Review Summary: Four albums after the magnificent “Remission” and Mastodon still manage to create something great yet challenging!
Being a big fan of their previous works, I was quite anxious to hear their new effort. They had never failed so far and I was sure that they would come up with something equally great. You see, each of their albums made you wonder of what they would come up with next. Whether that was the psychedelic atmosphere of “Crack the Skye” or their brutal beginning with “Lifesblood” they would always deliver something unique.
The album starts rather smooth I would say. Not in terms of heaviness. “Black Tongue” is an excellent starter with its big evil riff spreading through the song. The clean vocals add an epic atmosphere and the whole song seems like a combination of “Oblivion” and “Iron Tusk”. By saying smooth, I mean there is nothing shocking or different for a Mastodon fan. It sounds like a typical song from this band.
But right after that the smoothness ends. “Curl of the Burl” is a rather strange song. At least for Mastodon is. It almost sounds like a Queens of The Stone Age song. The chorus is totally rock (or even pop) oriented with its sing along oh-oh. It was a surprise that was partly calmed after hearing Troy in “Blasteroid” screaming “I wanna drink some f***ing blood”.
It would be meaningless to describe each song, but some of them should be mentioned. “Stargasm” and “Bedazzled Fingernails” have a totally eerie vibe. Especially the keyboards make you think you travel with a gloom intergalactic spaceship. “The Creature Lives” just shouts “I’m on drugs” from very far. “Spectrelight” on the other hand, is a totally kick ass song that grabs you and doesn’t let go until it ends. This must be the third or fourth song that Scott Kelly does the vocals in their discography. In ten years time they will probably have enough songs to make a whole record with him alone singing.
What the album demands from the listener is time. It will take several listens to truly appreciate it. Forget what has been said about a much simpler album. In some terms of song structure it might be, but it is one of the albums that are best appreciated with headphones on. The production helps this attribute of the album, strong yet clean, it allows you to easily tell who’s playing what. The vocal section seems to be the most worked of all the other parts of the album. Each one of the three members (only Bill Kelliher is left out) has progressed vocally and you can tell the difference. The only thing you can’t tell easy is who is singing each time. They have a similarity in their voice.
So, what is so unique they delivered this time! It’s quite simple. Each song stands on its own. They don’t need a concept this time. They don’t need big intros for each song like “Oblivion” or “The Czar”. They get to the point straight away with every song. You can shuffle the track list and still have a great album.
Yet there are three major flows.
“The Ruiner” is among the top five songs of “the hunter” along with “stargasm”, “hunter”, “bedazzled” and “spectrelight”. It's heavy, epic, with big vocal hooks and it would give a better balance between the heavy and the soft side of the album. I mean, why was it left out? It should be replaced with “octopus” which has similar structure with “dry bone valley” and “all the heavy lifting” and is equally heavy, yet a bit boring. It would fit perfectly right after “Dry Bone Valley”.
Also what's with the artwork? The limited edition (which I bought) has really nice artwork and it fits great with their previous artworks. The standard edition is pretty lame in my eyes. Sorry, but it seems quite average compared to the limited edition artwork.
The bonus DVD is a waste of money. Six minutes “making of” plus eighteen minutes “track by track” commentary. Really. Thank you! Thanks for being so generous! “Blood mountain” and “crack the skye” making of were one hour long with a lot of details. Now all we see is Dailor talking jokes for the songs! It seems like a commercial clip. It doesn’t have anything to do with a proper “making of the album”.
Well except these three missteps the album is worthy of their legacy. You might prefer one album over another. But while maintaining the basic feel of Mastodon, each album is quite different and unique. That's a rare and difficult thing for a band to accomplish. Just check out how many bands put out the same record under different name every year.