Atlantan progressive sludge lords Mastodon return with a mature, hook-laden collection of riffalicious rock and metal.
The Hunter is the band’s fifth studio album, coming just two years after the much lauded Crack the Skye. It is only the second non-concept album that the band has produced, and their first to not feature a centralisation on a ‘classical element’ (air, fire, water or wind).
The album itself is named in honour of the late brother of guitarist Brent Hinds, who passed away suddenly whilst on a hunting trip.
For this latest effort, Mastodon rein in some of the brutality of previous releases, instead opting for more riff-heavy almost psychedelic arrangements. Additionally, there is similarly probably their most accessible release from a commercial perspective.
The opening double salvo of singles Black Tongue and Curl of the Burl immediately tell the listener which direction the album is going. Both have some great riffs, worthy of any single output from any prog-influenced band of recent years.
Weaving through themes and between heavier and softer sounds just either side of the rock/metal boundaries, The Hunter has been expertly crafted. The juxtaposition of some tracks is simply sublime, with heavier, quicker efforts punctuated by softer and/or more uplifting efforts. For example, the emotionally heavy Stargasm is followed by upbeat-almost-indie bouncy intro to the intricate Octopus Has No Friends. The difference is both immediately noticeable, but perfectly fitting.
Similar to the new Opeth effort, The Hunter manages to do something a little different whilst keeping the unmistakable essence of Mastodon. Octopus Has No Friends wouldn’t be amiss on a Coheed & Cambria album, Spectrelight’s intro is reminiscent of Muse’s heavier works, Bedazzled Fingernails sounds like an obscure mix of almost avante-garde metal and norse metallers Tyr in places. Yet all of these are without question Mastodon tracks. And masterful ones at that.
Creature Lives is quite unique on two fronts. Firstly, it features a rather creepy electro-gothic intro you would expect on some Tales from the Crypt style horror show. Secondly, it marks the first time that drummer Brann Dailor takes not only lead vocal duty, but all vocal duty for a full song. It’s a neat little prose filled track too.
Yet for all the plaudits the album is getting for it’s catchy riffs, and psychedelic swagger, it’s the dreamy closing track The Sparrow that is the true star. A melodic, melancholic soundscape that ushers in the all-too-soon ending to this magnificent album.
Mastodon have surpassed themselves once more. This is an album that will please long time fans and newcomers alike, and could quite easily be an ‘ice breaker’ album for people who have yet to ‘get into’ them. It has great, catchy tracks (Black Tongue, Curl of the Burl), heavier efforts (Blastoid, Spectrelight), and melancholic musical tapestries (The Sparrow). Even if you have never really gotten into them, or heard much by them before, I would implore anyone with a passing interest in rock and metal check this album out. Probably the album of the year.