The Hunter
MASTODON

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MASTODON - The Hunter cover
4.14 | 50 ratings | 11 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Progressive Metal

Tracklist

1. Black Tongue (3:26)
2. Curl of the Burl (3:40)
3. Blasteroid (2:35)
4. Stargasm (4:40)
5. Octopus Has No Friends (3:49)
6. All the Heavy Lifting (4:31)
7. The Hunter (5:18)
8. Dry Bone Valley (4:00)
9. Thickening (4:31)
10. Creature Lives (4:41)
11. Spectrelight (3:10)
12. Bedazzled Fingernails (3:08)
13. The Sparrow (5:32)

Total time: 53:01

Line-up/Musicians

- Troy Sanders / Bass, Vocals
- Brent Hinds / Guitars, Vocals
- Bill Kelliher / Guitars, Backing Vocals
- Brann Dailor / Drums, Vocals

with

- Scott Kelly / Vocals

About this release

Released by Reprise Records, September 27th, 2011

The Deluxe version contains different cover art and the following bonus tracks:

The Ruiner (3:11)
Deathbound (2:48)

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and UMUR for the updates

MASTODON MP3, Free Download/Stream

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MASTODON THE HUNTER reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Warthur
Having wrapped up their "four elements"-themed series of albums with Crack the Skye, Mastodon must have been ready for a change, and The Hunter certainly is that. Presenting a more accessible and less overtly technical Mastodon than we've seen in a long time, this is light progresssive metal with stoner and sludge influences that feels a bit like Mastodon on holiday - taking a break from trying to push the boundaries of the genre and simply having a bit of fun with some corny stoner metal material. The end result is a decidedly listenable album which would be a great first choice for anyone just getting into the band.
Diogenes
After finishing up their little four-album exploration of the elements, Mastodon returns with their latest offering The Hunter. Unlike their other efforts, The Hunter features artwork that is not badass in any way, shape or form (although you can purchase a mask of it, if you so desire), so that’s a bit of a letdown, but let’s ignore aesthetics for a second and get into what might be one of the most polarizing releases of the year.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before-this is different than previous Mastodon albums. And of course you’ve heard that before, because Mastodon never makes the same album twice…except this time, they went in reverse. Whereas Crack the Skye saw the band explore progression so far away from their roots they might as well have been on Mars, The Hunter takes a major step backward both in terms of technicality and breaking new ground. The songs are more structured for the most part; no more 13-minute epics for you! In their place are fairly standard, verse-chorus tracks that like to jump right into things, rather than build up and set an atmosphere.

For lots of other bands, this would have been a problem. Crack the Skye is, in my opinion, one of the pinnacles of American metal progression; an effort that you wouldn’t have believed came from the same boys that wrote “March of the Fire Ants” had the band name been covered up or something. So when I heard the samples of stuff from The Hunter, I was genuinely concerned. Had Mastodon run out of gas? Did they dig themselves a hole too deep, leaving no options other than backing up the truck in hopes of saving their identity?

No worries. This is still Mastodon, you can be assured of that. Brann Dailor’s frantic drumming is still top-notch and instantly recognizable, as are the unorthodox vocal deliveries of guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders. While Dailor does pull some punches to compensate for the stripped-down sound, it doesn’t make for any worse of a performance, and his short time in the vocal spotlight on “Dry Bone Valley” and “Creature Lives” is excellent as usual. The sludgy riffage is there in spades, making tracks like “Curl of the Burl” seem heavier than the radio-friendly singles that they really are. The lyrical content is…well, it’s weird (sex in outer space, anyone?), but it’s probably time to stop expecting anything different in that regard. So yes, if you’re scared that this change in style is an identity-sacrificing move, don’t be; if you’ve liked anything this band has done before, chances are you’ll like this too.

Word on the street is, The Hunter is hard to get into. While a couple of songs are kinda OH NOES SYNTHESIZERS?!?!?!?, this album is very accessible, so I don’t buy into that line of thinking. Brent and Troy couldn’t have picked a better time to learn how to sing (never thought they were all that great before now), because some of the vocal lines here are as catchy as your standard European power metal album, sans choirs and whatnot. Try “All the Heavy Lifting” or “Octopus Has No Friends” for some really great vocal performances. Most of the tracks don’t go past 4 minutes, so they’re not broken into parts, movements, or anything that would scare off someone with a short attention span. For the fans of the band’s early days, this is good news, although I’m still missing tracks like “The Czar”…but that wouldn’t fit here.

