Album Review: Mastodon – The Hunter

After putting their signature to Roadrunner’s legal papers, abandoning Paul Romano’s trademark artwork and almost completely jettisoning any song longer than five minutes, some naysayers declared that the sirens had finally tempted Mastodon towards the rocky shores of commercialism and mediocrity. One listen of ‘The Hunter’ will rightly show up the naivety, short-sightedness and utter stupidity of all those who seriously believed that negative hype, for this is already a firm candidate for album of the decade. The Hunter is nothing less than a masterpiece, a careful distilling of its four predecessors that will be sweeping up awards come the year’s end.

Opening with the brooding ‘Black Tongue’ and continuing in to the slurring sludge of ‘Curl of the Burl’, ‘The Hunter’ is and exercise in remembering just how unique Mastodon’s sound is within the metal world. Sanders and Hind’s distinctive screaming-and-whining vocal pairing, Bill Kelliher’s crunching tones and Brann Dailor’s effortless and flawless jazz drumming all combine to produce something far more intricate than anything else in contemporary metal. However, it is ‘Blasteroid’ and ‘Stargasm’ that set the tone for much of the album, opening up a startlingly melodic trio that brings a beautiful mid-record calm. Mastodon are soaring high above the clouds once they reach ‘Octopus Has No Friends’, a celebratory mini-epic that leads in to the galloping angst of ‘All the Heavy Lifting’ and the wry melancholy of the title track. ‘Dry Bone Valley’ sounds like something snorted up out of the ashes of Kyuss or Metallica’s ‘Reload’, while ‘Creature Lives’ commences with what resembles a THX-designed music box, before morphing in to a towering harmonic feast sounding for all the world like a Christmas song sans the sleigh bells and tack.

The most discernible departure from ‘Crack the Skye’ is the lack of extended, spacey jaunts, but it never once feels that this is a band restraining itself; ‘The Hunter’ contains exactly the right balance between old and new to qualify as the perfect successor to the 2009 release. A return to the leaner, focused material of ‘Blood Mountain’ results in their most united collection of songs yet; at least nine are viable candidates to receive the single treatment, particularly ‘Spectrelight’, a bludgeoning piece of heavy metal in the vein of ‘Blood and Thunder’ that features Scott Kelly on vocal duties. ‘The Sparrow’ manages to fit in to six minutes the introspection and hopelessness that made Metallica’s ‘Fade to Black’ and ‘The Outlaw Torn’ in to the giants they are, and the similarities between the two do not end there. Mastodon are now five extraordinary albums in to their career, and are the first band this side of Metallica’s Metallica to maintain a level of consistency that the Bay Area thrashers did. Many of Mastodon’s older fans will not like their baby being taken from them, but the question has to be begged about Mastodon’s long-awaited leap in to the mainstream musical consciousness: if not now, when?


About Stuart

I have been writing for about seven years, my only writing qualification is a poorly-deserved grade C in GCSE English Language. I write mainly on music and literature, but have also written about the politics of sport, for some reason. I generally listen to horrible music, so my reviews will invariably be of black metal, grindcore or noise bands. Interests include attempting to play ice hockey, relieving Oxfam charity shops of every last book that they receive, and becoming TOP DOG in the world of Polish football spread-betting.

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