Review Summary: "The Hunter" is everything a great metal album should be, as Mastodon have shed their more progressive sensibilities and replaced them with a more streamlined and straightforward brand of songwriting.
Back in 2009 it seemed as though Mastodon, the media darlings of the metal world, had hit a bit of a snag. After all, after their debut release Remission
, the Georgia four-piece had been rocketing into fame at an alarming rate, with many heralding them as the next big “thing” in metal. The snag, however, came in the form of a new album, and also in the form of a predictable yet polarizing new direction. Crack the Skye
had a divisive effect, with many finding the band’s maddening descent into self-indulgent progressiveness a little hard to swallow. The album was bold, ambitious, and ultimately disjointed; a bizarre and directionless effort that tried too many different things, each feeling either contrived or half baked. Two years later it seems as if Mastodon have made a complete 180, pointing them toward a direction they are most comfortable with. The end result is one of the most impressive releases in their ten year history.
is as grand and ambitious as Crack the Skye
ever was, but this time around Mastodon have brought back their more metal sensibilities. The product is a solid affair that doesn’t limit itself too much, feeling much more in tune to their Leviathan
era music. The progressive sound that’s been growing like a cancer has been quarantined a bit and the album is helped immensely because of it. Songs no longer wander endlessly, nor do they seem aimless in their execution. Instead, the tracks on The Hunter
feel exceedingly tightened, if not much more conventional. In fact, this is perhaps the most grounded Mastodon have ever been, as the perfect marriage of metal, hard rock, and progressive rock have yielded a surprisingly streamlined and “normal” experience.
For those out of the loop, Mastodon play a mish-mash of seventies progressive rock, hard rock, and metal, with a dash of sludge thrown in for good measure. They’ve made a signature sound for themselves, but share a great deal with other southern metal acts such as Baroness and Kylesa. They stand above their peers in regards to technicality however, as Mastodon are fantastically proficient with their instruments. Yes Brent Hinds still wanks the minor pentatonic, but his fast and fluid hybrid picking makes him standout amongst the rest. Added to that, vocal duties are shared by just about every member, which sounds iffy but is actually quite endearing in its practice. This only furthers the feeling that band sounds more like a unit rather than separate members.
is named after Brent Hinds’ older brother, who during a hunting trip died of heart-attack. Thus, the album is Mastodon’s second only album to not be tied to a ridiculous concept. In a way this probably helps The Hunter
, as there is no longer some outlandish story of which the music must follow. Instead, Mastodon have focused their creative energy into the compositions themselves, which end up being some of the most fun, intriguing, and evocative songs in the band’s catalog. The track list is shockingly varied, but not so much that the album loses its solid grounding. Each member partakes in the songwriting duties, and the uniqueness of each track is the result. Melodic, thoughtful songs like “The Hunter” and “Sparrow” are complemented nicely by the more bold and energetic ones. The album is not want for quirkiness either, as “The Creature Lives” and “All the Heavy Lifting” (a song literally about lifting heavy objects) show a more brazenly fun side of the band. All in all, the ridiculous amount of diverse sounds and influences that make each track wonderfully unique is really the crux of The Hunter
, as the album is full of pleasant surprises.
Mastodon feel rejuvenated on The Hunter
. The album is a stripped-down and streamlined version of the band’s entire history, stuffed into an excellent 50 minutes. It’s easily at the top of the band’s discography, competing with the likes of Leviathan
. It’s a solid exhilarating affair that will help bridge the gap that was created by Crack the Skye