That being said, there are a few elements in here that will throw you off upon first listen, although I don’t think they’re prevalent enough to warrant a negative opinion. As catchy as “Blasteroid” is, it’s basically a pop rock song with harsh vocals in the chorus, with little substance outside of that. The first minute of “Creature Lives” sounds like a modern space ambient project or Pink Floyd cover band, there are so many synths floating around-and the rest of the song is equally as strange, unfurling into a ballad with Brann’s vocals and a simple guitar lick portraying sadness and angst. Whether this stuff works is up for debate; put me in the camp of being able to do without it. Other than these two tracks, however, there really isn’t anything on The Hunter that’s too alienating.

At the end of the day, it’s another change in direction yielding another successful album by the guys from Atlanta. While I still believe that the Crack the Skye approach was Mastodon’s best route to greatness, I can’t fault them for The Hunter; truly talented is a band that can explore different styles of their genre, without a drop in quality or abandoning what got them there in the first place. The Hunter doesn’t score as well as it might have by virtue of not having a high enough ceiling, but it’s nonetheless another notch in the pole for one of America’s few great modern metal bands. Definitely worth a shot.

Conor Fynes
'The Hunter' - Mastodon (8/10)

Expectations are a funny thing. When a new album comes out, quite often much of one's first experience with it is determined before they even slip the record into the player. Whether it is their favourite band and they have been waiting ages for it, or it is an album that is ridiculed and they have been alerted of how bad it apparently is; all of these factors come together to form our expectation of an album, which- obviously based on the quality of the music itself- will greatly sway our response, even after the album is done. Enter Mastodon, a band I have always generally respected, but did not find much to justify the hype with them, even on their progressive opus 'Crack The Skye'. With that in mind, I may not have had the greatest hopes for the new record, let alone the fact that everything I had heard about this in press releases tended to suggest that this was a simplified and even 'dumbed down' version of the band that had shown a lot of promise with their progressive direction. With that in mind, it may be merely my preconception that it was going to be a mediocre-at-best album, but I have found myself incredibly impressed by the reality of Mastodon's new album; 'The Hunter'. While I can definitely see where some of the descriptors were coming from concerning the new direction Mastodon has taken, the angle from which Mastodon sets off here sets the record straight for me. Not only has my feeling that this was going to be a mediocre album been more or less dispelled, but I would not hesitate in calling this the best album Mastodon have done to date.

Before the album was released, there was plenty of news that this was a simplified, 'accessible' version of Mastodon, and that they were turning their backs on the prog rock trends that the last two records had been rooted in, and going for a more straightforward rock sound. This label passes me very much the same way that the way similar-sounding The Mars Volta's album 'Octahedron' was described as their 'acoustic' record. It is certainly not a literal description, and there is much more going on here than what the artists might lead on. Without a doubt, 'The Hunter' is the most eclectic Mastodon album to date; with songs here ranging from vivid psychedelia, to spacey metal, sombre prog rock and a handful of stoner rock. The only thing on 'The Hunter' that has truly lived up to my expectation are the song lengths, which are kept within a comfortable limit. There are no more bombastic epics here like here were on 'Crack The Skye', but the album manages to stay consistently exciting and interesting, thanks in large part to the diversity of the tracks.

Even from the first listen, each of these songs has a different identity from one another; some songs may follow similar paths, but each has a set of ideas that are entirely their own. Mastodon seems to have made an effort here also not to put any like-sounding songs on one after the other. Take the differences between the second track 'Curl Of The Burl', and its successor 'Blasteroid'. The former is a bluesy piece of mid-tempo riff rock that relies on catchy melodies and straightforward structure, whereas 'Blasteroid' takes the listener on a trippy and exciting journey with all the psychedelic twitters entailed. 'Stargasm' continues this string of awesome song names with a much more melancholic sound, a very spacey piece that could have been plucked straight from 'Crack The Skye'. As far as an overlying change of style and pace goes, I would say that Mastodon have more of a psychedelic influence in their sound than ever, although the metal sound has been largely preserved. I find the psychedelic, and more atmosphere-fueled sections of 'The Hunter' to be among the most interesting, although the heavier parts here are a little more hit and miss.

