01. Black Tongue 02. Curl of the Burl 03. Blasteroid 04. Stargasm 05. The Octopus Has No Friends 06. All The Heavy Lifting 07. The Hunter 08. Dry Bone Valley 09. The Thickening 10. The Creature Lives 11. Spectrelight 12. Bedazzled Fingernails 13. The Sparrow2011 Warner Bros. Records
2009's Crack the Skye was an overwhelming success for Mastodon, featuring more melody and musicianship than the band had ever previously set forth. It also felt a bit bloated, in part because of the heady tunes, but also the heady subject matter. In response, Mastodon crafted The Hunter, a selection of self-serving songs that eschew the concept format and instead showcase even greater thoughtfulness and tunefulness. While The Hunter may not stand out conceptually, it certainly does musically, from the at once Mastodonian opener "Black Tongue" to the classic rock sound on the following "Curl of the Burl," the latter of which features the most memorable hook of the band's career. The 70's rock feel is not unlike the turn The Sword took on Warp Riders. Mastodon mixes it up further with the sexual release of "Stargasm." The song stretches to the heavens, bringing to mind the ethereal well the band based Crack the Skye around. But it's Brent Hinds' bellow of the chorus "You're on Fire" that burns like a supernova. Hind's less strained register is a noticeable difference from his past vocal contributions. I dig it. "Dry Bone Valley" sounds like someone being chased through a sand-caked riverbed, a close cousin to Blood Mountain's "The Wolf is Loose." Not sure if touring with Alice in Chains had an effect on the band, but vocally it is very Jerry and Layne. Similar to Crack the Skye's title track, "The Hunter" is epic, but where "Skye" had an air of hope "The Hunter" is all anguish eating from the inside out. Hinds hacks away at his tenuous leads, and it sounds like it hurts. "Blasteroid" will screw up fans faces with a sugary pop feel similar to Torche, but just when the vibe gets comfortable, they dive into a screamed chorus of "I wanna drink your fucking blood. I wanna break some fucking glass" It's a fantastic balance between a pop and metal stance. "The Thickening" begins with a basic blues bass line then morphs into patented Masto-dissonance. "The Creature Lives" reminds of an Old English dragon tale, very theatrical yet still somehow heavy. Scott Kelly's (Neurosis) cameo on "Spectrelight" is well appreciated, as always. The few negatives include the closer "The Sparrow" which leaves a bit to be desired as an album-ender. "All the Heavy Lifting" feels a little long and slapped together. "Bedazzled Fingernails" comes off as more of a guitar exercise than a song. Mastodon likes to experiment, and they do so throughout The Hunter, however it doesn't deliver the overall feeling of awesomeness they accomplished on Leviathan and Remission. Perhaps it's unfair to compare every album to those high-watermarks, and hey, everyone's standards are different. That said, Mastodon's dedication to constantly challenge themselves both technically and artistically is refreshing, and most of these songs kick some serious ass. Bottom Line: The Hunter is a more than suitable mix of Mastodon's past efforts and also reaches into new territory including pop subtleties and traditional blues affectations. If only it was a concept album.