Release Date: Sep 27, 2011
Record label: Reprise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Sludge Metal
Over their first four albums, these Georgia sludgethrashers grew increasingly conceptual, centering lyrics around classical elements (fire, water, earth) while expanding toward classical-movement song lengths. But after 2009's grandiose Crack the Skye - which had an 11-minute epic called "The Czar" – The Hunter reins things in: no tracks over six minutes, and a straightforward attack close to post-grunge commercial rock. Producer Mike Elizondo – whose résumé includes Switchfoot, Maroon 5 and lots of hip-hop – was presumably a catalyst.
Over the last decade, Mastodon has been building upon progressive time signatures, rhythmic heft, fantastical and, at times, absurd lyricism, annihilating guitar riffs and conceptual oddity, cultivating a significantly high standard of performance and construct that’s time and time again incredible to absorb. The Hunter is no different in most of those respects, though the conceptual oddity is off the table this time around. According to the guitarist, Bill Kelliher, The Hunter is “a spontaneous record based off music that comes off our fingertips in the moment.
Mastodon. MASTODON. When a band’s name sounds that rock, was there any doubt that their latest album wouldn’t be a bombastic frenzy of awesome? Yes, The Hunter is absolutely everything you would demand of it. The Atlanta four-piece — Troy Sanders (bassist/vocalist), Brent Hinds (guitarist/vocalist), Bill Keliher (guitarist), and Brann Dailor (drummer/vocalist) — has built a reputation for gigantic, arena-ready progressive metal, full of obscure lyricism and mind-bending instrumentation.
The dictionary definition tells you this: 'With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterised by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. ' All the above is true of Mastodon, perhaps the best and brightest purveyor of the heavy stuff around, since their grimy and gruesome start as an uncompromising thrash outfit at the start of the last decade. Now major label 200,000-unit-shifting purveyors of the most progressive, aggressive yet surprisingly melodic metal you could hope to hear, the Atlanta, Georgia four-piece are back.
When I chatted recently with guitarist Bill Kelliher, the stoic Mastodon axeman talked…a lot, ranting about his hatred of touring their classic songs to death, jawing about his passion for old-school metal. But mostly he spoke about his desire to make The Hunter, his band’s fifth studio album, a “go out and punch your mom record.” At first, I didn’t even catch the reference. I understood the sentiment at face-value: After Mastodon’s laborious 2009 epic, Crack the Skye—which saw the quartet slaving toward spacey concept-prog perfection with producer Brendan O’Brien—Kelliher and his bandmates wanted to do something more spontaneous, more immediate and varied.
MASTODON play Kool Haus November 25. See listing. Rating: NNNN On Mastodon's fifth album, the Atlanta kings of sludgy progressive metal rein in their long-winded sonic tangents and high-concept themes without sacrificing any heaviness, technical complexity or ethereal atmospherics. While their last four records loosely represented the four classical elements of water, earth, fire and air, The Hunter has no obvious thematic through line, and yet its 13 tracks make for a plenty cohesive listen.
Review Summary: The workhorse chroniclesThere are few things that get the metal masses burning with anticipation more than a new Mastodon release. After winning over basically every metal head in some way or another with either the crushing down tempo maelstrom of Remission, the raging literature class by way of riffage of Leviathan, or the nu-prog complexity of Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye, it's really no surprise that their latest album The Hunter is one of the finest metal releases of 2011, but the real question here is how will their sound evolve this time? Their last two albums saw the tweaked out Georgians eschewing the monolithic slabs of southern sludge that they built their brand on in favor of greater emphasis on technicality and production techniques to thicken out their sound. The Hunter takes the last few years of Mastodon's career and says to hell with it.
On 2011’s The Hunter, Mastodon abandoned the proggy, conceptual route taken on previous outings, choosing instead to mine the trailblazing, riff-heavy abandon of their 2004 masterpiece, Leviathan. Mastodon's increasingly accessible sound may not land them a hit anytime soon, but cuts like “Black Tongue,” “Curl of the Burl,” and “Balsteroid,” all of which arrive in sequence at the front of the set, show a willingness to write within the parameters of 21st century pop music’s dark side. That’s not to say that the band has pulled its head out of the vastness of space, as there are more than enough tracks here to satisfy fans who prefer the sludgy, drop-D epics of yore to the more organized roar of The Hunter's front end.
