Release Date: Sep 27, 11
After the strange psychadelic, prog-tinged digression that was 2009’s Crack The Skye, there are few things more life-affirming for a longtime Mastodon fan than “Black Tongue,” the opening track of The Hunter and a genuine return to form for the sludge-tech-metal kings. It’s one of the most straightforward songs Mastodon have recorded in years, merging the clean-yet-muscular evolution of Troy Sanders’ vocals with a crunchy attack closer to their debut LP Remission than much of their later work.
It’s a measure of how great The Hunter is that at its least interesting, it’s still a Mastodon album, rife with the gritty animal naturalism of so many of their lyrics and more meter-shattering drumming than you can thump your foot to. (Brann Dailor has never sounded better, or more energized.) “Spectrelight,” in particular, has one of the album’s filthiest breakdowns, which devolves into hazy sludge, in perfect fashion. ‘Breakdowns’ is a good buzzword for a few tracks on Hunter, and it’s appropriate that Mastodon will be touring with The Dillinger Escape Plan this fall, since a similar sort of mathcore attack can almost be detected on “Blasteroid,” with its punk-tinged attack. For that matter, there’s “All The Heavy Lifting,” in which Sanders starts to sound a bit like Greg Puciato in a song that sounds like a heavier take on “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants.” (This is a compliment.)
The curveballs here are where Mastodon reaffirm their status as one of the great metal bands currently recording. The stellar “The Creature Lives” begins with a drone that rises into a doting guitar melody and one of the band’s most earnest vocal deliveries to date, telling the tale of a lonely, outcast being, a humanistic moment amidst the animal carnage. Likewise, they dabble with shoegaze (“The Sparrow,” “Stargasm”) and the downright anthemic (“The Octopus Has No Friends,” another moment of genuine heart) en route to one of their best albums to date, and a real breakthrough for the band. Mastodon have crossed styles, but never have they come together with such seemingly effortless fluidity.