Review: Mastodon – The Hunter

Mastodon – The Hunter
Released: September 27th, 2011
Label: Reprise
★★★★★

I’m going to come out of the gate with this review and say that The Hunter is not going to appeal to everyone. Especially the more close minded or knee jerk reaction metal fans. The boys in Mastodon have definitely shown with The Hunter that they are in control. Mastodon has created an album they wanted to make (and what they’ve been progressing towards). It is very different and yet still familiar all wrapped together. A difficult thing for any band, but one I think Mastodon pulls off well with The Hunter.

I won’t lie to you, upon first listen I was surprised and unsure about the album. After only a couple listens, I was sucked in and enjoyed the trip. Tracks like “Black Tongue“, “The Hunter” and “Curl Of The Burl” have a familiar feel to tracks from Crack The Skye. “Curl Of The Burl” is one melodic and catchy track. “Blasteroid” and “Spectrelight” have a hint of older, Remission era Mastodon. The tracks are high energy and fast, utilizing Brann’s killer drumming, the group’s gruff but melodic vocals and scorching guitar work.

Mastodon changes things up quite a bit on tracks “Bedazzled Fingernails” and “Octopus Has No Friends“. The tracks are still heavy, but much more “produced” and go for a more ambient metal feel. There is some funky vocal treatments on “Octopus Has No Friends” that are kind of weird. Still in the realm of metal but heading towards a more prog-metal sound.

Wait, there’s more! Switching gears even more, the boys from Mastodon kick out tracks like “Dry Bone Valley” and “Creature Lives“. “Dry Bone Valley” is firmly planted in the prog-rock-metal realm. It still has Brann’s great drumming and the bands guitar work, but the track is very polished and produced. The vocal treatment continues to be more ambient and atmospheric. Not much grunting and aggression on this guy, but it all works though. As different as it is, it still feels like a Mastodon song.

I think “Creature Lives” is probably going to be the hardest track for narrow focused metal heads to enjoy. Taking a page from Pink Floyd, Mastodon starts off the track with about a minute of just atmospheric, sweeping digital sounds (they manage to get the THX sound in there) mixed with creepy laughing. This leads up to a very mellow and slow track compared to the others. It’s full of sluggish melody, slow haunting vocals and tons of atmosphere. Different for Mastodon, but yet another awesome track.

The Hunter is a fine example of why I respect the hell out of the guys in Mastodon. They are willing to push themselves, push their music, create music they want to make and mix things up. They do it all very well while not completely alienating their “root” sound and their fans. If you go into The Hunter with an open mind I think you’ll appreciate the journey. If all you want is same old Mastodon, well I guess that’s why it’s cool you can buy single tracks these days.

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