Review Summary: Mastodon continue to challenge themselves, and doing so without losing any bit of consistency.
I absolutely love Mastodon. And even though I only saw them live once -with quite some mechanical failures on stage, I feel like they've been a big part of my life. Leviathan was one of the first metal albums I listened to. Two years later, Blood Mountain became the holiday anthem for both me and my friends, when we went on vacation through Europe for the first time. And Crack the Skye, well... Crack the Skye is kind of an oddball in a whole lot of ways. The point is, Mastodon are back. NOT doing what made them so great since their debut, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Two songs into The Hunter, you'll notice that this isn't the same Mastodon we've come accustomed to in the past years. The second song, Curl of the Burl, was released a couple months prior to the album's release. And with it came skepticism and hesitance about the band's possible new direction, mostly because of its rather conservative structure. After hearing the album in full, it's safe to say that those early presumptions were misplaced. Mastodon have found a way to blend the progressive and technical aspects of Crack the Skye with the more experimental approach of Blood Mountain. Come to think of it, those two albums could be replaced by Leviathan and Remission respectively, which shows an interesting cycle within the band's discography.
Anyway, while The Hunter lacks the 13-minute epics we've come to expect from the band, The Hunter makes up for it with variety. Songs like Creature Lives, Stargasm, Spectrelight and the previously mentioned Curl of the Burl all show a very different side of the band. It more than before reeks of Kyuss, Baroness and even Pink Floyd or The Sword. Mastodon took their time to look over the fence, discover what's on the other side and see if they can do it as well. And boy, they can.
Surprisingly, the result is cohesive and rather straightforward. Which in this case is a good thing. It shows that the band have successfully managed to stray of the crazy experimental path that was set by Blood Mountain, while still retaining their signature style of playing heavy metal. In short, they've continued to challenge themselves, and doing so without losing any bit of consistency.
So what does all that make this album? A compilation album? Another interesting experiment? A show-off? Or maybe even a magnum opus? You can call it whatever you want. I call it an amazing addition to one of the most impressive discographies of any band out there, both in number and quality.
In a little less than two months I will go on a world trip, on my own. First stop, the US. Boston, to be exact. November 21st, I'll see Mastodon at the House of Blues to not only kick my journey off, but with that, another chapter in my life.