Mastodon's sludgy riff work and distinctive tone are both here, but it works at its best when they are able to find the fine balance between hooks and heaviness. 'Curl Of The Burl' is an example of a song that tends to stray a little too far into hook territory, and probably best exemplifies why I feared 'The Hunter' would sound like. It may be memorable as a track, but there is no depth to it; and even before the first listen is done, I had the impression that there was now a big void in Mastodon's sound. The only two songs that really realize this 'accessible' rock sound are 'Curl', and 'Dry Bone Valley'. Neither gave me much of a rush, and they do feel like what's keeping me from calling 'The Hunter' a masterpiece, because some of the other material on the album makes me want to make that leap. Mastodon have virtually perfected their spacey sound here, best represented by the album's highlight 'Stargasm', and 'The Sparrow', a sombre track that closes the album in classic prog rock tradition; a trippy hymn that builds and lets the listener off on a perfect note. It is a perfect track for this album, because it gives me great motivation to experience the album all over again. I understand full well that many who are first listening to this album are already Mastodon fans, so taking for the fact that I- someone who never cared for them much in the past- am truly digging this album is a great sign for 'The Hunter'. It is not a full step above 'Crack The Skye' in every way, but as the overall musical experience goes, it looks like Mastodon has a new record to outdo with anything they may release in the future.
The Angry Scotsman
A mix of old and new.

I will always be a die hard old school Mastodon fan, (Leviathan being one of the first metal albums I listened to) that over the top, mind shattering madness and, barely, organized chaos. I enjoy their later 2 albums, don't get me wrong, just not as much. The more progressive, streamlined, psychedelic and accessible style of sludge metal.

So I was pleasantly surprised upon my first listen of "The Hunter" to find it is a mix of old and new Mastodon. It's a bit of a throw back to crazy Mastodon, but still in the more streamlined style. It's psychedelic sludge metal, filled with a plethora of vocals, is still prominent. Indeed, the vocals range from clean singing to shrill screams, grungy singing and yelling. Dailor's drumming, though nothing like the fill laden, chaotic style I loved so much, touches upon said style at times. The guitar work is heavy, and runs the spectrum...covering everything from melodic to insanity.

"The Hunter" is also much hookier and overall accessible than anything Mastodon has previously done. For many progressive minded fans this may cause cringing, but fear not. Shorter, more to the point song writing is not a bad thing. Sometimes it's fine to just hang around town and not go on an epic journey. Besides, accessible is one thing but musically this is no pop album, technical skill abounds.

As noted by others, the album doesn't take itself too seriously either, always great to see some fun in metal, (or music in general) especially after the grandiose and powerful "Crack the Skye".

Oh, this has nothing to do with the music at all but sweet Jesus look at that album art! One of the best things I've seen in a while, it reflects the insane nature of the album and seems a bit silly almost, but I'm guessing that's the point. Also, it's pretty damn metal \m/

Another great album from Mastodon, "The Hunter" takes a bit of everything they've done and mix it up into one great meal, served in easy to handle dishes. I almost didn't hear it at first but there is some crazy guitar work going on, textured perfectly with more straightforward songwriting. Great vocal performance all around to boot. One of the top 10 metal albums for the year.

Four Stars
Phonebook Eater
7/10

“The Hunter” is a collection of short, earnestly crazy songs.

Mastodon, it’s easy to say so, are the biggest Metal band, appealing even to a more mainstream crowd. Ironically, they were able to do so with their most progressive album to date, “Crack The Skye”. The album was infinitely praised, and it was indeed a great album. It was hard to follow up such an LP, and in general to follow up the four part concept Masotodon had created with their previous and only four works (Remission=fire, Leviathan=water, Blood Mountain=earth, and Crack the Skye=air), but they managed to stay on track and to still be creative, original, and thought-provoking.

“The Hunter” was intended and surely is the most straight-forward of all Mastodon efforts. It was a wise choice in my opinion, not because of a need to reach a different crowd, but to expand their sound, and they accomplished in a way that I honestly did not expect. These songs have that usual, energetic feel that Mastodon always gave us, but the melodies are simpler, the songs much more in quantity and much shorter, (no one of them more than five minutes). However, this album has enough variation to be called Progressive Metal, thanks to bizarre sounds in some points, many time changes, or simply different guitar effects,. This last instrument has always been dominant, in the most absolute way, in this band’s music, ad it is so even with this album, having that sludgy tone that is familiar to anyone who knows this band. Musically, in the end, they haven’t changed much in sound, but their way in interpreting and executing the music has.

