I never thought that I would review a Mastodon album. These grizzled purveyors of technical, psychedelic stoner metal appeal to most music critics, but The Hunter is the only set of their progressive jams that has clicked with me. And I don't know why. Critically acclaimed albums such as Leviathan and Crack the Skye just don't jive on my wavelength. I hear the talent. The music has depth and purpose. Clearly, Mastodon has an original sound, but aside from a cracking tune here and there ("Oblivion" is flat-out amazing), I can't say that they have ever moved me to boogie (or woogie, for that matter). Well, guess what? The Hunter has made me a believer.
What's so different this time around? Maybe it's the accessible nature of the new material. The tracks are shorter, the arrangements are less dense and the hooks are catchier than pubic lice. "Curl of the Burl" should be a radio hit, and yet, this record is anything but commercialized. It's easy to tell that the shift towards approachable riffs and pandemic melodies was an organic one. This was no cash grab. Die-hard meatheads will be pleased to know that opener "Black Tongue" is just as abrasive as the husky pit-starters on Leviathan. Likewise, the lethal "Blasteroids" and the elephantine "Spectrelight" reside on the metallic end of the spectrum.
My favorite cuts tend to be the compositions that balance brutal badassery with meditative vocal harmonies (see "Bedazzled Fingernails" and "The Octopus Has No Friends"). There is plenty of plush soloing to keep the guitar freaks at bay. Of course, they only play the notes that need to be played. If it's mindless shredding you want, headbang elsewhere. Conceptually, The Hunter is all over the fucking place. Lyrics touch on everything from tree poaching to intergalactic intercourse. In my estimation, it was a smart move to mix things up after exploring the weighty themes of Crack the Skye.
This is not a perfect album, but I can't name a flaw off-hand that rubs me the wrong way. Why not? It's the same reason why I can't explicitly describe my aversion to Mastodon's earlier outings. Their stuff is hard to wrap my head around. All I know is that The Hunter exemplifies the missing link between mainstream rock and underground metal. If it was 1993, "Curl of the Burl" would be a Buzz Clip on MTV. Remember Buzz Clips? I better stop typing before I rant on the decrepitude of pop culture. The moral of the story...don't kill another man's goat.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 8:12 PM