Ok, so, Mastodon just made another record, with another obscure looking animal adorning the album cover. I like.
Now, it might cost me my nuts for saying this, but I pretty much hated Mastodon’s last. Even with all the huff and haw and hipster-ish ‘progressive/ experimental/ what-have-you’ genre tags and five-star ratings and blah blah blah, the exceedingly chilled out vibe of Crack the Skye was entirely lost on me. While I didn’t (and still don’t) object to the band exploring creative possibilities outside of big balled heavy metal, it wound me up to hear the testosterone driven rage of Blood Mountain and Leviathan dissolve into this weird sort of lighter, new age gunk. That said, Mastodon are still a heavy metal powerhouse with one of the most impressive and consistently innovative discographies out there. Each of their albums has chronologically progressed from one style to another, and even though Crack the Skye was a bit too fucking hillbilly for my own taste, it sure as hell wasn’t a bad album by any stretch of analytical masturbation; whether you liked it or not, it was well written, well executed, well produced, and ultimately: tight as hell… same as all their other albums. Admittedly, Mastodon haven’t nearly approximated the quality of sludge that comes from premier bands like Neurosis or Crowbar, but they have the potential to get there, and The Hunter is a seminal stride forward in making sure they damn well do.
On The Hunter, Mastodon reprise both, their spankingly slick progressive edge, as well as the visceral power of their early years. So it’s not all moshpit friendly, this album. The half assed, spaced out stoner vibe (that made Crack the Skye such a fail for me) is a lot more prominent and well defined on this one, echoing back to punk-rooted bands like Kylesa and Kyuss, which is definitely the most fun part of the album. Thankfully, Brett Hind’s pretentious intellectualism of writing thirteen minute buildups has gone out the window and the tracks jump into one another in a riot of styles. At first, you’re listening to Cult of Luna having mad sex with Eyehategod, the next moment they’re doing Brant Bjork or And So I Watch You From Afar. It’s a lot of fun, and very remarkable, especially when it dawns on you that Mastodon haven’t sacrificed one bit of their quintessential ferocity underneath all this stylistic horsing around. Unpredictable yet cohesive songwriting is what makes this record click. I’ve heard it multiple times already, and there’s still more left for me to discover.
It might be an over-thought to claim The Hunter as being Crack the Skye done right. Because it’s a lot more than just that. The Hunter, in its excellence, brings to life the beast that Mastodon have been pregnant with all along. And one can’t help but smile. When I think about it seriously enough, Mastodon are really the only contemporary band that remind me of Black Sabbath. And I don’t mean that on a genre-specific basis. Rather, my point is that both these bands, they’ve always known what exactly they’re trying to do, and have followed it up with albums that are a downright pleasure to listen to at the end of the day.
All things considered, this is definitely Mastodon’s most fun album yet.
Oh, and Bret Hinds has a one helluva beard.