Mastodon – The Hunter
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Record Label: Reprise/Warner Bros.
Whoa, hold on a second. Did I just listen to a Mastodon album that could be considered “fun” music? It may be hard to fathom but that's exactly what The Hunter is. Unlike Mastodon's previous four albums, The Hunter doesn't follow a specific concept, despite being named after guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds' brother, who died of a heart attack while hunting last winter. Despite the heavy reminder in the title, the quartet continue to progress the sound they established on 2009's Crack The Skye. These are 13 individual tracks that feature different lyrical themes (from the serious to the absurd) and different styles.
The Hunter gets off to a blazing start with the snarling opening riff of “Black Tongue.” It's classic Mastodon right off the bat as vocalist Troy Sanders rips right through the spacey scorcher. The Hunter features the most streamlined sound by band ever, in thanks to producer Mike Elizondo, who has worked with artists like Maroon 5, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent (wait, what?). Throughout the album you'll hear the expected and the unexpected of Mastodon.
Let's dive into the “expected” first. The quartet sounds tight as ever on tracks like the dazzling “Spectrelight” (which features a sexy guitar riff over the bridge) and the crushing grooviness of “Curl of the Burl.” Not everything is a hit though. The classic rock feel of “Dry Bone Valley” is a snoozer, while the mid-tempo “The Thickening” fails to grab your attention. Thankfully, the album contains face-melters like “Blasteroid” and “Black Tongue.” Drummer Brann Dailor is excellent behind the kit once again, offering up some massive double-time kicks during the relentless “All The Heavy Lifting.”
The real joy of The Hunter, however, is when the band starts to experiment. The weird galactic sex-tale of prog-heavy “Stargasm” features the wails of a Theremin as Hinds and Sanders trade off vocals. The soaring “Octopus Has No Friends” is surprisingly catchy and oddly hopeful. Things get really weird on “The Creature Lives.” We're introduced to over a minute of creepy laughter and fuzzy Moog noises before it turns into a slow march of group-chants and psychedelic rock, led by Dailor's mellow vocals (a first for him and the band). The mathy weirdness of “Bedazzled Fingernails” (seriously, where do they come up with these titles?) is spectacular. Yes, their fetish with sci-fi (and the Theremin!) shows up again, but Mastodon add in enough metal to balance it out (thanks to Sanders and Hinds killing it with the mega-riffs as well as more of Dailor's signature drum work).
The band gets serious during the slow minimalism of the title track. The most emotionally charged song on the album is a dedication to Hinds' aforementioned brother, with most of the emotion coming in the form of a ravishing guitar riff. The quartet touches on another personal note with album closer “The Sparrow.” The somber track is a tribute to the wife of the band's accountant, who passed away from stomach cancer. The only lyrics throughout the track are "Pursue happiness,/With diligence” (her motto), which is paced by the sneaky heaviness (thanks to the low mix of Hinds and Sanders power riffs) and the constant change in tone.
The Hunter will initially go down as the most random and puzzling album in Mastodon's discography, but if you give it time, you'll grow to appreciate that. The 52 minutes you spend with this album will be the most interesting 52 minutes of your day for sure, but you'll come away from that experience with even more regard of the amazing musicianship that exists in this foursome. The Hunter is another polarizing yet captivating (and incredibly fun) effort from one of the most talented bands in modern metal.
I've been a huge fan of these guys since I first heard March of the Fire Ants.
That was the song that got me into that as well. It's just so fuckin powerful.
As for the new album, I like it. I don't think it'll turn into one of my favorites, but there are definitely some really awesome songs ("Blasteroid", "Stargasm", "Octopus..."). I will say though, if there's one thing I love about Mastodon it's how much depth their music has. This album, like their previous ones, will take some time for me to get into. And I'm ok with that. I look forward to coming back a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time and hearing it almost for the first time again.