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Mastodon - The Hunter CD (album) cover

THE HUNTER

Mastodon

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'The Hunter' - Mastodon (8/10)

Expectations are a funny thing. When a new album comes out, quite often much of one's first experience with it is determined before they even slip the record into the player. Whether it is their favourite band and they have been waiting ages for it, or it is an album that is ridiculed and they have been alerted of how bad it apparently is; all of these factors come together to form our expectation of an album, which- obviously based on the quality of the music itself- will greatly sway our response, even after the album is done. Enter Mastodon, a band I have always generally respected, but did not find much to justify the hype with them, even on their progressive opus 'Crack The Skye'. With that in mind, I may not have had the greatest hopes for the new record, let alone the fact that everything I had heard about this in press releases tended to suggest that this was a simplified and even 'dumbed down' version of the band that had shown a lot of promise with their progressive direction. With that in mind, it may be merely my preconception that it was going to be a mediocre-at-best album, but I have found myself incredibly impressed by the reality of Mastodon's new album; 'The Hunter'. While I can definitely see where some of the descriptors were coming from concerning the new direction Mastodon has taken, the angle from which Mastodon sets off here sets the record straight for me. Not only has my feeling that this was going to be a mediocre album been more or less dispelled, but I would not hesitate in calling this the best album Mastodon have done to date.

Before the album was released, there was plenty of news that this was a simplified, 'accessible' version of Mastodon, and that they were turning their backs on the prog rock trends that the last two records had been rooted in, and going for a more straightforward rock sound. This label passes me very much the same way that the way similar-sounding The Mars Volta's album 'Octahedron' was described as their 'acoustic' record. It is certainly not a literal description, and there is much more going on here than what the artists might lead on. Without a doubt, 'The Hunter' is the most eclectic Mastodon album to date; with songs here ranging from vivid psychedelia, to spacey metal, sombre prog rock and a handful of stoner rock. The only thing on 'The Hunter' that has truly lived up to my expectation are the song lengths, which are kept within a comfortable limit. There are no more bombastic epics here like here were on 'Crack The Skye', but the album manages to stay consistently exciting and interesting, thanks in large part to the diversity of the tracks.

Even from the first listen, each of these songs has a different identity from one another; some songs may follow similar paths, but each has a set of ideas that are entirely their own. Mastodon seems to have made an effort here also not to put any like-sounding songs on one after the other. Take the differences between the second track 'Curl Of The Burl', and its successor 'Blasteroid'. The former is a bluesy piece of mid-tempo riff rock that relies on catchy melodies and straightforward structure, whereas 'Blasteroid' takes the listener on a trippy and exciting journey with all the psychedelic twitters entailed. 'Stargasm' continues this string of awesome song names with a much more melancholic sound, a very spacey piece that could have been plucked straight from 'Crack The Skye'. As far as an overlying change of style and pace goes, I would say that Mastodon have more of a psychedelic influence in their sound than ever, although the metal sound has been largely preserved. I find the psychedelic, and more atmosphere-fueled sections of 'The Hunter' to be among the most interesting, although the heavier parts here are a little more hit and miss.

Mastodon's sludgy riff work and distinctive tone are both here, but it works at its best when they are able to find the fine balance between hooks and heaviness. 'Curl Of The Burl' is an example of a song that tends to stray a little too far into hook territory, and probably best exemplifies why I feared 'The Hunter' would sound like. It may be memorable as a track, but there is no depth to it; and even before the first listen is done, I had the impression that there was now a big void in Mastodon's sound. The only two songs that really realize this 'accessible' rock sound are 'Curl', and 'Dry Bone Valley'. Neither gave me much of a rush, and they do feel like what's keeping me from calling 'The Hunter' a masterpiece, because some of the other material on the album makes me want to make that leap. Mastodon have virtually perfected their spacey sound here, best represented by the album's highlight 'Stargasm', and 'The Sparrow', a sombre track that closes the album in classic prog rock tradition; a trippy hymn that builds and lets the listener off on a perfect note. It is a perfect track for this album, because it gives me great motivation to experience the album all over again. I understand full well that many who are first listening to this album are already Mastodon fans, so taking for the fact that I- someone who never cared for them much in the past- am truly digging this album is a great sign for 'The Hunter'. It is not a full step above 'Crack The Skye' in every way, but as the overall musical experience goes, it looks like Mastodon has a new record to outdo with anything they may release in the future.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#528201)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The year is 2011 and Mastodon have released their fifth full-length studio album The Hunter; an album which has the completely unenviable task of having to follow up the band's previous album Crack The Skye from 2009, which was a bold and defining moment in the band's career that deservedly won the band a wider audience and that cemented many new fanships worldwide.

