Mastodon’s The Hunter packs an adamant wallop. Its quaking riffs and Spartan presence mark a different direction from the woozy prog of Crack the Skye and the broad-but-practical jamming of Blood Mountain.
Indeed, this is a simpler (but neither a kinder nor gentler) Mastodon. These songs are shorter, sharper, getting to their riff-heavy point in a hurry.
The Hunter, the Georgia band’s fifth LP, is their first with producer Mike Elizondo. Recorded at Doppler Studios in Atlanta, it was named in honour of guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother who passed away last December while hunting.
Everything about the album is dialled up to 11, from the monstrous riffs to the shattering vocals to the potent percussion. Notes of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin swim through the whole lot and the album has an unambiguously carefree touch.
“Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye — those albums took too long to make,” Hinds told Spin magazine. “This only took us a couple weeks to record and there’s a totally different feeling to it. It’s a jump-on-your-bed, get naked, and go streaking kind of record. I haven’t had this feeling about a Mastodon record since [2004’s] Leviathan. It’s just fucking awesome.”
The back-to-basics approach doesn’t mean that fans of the proggy stuff are left out in the hostile cold, mind you. But those expecting a concept album may be disappointed, as The Hunter is a superbly disordered and speckled piece of work. Finding a common thread, outside of the ecstatic pursuit of classic rock sensibility, is damn near impossible.
The thing is that Mastodon manages to make the ostensibly incongruent elements gel in a way that is rather remarkable.
The first track, “Black Tongue,” cranks up with a mammoth riff and Brann Dailor’s dynamic drumming. Hints of Slayer slash through the jugular.
“Curl of the Burl” follows with a hefty, mucky riff that is so groovy it hurts. It’s a gleeful, glinting number that sounds like a blast to play. Air guitarists will relish the high-flying riffs, while lines like “I killed a man ‘cause he killed my goat” are downright senseless in the grandest way imaginable. Note the handclaps.
The duelling guitars of “Octopus Has No Friends” continue Mastodon’s insistence not to sink into despair and to let their freak flags fly. And “Creature Lives” carries it out, letting Dailor sing the entire track. Featuring the services of Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly, “Spectrelight” is a punishing track, loading a chugging riff that just doesn’t let up.
For stark-naked thrills and wild riffs, The Hunter is the magic ticket. It lacks the concepts and scale of Mastodon’s preceding releases, but it fortifies the band as more than capable of doing whatever the hell they want from a sonic standpoint.
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