Released: 2011, Reprise Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
So I’ve never been a huge Mastodon fan. I’m sure I’ll catch some crap for this along the way, but I thought that the band’s early records were overrated and overshadowed plenty of comparable bands that do the whole sludge thing much better. My buddy forced me to check out CRACK THE SKYE, and while I dug it’s more trippy vibe and open ended musical exploration, I failed to drool over it the way that so much of the metal press seemed to do upon its release. Which brings us to the band’s latest release, THE HUNTER.
I love this album.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t suckled at the teet of Mastodon to loathe it the way that fanboys have, or maybe it’s just a really good collection of catchy tunes – I dunno. I’ve read a lot of comments where it’s been compared to Metallica’s BLACK ALBUM, sometimes as a positive, sometimes as a negative. All I’m going to say is this – no matter how much the haters hate on the BLACK ALBUM, every one of you knows the words to “Enter Sandman,” and probably a solid 70% can follow that up with “The Unforgiven.” So there.
Back to THE HUNTER. Yes, it’s a more accessible version of Mastodon than you’re probably used to hearing. Yes, the songs are more concise and to the point than the album’s predecessor. And yes, it’s got a spectacular blend of heavy riffs and melodic structure. You’ve got your heavy - “Black Tongue,” “Curl of the Burl,” “Dry Bone Valley,” and “Spectrelight.” You’ve got your trips down the rabbit hole – “Stargasm,” “Octopus Has No Friends,” and “Creature Lives.” And you’ve got tracks that live somewhere in between – everything else, but most notably standout cuts like “All the Heavy Lifting” and “The Sparrow.” Each of the album’s 13 tracks (15 on the deluxe edition) bears its own unique identity, but their placement across the album creates a fluid and memorable listening experience. And did I mention that the tunes are catchy? Insanely so. After only a few listens, I had these tunes rattling in my head to the point to where I was losing sleep (seriously). But damned if I didn’t press play again the next morning.
Put your prejudices and preconceptions aside. Some of you have already made up your mind about THE HUNTER without even a listen. Some of you have based your opinions simply on the notion that Mastodon are now a bigger band than anyone probably ever thought they’d be, and now those other hipster kids at school are listening to YOUR band, so they can’t be cool anymore. Get over it. THE HUNTER is a great record with plenty of heavy to please even the curmudgeonliest of sludge aficionados (which I would consider myself to be) and enough hook and charm to rope in curious bystanders. Check out THE HUNTER and see what all the fuss is about, you know that you want to.