Nirvana’s Nevermind turns 20 this year, but if you have it mind to pay your respects to the memory of St. Cobain, I suggest you avoid the gaudy reissue packages of the seminal album and reverent live tributes and instead pick up a copy of Mastodon’s latest. The peerless Georgia metal quartet has always embodied Nirvana’s spirit of uncompromising heaviness, but with The Hunter, they can now claim to have fully realized the latent pop instincts that lurked beneath the sludgy prog of Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye.
Mastodon's fifth album is as near to punchy and concise as they're ever likely to come. Gone are the 13-minute multipart epics – the longest track here is just five and a half – yet there's a depth and darkness about The Hunter: not the darkness that drives Norwegian metallers to burn down churches, but the darkness of space. The titles of tracks such as Blasteroid and Stargasm capture the mood.
Mastodon chose the right time to scale back the concepts. For 2002's Remission, they focused on fire; 2004's Leviathan, water (and Moby Dick); 2006's Blood Mountain, earth (plus a vision quest up the side of the title's mountain); and 2009's Crack the Skye, aether, linking astral travel, wormholes, Rasputin, possession, and the suicide of drummer Brann Dailor's sister Skye. There's no way to follow that, so for their fifth album, The Hunter, they offer 13 stylistically and lyrically varied tracks.
Mastodon’s most accessible album to date finds the ATL-iens as unfocused as ever—and out of gas. The Hunter isn’t a prog-fueled comet heading for a specific destination, it’s just floating in space. Indie rockers unfamiliar with the sludge-slingers’ repertoire will find a green light here. They might get this confused for a more-polished-yet-lesser-quality version of an early Queens of the Stone Age slab.
It takes a special kind of band to put out an album whose gimmick is that it doesn’t have a grandiose cosmic concept behind it, but Mastodon do just that with The Hunter, their fifth full-length record and third major label release. But while such a claim hints at a “return to form,” it’s truly impossible for the band to entirely forsake the prog-rock sound that dominated Crack the Skye. Instead, Mastodon has moved forward, merging the chunky stoner-thrash of their early releases with the freewheeling spaciness of their newer material.
Around the middle of the last decade, when Atlanta metallurgists [a]Mastodon[/a] began to wink at the mainstream, some suggested they might even be the next [a]Metallica[/a]. Were that the case, ‘[b]The Hunter[/b]’ – their fifth full-length – should logically be their ‘[b]Black Album[/b]’. Safe to say it’s not expected to sell comparably, but there are a few radio-friendly moments.
Well, metalheads of the world, here is the new Mastodon album, the long-awaited, hotly anticipated follow-up to the highly lauded Crack the Skye. All hopes are pinned on this one making Mastodon one of the biggest names in not only metal but in all of rock, finally living up to the potential that the group has been demonstrating over the course of the last decade of its existence. And the surprising thing is that this album just might do it.
This is the part of the review where we talk about Mastodon’s concept album story arcs, like the fact that Leviathan was based on Moby Dick or that 2009’s stellar (yet underrated) Crack the Skye was about someone going through space and time to meet Rasputin, who eventually overtakes their body, means anything to you. The crazy “stories” of the albums make for great critical fodder, but there isn’t a soul on earth who bases their appreciation for the stories of Mastodon albums. We all know this.
Everyone loves a narrative. Few know this better than Atlanta Georgia sludge bastards turned heavy prog rockers Mastodon. Their breakthrough 2004 album Leviathan was loosely based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and their most successful album to date, Crack The Skye in 2009, concerns the adventures of a quadriplegic travelling the astral plain before accidentally getting stranded in Tsarist Russia.
On The Hunter, Mastodon have gone back to basics at the height of their powers. The Atlanta quartet’s fifth disc lacks two of its signature elements: a concept-album storyline and cover art by Paul Romano. But the band stand undiminished, combining Leviathan’s raging metal with the sterling production of the proggier Crack The Skye. Dueling anthemic riffs make album opener “Black Tongue” their heaviest track to date.
Don’t like metal? You might just love Mastodon. Mike Diver 2011 It’s the summer of 2007. This writer is in Norway for the inaugural Hove Festival alongside another journo who says, confidently, that he doesn’t like metal after scanning the line-up and spying several riff-heavy acts. While it’s true that many of these bands are missed, it takes one performance to have him reassessing his not-for-me standpoint on metal: Mastodon, then supporting their third LP Blood Mountain, blow everyone away.