“The Hunter” is a collection of short, little crazy songs, that however are at the same time very serious. The faster songs, basically, are like cracks of fireworks, while the slower songs, well, they’re just fireworks in slow motion. It’s an incredibly dynamic album, very solid, very memorable, with brilliant musicianship and brilliant songs. “Black Tongue” is a strong, powerful song, that makes you want to start breaking stuff, while “Stargasm” moves in an almost sensual way, and “Octopus Has No Friends”, despite having a silly title, has a kind of serious tones you wouldn’t expect. “The Hunter” is a nice slower song, “Creature Lives” reminds of a strange mix between the cheerfulness of Christmas songs and the cheerfulness of Devin Townsend.

An album that is pretty easy to listen to, with many memorable tracks, and with a great sound that we anyway are used to hearing from this band. A good turn for Mastodon, I hope they again release albums as good as this or as the previous ones.
UMUR
"The Hunter" is the 5th full-length studio album by US metal/sludge metal act Mastodon. The album was released in September 2011 by Reprise Records. There´s a deluxe version available which features two bonus tracks titled "The Ruiner" and "Deathbound". The deluxe edition features a different cover artwork from the "regular" version.

After increasingly putting more and more progressive elements into their basic sludge metal sound, culminating in the very progressive "Crack the Skye (2009)", Mastodon have chosen to go in a different direction on "The Hunter". Listening to the album it´s obvious that Mastodon have gone for a much more stripped down and accessible sound. The tracks are for the most part vers/chorus structured and all tracks are between 2 and 5 minutes long. I hear a choir screaming "Sellout", but I assure you that´s not the case. While the 13 tracks on the 53:01 minutes long album may not be structurally challenging, there is a lot of depth in the songwriting. Add to that a powerful warm sound production, strong musicianship, better and cleaner vocals than ever (there´s still a way to go in that department, but the vocals are generally great) and you have a beast of a Mastodon album.

The music is heavy, the almost psychadelic nature of some of the tracks works well, the riffs and the vocal melodies are memorable after only a few listens and while the more stripped down songwriting approach doesn´t always work for other artists, the ever progressing Mastodon masters this more simple musical form in great style too. The change is bold, it´s daring and it´s quite frankly brilliant. While the more stripped down and less progressive form might suggest a "back to the roots" kind of album, that´s not the case. While "The Hunter" sounds unmistakably like Mastodon, the album is different from anything the band have made before. They are simply not content with making the same album twice. So while the music might not be progressive anymore, Mastodon have still progressed their sound. Take a listen to tracks like "Curl of the Burl" or "Creature Lives" for proof of that. Those tracks sound like nothing Mastodon have ever done before. They took some getting used to but both are among the highlights on the album along with the stunning title track and album opener "Black Tongue"

I´m sure "The Hunter" will prove to be a fanbase divider, but I guess you could to a lesser extent say the same thing about "Crack the Skye", so the guys are probably used to the mixed reactions by now. While some fans might turn their backs on the band because of the accessible nature of "The Hunter", I´m sure the album will earn them more fans than they lose. I smell a bigger commercial breakthrough might come with this release. A 4 - 4.5 star rating is well deserved.
Stooge
This album came as quite a pleasant surprise to me. Prior to the album’s release, I heard that Mastodon was going to be moving away from the more progressive structures of the Crack The Skye album and back to their straight-ahead metal roots. While I like every era of Mastodon to date, my expectations were not too high, as I feared this was a step in the wrong direction. Instead, they created a beast known as The Hunter.

Unlike other Mastodon albums, I came out of the first listening session of the album with a good majority of the songs making a lasting impression in my memory, thankfully, in a good way. With The Hunter, the band has created an album that sounds rather accessible much of the time and well produced and polished, but they achieved this without compromising the core of their sound that Mastodon has built their career on. While there are several songs on the album with a catchiness that hints at some slight commercial potential, such as “Curl of the Burl”, “All The Heavy Lifting” (with possibly the catchiest chorus on the album), the punchy “Dry Bone Valley” and the epic anthem “Creature Lives”, the total product comes across as a consistently strong blend of elements that Mastodon had incorporated into their sound across all prior albums. The track-to-track variety helps to give each track it’s own identity.

