Released: 2011, Warner Bros Records
Let's be clear from the off: forget what you think you may know about THE HUNTER. Disregard any rumours you heard, or read and be especially wary of expecting that Mastodon may, with their fifth full-length, have attempted a straight-ahead rock record, for THE HUNTER is anything but. It's a revelation; a parable outlining why accessible songwriting needn't detract from innovation or depth.
Of course, the latter two have practically been the Altanta-quartet's bread and butter over the years and as much as their burly, progressive sludge has become increasingly more fashionable, the band have always kept us guessing. From the dizzying concepts of BLOOD MOUNTAIN and CRACK THE SKYE, through the acid trip gone awry that was REMISSION, Mastodon's genius lies in their unpredictability and thus it seems only apt that THE HUNTER starts us off with a track like "Black Tongue" which snakes its way through the recesses of the band's back catalogue as much as it flirts with the big ticket stadium rock that minutes later is bound to catch many listeners off guard on "Curl The Burl". That this song has caused a stir on the interwebs is hardly shocking in that it's about as much of a creative side-step as you could possibly imagine coming from the fearsome foursome - short, sharp, devoid of frills, big on riffs and even bigger on a huge anthemic chorus.
But before the thought of dismissing them so much as crosses your mind - and it must be said that "Curl The Burl" certainly doesn't warrant any such disgruntlement - fear not, for THE HUNTER is a sonic odyssey that travails more twists and turns than a balloon animal. Whether it be the sci-fi histrionics of "Stargasm" or the searing emotional intensity of "All The Heavy Lifting", Mastodon appear utterly incapable of doing any wrong. Yet even amongst so many great tracks, special mention should be afforded to the disc's title track; slow, sombre and pensive it acts as the perfect centre-piece to what is surely the group's coup de grace. Truly, purchasing THE HUNTER isn't simply optional - it's required listening.