01. Black Tongue
02. Curl Of The Burl
05. Octopus Has No Friends
06. All The Heavy Lifting
07. The Hunter
08. Dry Bone Valley
10. Creature Lives
12. Bedazzled Fingernails
13. The Sparrow
Mastodon are probably one of the biggest bands in metal today. They could get away with anything, and they’ve always done exactly what they’ve wanted. After the mentally taxing full-on dive into the spacey prog of 2008’s Crack The Skye, Mastodon have decided to relax a bit and have some fun on the follow up The Hunter, which only serves to divide the fanbase even further. Mastodon knew good and well that this album would land them some trouble with fans, and judging by initial reactions, that’s a bit of an understatement.
The Hunter is both a continuation and a regression in the Mastodon sound. The album feels split even on songs that would feel comfortable on a Crack The Skye follow up and songs that could very well find themselves on Leviathan or Remission, albeit with some slightly risky inclusions. The two styles can certainly be melded together perfectly, as there’s spots of cohesion on “Stargasm” and “Thickening,” but more often than not, the two feel out of place in juxtaposition.
It’s as if Mastodon only half-committed to the “fun” factor of fast riffs and killer hooks. The party stops several times for introverted and, frankly, comparatively depressing tracks like “The Hunter” and “The Sparrow.” They don’t flow well with the rest of the album and the whole thing clashes. The Hunter seems to suffer from a major identity crisis in that regard. The album sounds almost bi-polar, as if Mastodon don’t know whether they want to get drunk and smash things or go and cry in the corner. I’m more than happy to do both, but not in rapid succession in the space of an hour. It’s a shame, because each and every song is excellent in its own right, but they don’t necessarily work in the context of the same album, which is The Hunter‘s only real flaw, outside of the Dolby THX intro of the otherwise spectacular Pink Floyd-like “Creature Lives,” which goes on for longer than it probably should.
On a more positive note, when The Hunter isn’t toying with your emotions, the album is practically too catchy for its own good. Songs like “Curl of the Burl” and “Dry Bone Valley” have been stuck in my head for days, almost to the point of being sick of them—that is, until I finally get to hear it again. Mastodon have upped the ante on hooks and vocal harmonies that often times borrow from the Alice in Chains playbook. Mastodon have always had their foot in the door of dirty southern-tinged pop rock bombast, but they explore that side of them more fully this time around, and it’s a sound that definitely works for them.
The band as a whole are as great as ever. There isn’t a shortage of riffs or solos on The Hunter, with “Black Tongue” being my personal choice for riff of the year so far thanks to the duo of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher. Drummer Brann Dailor is as spectacular as always, with his famous monstrous fills being thrown out at every opportune moment. The vocal work in general is more adventurous, with the three-pronged vocal attack being explored even further on The Hunter. The mic is passed around left and right, with Brann even takes the rare lead vocal spotlight on “Dry Bone Valley” and “Creature Lives,” becoming the shining attraction on both tracks. Bassist Troy Sanders and Hinds also give their best vocal work to date, but as on Crack The Skye, it remains to be seen if the band can actually pull off clean vocals of this caliber in a live setting while simultaneously engaging in the technically demanding music they’ve composed.
The Hunter is technically awesome and will probably end up on several Best-Of lists this year, especially on this site. It has shades of everything you’d ever expect to hear from Mastodon in one place, which is actually both a good and a bad thing. To be sure, it speaks volumes on Mastodon’s range and ability as musicians; it’s nice to know I can go to the same band if I want to do kickass manly stuff like get into a bar fight one day and then think about life and death the very next. However, The Hunter doesn’t fully succeed in shoehorning both of these ideas into a singular experience. Don’t mistake my criticisms for hatred though, as The Hunter provides an expected great listen and is one of the year’s many highlights.
Mastodon’s The Hunter gets…