Fans of their straight-ahead aggressive sludge sound will surely be pleased with the likes of “Black Tongue” and “Spectrelight”, the latter of which features a guest vocal by Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Many of the albums tracks, while not reaching very extended run times, have that atmospheric vibe that the band has often featured over lengthier numbers. In particular, I really dig the brooding, somewhat hypnotic vibe that the title track gives off. “Stargasm” takes you on a similar journey from its stunning intro into a track blending space-rock with their brand of aggression.

An additional pair of tracks stood out, at first, for their odd titles alone. “Octopus Has No Friends” features an up-beat verse crutched on some flashy fretwork by Brent Hinds with a soft-spoken but memorable chorus. “Bedazzled Fingernails” features banjo-esque guitar riffing with a booming Troy Sanders vocal performance and a few eerie effects in the mix. The calmest moment on the album arrives at the finale with “The Sparrow” with a dark but relaxing tone that reminds me of 70’s progressive rock with slight folk overtones.

Chip in a few extra dollars for the version with the bonus DVD. If you do, you’ll be treated to some informative song commentary by drummer Brann Dailor along with some quick studio footage and 3 different music videos (including non-album track “Deathbound”).

The Hunter greatly lives up to the band’s reputation for putting out consistently strong material, and this should not disappoint many Mastodon fans. In fact, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard that has come out in 2011. I think it’s up there with their best work!
Any Colour You Like
I killed a man because he killed my goat / I put my hands around his throat

Really? It's good to see Mastodon have a sense of humour and don't take themselves too seriously. Otherwise I'd be laughing at how bad some of these lyrics are. Sure, Mastodon's fifth studio album 'The Hunter' isn't about anything in particular, but bad lyrics aren't necessary in any domain. Apart from the decidedly mediocre stoner rock middling of 'Curl of the Burl', thankfully, the rest of the album is markedly improved.

The longest lasting image of this album, surely is the emphasis on shorter song writing, laced with psychedelic edges and bizarre imagery. I would argue that this album has a tenuous thematic link to space rock, not only in imagery but in sound. Sure, not all of the tracks here follow the same formula, but there is an overarching sound, undeniably Mastodon, but also an amalgam of influences which were formerly hidden, or less obviously used. There's a tangible Pink Floyd aura on some of the compositions, as well as other classic rock icons. The result is that Mastodon's heavier and chaotic edge is softened by phasers, delay, tremolo and other such effects. Combined with an emphasis on vocal depth, many of the compositions are layered extremely deep within the dense production. Mastodon's break-neck riffing and mercurial percussion remains, but's it's not called upon to be at the fore all the time. In this sense, 'The Hunter' is the culmination of Mastodon's previous four albums. The lack of a specific theme perhaps signifying the band's intention to experiment even further within their own history, and a slight reluctance to fall into a comfortable sentimentality.

The reliance on poppy hooks isn't as sickly as one may think. It obviously makes 'The Hunter' somewhat more accessible to casual listeners; but that doesn't stop Mastodon from mixing tracks up, just to make sure you never really settle into a one-paced groove. As mentioned, some of the lyrics are little bland, but that can be largely forgiven if you take a step back and consider the album entire. Thirteen tracks, thirteen different moods, thirteen different examples of why Mastodon is one of the pre-eminent modern compositional artists. Sure, they've crafted better individual pieces, and more cohesive 'concept' driven albums. But 'The Hunter' may be their most daring statement of intent. There's enough here to please most; a touch patchy, but there's always gold to be found in every Mastodon release.
adg211288
As a reviewer I think that every so often there comes a time when you feel you’ve given an album a fair go, reviewed it and then later had to go back and revise your opinion. Most times this will be years down the track and suddenly you realise a release wasn’t really as good or as bad as it may have seemed at the time. That isn’t quite the case with me with The Hunter, which is the fifth studio release from the ever-changing US progressive sludge metal band Mastodon, as I’m revising this existing review in the closing days of 2011, the year of the album’s release. The Hunter, being a release from a band that I have followed since their second album Leviathan (2004), was always going to be getting more after review listens than most of the albums I get for review, especially since on my original review I found it an exceptional release. Many listens down the track now, and a couple of months since the review was published I find myself thinking that at a score of 8.8/10 I’d misjudged the album. So now I find myself compelled to return to my review, something that doesn’t happen often, and give it something of an update. We begin proper now.

