The Hunter

Written by: AP on 20/10/2011 22:00:52

And so came the day when Mastodon decided to rip the script for what was to be another complex narrative in the vein of their previous efforts, and let loose with shorter, punchier songs and a noticeable lack of conceptual baggage to weigh it all down. "The Hunter" takes the band's sound back a notch with a faster pace, heavier riffs and an eye on the mosh friendly drive of "Blood Mountain" and "Leviathan". It feels wild and spontaneous, especially in the wake of the sprawling behemoth that was "Crack the Skye", molding into it snapshots from every stage of their career.

Usually such a statement is a journalistic cliché, meaning that the author of the review was probably pressed under a strict deadline to finish in time for press, but in the case of "The Hunter" it can truthfully be excused. Not only does it pick bits and pieces from the past, it weaves them together in a transformative whole, taking the progressive rock and constantly improving lead vocalization and harmonies of "Crack the Skye"; the sonic freedom and ribaldry of "Blood Mountain"; and the vicious melodies of "Leviathan" to create a piece of music that is essentially the culmination of Mastodon's years spent sculpting a sound that was theirs to begin with.

Although the 13-minute multipart epics have been tucked away, the curious sense of depth and darkness remains largely intact, especially on the likes of "Black Tongue" and "Stargasm"; not the darkness that drives corpse painted Norwegians to reduce churches to ash and embers, but the darkness of space. But above all the emphasis here is on driving, groovy, balls-to-the-walls metal. The playful lurch, snarling riffs and explosive rhythm of "Curl of the Burl"; the swirling clusters of guitar tumbling around a frayed rapid-fire beat on "Blasteroid"; and the classic chug and soar of "Spectrelight" are all fine examples of the band's re-discovered youth.

But it isn't until the album's awesome middle section that Mastodon hit their stride. In less than 15 minutes the band ploughs through two of the most objectively impressive tracks of their career, encapsulating everything they do best between "All the Heavy Lifting", "The Hunter" and "Dry Bone Valley". Opening to a typically ferocious lead part courtesy of Brett Hinds, the band moves from the urgent pounding of "Remission" and the mighty riffs of "Leviathan" to the technical battery of "Blood Mountain" before breaking into the sort of huge, heartfelt chorus the wouldn't have dared attempt before "Crack the Sky", conjuring up every bit of the poignancy they managed on its finest moments.

It goes without saying that Brann Dailor's drumming is - once again - absolutely sublime throughout, combining the fleet-footedness of angular jazz with more customary double-pedal aided metal stylings in a way that probably has most drummers green with envy. Rather than providing mere rhythm to the mix, Dailor more often than not seamlessly mimics the contorted guitar melodies - with a drumkit stripped down to the bare essentials, mind you - which themselves frequently demonstrate Mastodon's unparallelled musical prowess. "The Hunter" may lack the scale and concepts of past maidens, but it fortifies Mastodon as a band who are capable of, and in a position to do more or less whatever they please from a sonic perspective.

Download: Black Tongue, Curl of the Burl, All the Heavy Lifting, Spectrelight
For the fans of: Baroness, Kylesa, Neurosis
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.09.2011
Reprise Records

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