Blood Mountain reviewed by Adam and quoted 95 / 100
Mastodon - Remission reviewed by Nathanael and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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