The Hunter is no exception to Mastodon standard in that it has a very different feel to it to their previous releases, especially their previous album, 2009’s Crack the Skye, while still being unmistakeably the work of the band. The Hunter is full of eyebrow raising track names such as Octopus Has No Friends, All the Heavy Lifting and Bedazzled Fingernails, and contains many of Mastodon’s weirdest compositions to date. It also sees drummer Brann Dailor handling some lead vocals again, like he did on Crack the Skye’s opener Oblivion. He gets to sing a full song this time, the quirky Creature Lives.

Compared to Crack the Skye, The Hunter’s tracks are generally shorter with only the title track and closer The Sparrow passing the five minute mark. Naturally this means there’s also a lot more of them than on Crack the Skye, thirteen in all. Despite this, and also despite the fact that Crack the Skye is widely seen as Mastodon’s most progressive release, I actually think the progressive sounds on The Hunter are actually much more common, if less obvious than on Crack the Skye, the only track from which I felt was truly progressive being The Last Baron. On The Hunter we’ve got progressive sounds in several places, although it’s the second half of the album that is the most progressive, since the first three tracks in particular are riff based affairs, short and to the point. A couple of parts later in the album are firmly in spacey territory though, with obvious influence from Pink Floyd. For the most part though The Hunter is still best considered a sludge metal album since most of the tracks here are very riff based, in fact All the Heavy Lifting should probably be renamed as All the Heavy Riffing. Coincidently I think that this is the best track on the album. The track gives new meaning to the term ‘huge chorus’ and is one of the best tracks Mastodon has ever recorded. The album also goes into Stoner Metal territory, particularly with Curl of the Burl, a track seemingly about the murder of a goat.

Vocally Mastodon once again sticks to mostly clean vocals. There’s a bit of their old screaming style from Brent Hinds in Blasteroid and Scott Kelly of Neurosis also provides some harsher vocals in his traditional guest slot during Spectrelight, but otherwise the vocals from Brent, Troy Sanders and Brann Dailor remain in the same vein as Crack the Skye. This is most definitely a good thing as Brent and Troy both have stronger clean vocals, and if there was ever a problem with Mastodon’s earliest releases, it was the vocals, even though they were fitting to the sludge metal style. It’s also nice to hear more vocals from Brann, and although he’s still the minority vocal contributor on The Hunter of Mastodon’s three lead vocalists, he provides a high quality performance that makes me wish he sang even more on the album.

The Hunter is most certainly another high quality release from Mastodon with plenty of great tracks and much variation between them. It’s their most varied album really, forming a nice stylistic bridge between albums as Remission and Leviathan with Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye. It has a great mix of heavy riffing and progressive atmospherics and is most definitely an album that every Mastodon fan should be adding to their collection, and I also suspect that fans of a wide range of metal and rock genres will find something to like on The Hunter. As far as I’m concerned it tops everything the band has done so far to become their best album yet. It is absolutely essential, so go get it, and pursue happiness with diligence.
Kingcrimsonprog
The year is 2011 and Mastodon have released their fifth full-length studio album The Hunter; an album which has the completely unenviable task of having to follow up the band’s previous album Crack The Skye from 2009, which was a bold and defining moment in the band’s career that deservedly won the band a wider audience and that cemented many new fanships worldwide.

When the band announced that unlike their previous three albums, the album would not be a concept album and furthermore they were using both a different producer and even a different artist to handle the album artwork, many feared that the band might be deliberately trying to distance themselves from the style we have all come to love; luckily that is not entirely the case, they only wanted to make the album fresh and original while still managing to retain much of the signature Mastodon sound.

Opening with the storming pair of pre-released track `Black Tongue’ and lead single `Curl Of The Burl,’ the album is magnificent from the get-go. Rather than attempt to outdo Crack The Skye in terms of progression, Mastodon have completely shifted their focus to other elements within their sound and expanded on those. The Hunter is direct and immediate, seeing more straight-forward song structures, cleaner vocals and steadier beats than any album in their esteemed career, even the guitar and bass sounds are the cleanest and least sludgey on any Mastodon record to date.

For many fans; the words `straight forward,’ and `steady beats,’ may seem troublesome when used in conjunction with Mastodon. Especially if like me, you got into the band for their complexity and astounding virtuoso musicianship particularly in the drumming department.

Indeed, some listeners who prefer Mastodon’s Sludge influenced sound may be very surprised with tracks like `Blasteroid’ or `Dry Bone Valley.’ Rather than lash out immediately however, everyone should give The Hunter a fair few listens before making up their minds, after all what people need to remember is that as far back as 2004′s `Naked Burn’ they have been hinting at this sort of thing, now it has just become much more prominent.

