MASTODON — The Hunter (review)

MASTODON — The Hunter album cover Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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.
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