Even to assuage fears, it cannot be said that The Hunter is a return to the hardest and most complex territory the band have ever explored. The songs fire ahead with force and power, but are almost all filled with big melodic choruses and driving guitar lines. Just feel safe in the knowledge that the album is not truly a grand departure either; everything still very much sounds instantly recognizable as Mastodon, even if you do have to wait longer between drum fills than on other albums.

Keyboards, structural complexity and the proggier elements found on 2009′s Crack The Skye or the 2010 Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly Soundtrack EP do return on a few occasions especially on the later half of The Hunter too, such as one the wonderful brooding Title Track and `The Sparrow,’ both of which have that Brent Hinds penned arpeggio feel, as well as the Josh Homme influenced `Thickening,’ and the very unique `Creature Lives,’ all of which helps bridge the gap between back then and now rather well.

For yet more similarities with older material, (as with all the band’s studio albums barring their debut) Scott Kelly of Neurosis makes a guest vocal appearance, doing a fine job as usual this time on the up-tempo `Spectrelight.’

Ignoring musical direction, the actual performances and musicianship are utterly spectacular. The vocals (now featuring even more from Brann Dailor) from all parties involved have never ever sounded so good and their skill and talent has improved remarkably, in addition to the guitar solos which are some of the most evocative and emotive sounding leads the band have ever produced.

As performers the band have taken things to a whole other level with The Hunter; the songs are fantastic, no arguments whatsoever can be made with the production and overall The Hunter is simply a hands down good album and a real grower too. If you like Mastodon then ensure that you get yourself a copy, you will likely not regret it.

*** If you should buy the special edition with the DVD, be aware unless you pick up the correct edition, unlike the band’s previous two DVD editions, there is no Making-Of documentary to be had.

The version I got from Amazon does feature a 6-minute Making-Of and 18-Minute Track-By-Track interview with Brann Dailor providing sometimes amusing and sometimes informative background information on the album’s tracks, be it in lyrical meanings or playing styles.

Instead there are two music videos (for `Black Tongue,’ and `Deathbound,’) as well as a `Psychedelic Visualizer,’ for the song ‘Stargasm’ that shows interesting imagery on screen along with the album (if you don’t understand just look on youtube) and finally an Augmented Reality experience that works in conjunction with the band’s official website and with your webcam to place the album art head on your shoulders for video and photo sessions in the web browser which also has Facebook connectivity etc. This requires a 5.6MB file download, acquired upon initial launch.

This DVD is in addition to the alternative packaging that fits in more with previous Mastodon artwork styles and in some cases two bonus tracks, `The Ruiner,’ and `Deathbound’ which are only acquired digitally once you have the direct-to-fan edition of album, from the band’s official website or mp3 sites like iTunes store. ***

Members reviews

Nightfly
Mastodon’s Crack the Skye was milestone prog metal album, the kind of album that benchmarks are set by such was its quality. Two years later and Mastodon are back with The Hunter. Can it live up to its predecessor? Well to be honest no, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a damn fine album but in keeping such illustrious company as Crack The Skye it was always going to be a near impossible feat to achieve.

I have to admit that on first impressions I was a little disappointed with The Hunter but after a few plays it got me hooked. It’s less of a prog album than CTS; In short on the surface it may appear that they’ve took a few steps back to earlier albums. In some ways they have yet despite being a more straight to the point album – only two tracks breaks the five minute barrier, they still retain elements of CTS in terms of feel and the overall sound. It still has those psychedelic touches and of course is incredibly heavy and intense. Where The Hunter also beats anything pre-CTS is on simply great songs with strong hooks and the vocals retain the improvements made on the last album, in other words real singing. There’s some killer tracks none better than Spectrelight which captures them at their most brutal. Equally good is opener Black Tongue and for some light relief from the overall heaviness the title track with its chiming guitar arpeggios and strong melody is excellent. Hot on its heels is Dry Bone Alley, another highlight with some killer riffing yet retaining a strong hook.

Thirteen tracks then with only the occasional glitch - Curl Of The Burl and Blasteroid, two early appearances hence my initial apprehension are merely ordinary by Mastodon standards. In fact it’s in the second half that most of the best gems lie, where it’s more adventurous and they barely put a foot wrong. Any quibbles however are minor and The Hunter turns out to be another excellent album from this American metal band and sure to please most fans.

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