When the band announced that unlike their previous three albums, the album would not be a concept album and furthermore they were using both a different producer and even a different artist to handle the album artwork, many feared that the band might be deliberately trying to distance themselves from the style we have all come to love; luckily that is not entirely the case, they only wanted to make the album fresh and original.

Opening with the storming pair of pre-released track 'Black Tongue,' and lead single 'Curl Of The Burl,' the album is magnificent from the get-go. Rather than attempt to outdo Crack The Skye in terms of progression, Mastodon have completely shifted their focus to other elements within their sound and expanded on those. The Hunter is direct and immediate, seeing more straight-forward song structures, cleaner vocals and steadier beats than any album in their esteemed career, even the guitar and bass sounds are the cleanest and least sludgey on any Mastodon record to date.

For many fans; the words 'straight forward,' and 'steady beats,' may seem troublesome when used in conjunction with Mastodon. Especially if like me, you got into the band for their complexity and astounding virtuoso musicianship particularly in the drumming department.

Indeed, some listeners who prefer Mastodon's Sludge influenced sound may be very surprised with tracks like 'Blasteroid,' or 'Dry Bone Valley.' Rather than lash out immediately everyone should give The Hunter a fair few listens before making up their minds, after all what people need to remember is that as far back as 2004's 'Naked Burn,' they have been hinting at this sort of thing, now it has just become much more prominent.

Even to assuage fears, it cannot be said that The Hunter is a return to the hardest and most complex territory the band have ever explored. The songs fire ahead with force and power, but are almost all filled with big melodic choruses and driving guitar lines. Just feel safe in the knowledge that the album is not truly a grand departure either; everything still very much sounds instantly recognizable as Mastodon, even if you do have to wait longer between drum fills than on other albums.

Keyboards, Complexity and the proggier elements found on 2009's Crack The Skye or the 2010 Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly Soundtrack EP do return on a few occasions especially on the later half of The Hunter too, such as one the wonderful brooding Title Track and 'The Sparrow,' (both of which have that Brent Hinds penned arpeggio feel) as well as the Josh Homme influenced 'Thickening,' and the very unique 'Creature Lives,' all of which helps bridge the gap between back then and now rather well.

For yet more similarities with older material, (as with all the band's studio albums barring their debut) Scott Kelly of Neurosis makes a guest vocal appearance, doing a fine job as usual this time on the up-tempo 'Spectrelight.'

Ignoring musical direction, the actual performances and musicianship are utterly spectacular. The vocals (now featuring even more from Brann Dailor) from all parties involved have never ever sounded so good and their skill and talent has improved remarkably, in addition to the guitar solos which are some of the most evocative and emotive sounding leads the band have ever produced.

As performers the band have taken things to a whole other level with The Hunter; the songs are fantastic, no arguments whatsoever can be made with the production and overall The Hunter is simply a hands down good album and a real grower too. If you like Mastodon then ensure that you get yourself a copy, you will likely not regret it.

*** If you should buy the special edition with the DVD, be aware that unlike the band's previous two DVD editions, there is no making of documentary to be had. Instead there are two music videos (for 'Black Tongue,' and 'Deathbound,') as well as a 'Psychedelic Visualizer,' for the album that shows interesting imagery on screen along with the album (if you don't understand just look on youtube) and finally an Alternative Reality experience that works with your webcam to place you within the album art.

This DVD is in addition to the alternative packaging that fits in more with previous Mastodon artwork styles and of course two bonus tracks, 'The Ruiner,' and 'Deathbound.' ***

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Send comments to Gentlegiantprog (BETA) | Report this review (#529584)
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars An excellent album. Seems like Mastodon does way better at writing song-oriented albums instead of conceptual stuff.

I honestly didn't expect this album to be this good at all. I was quite underwhelmed by the singles, especially Black Tongue, but when it came out it just 'clicked' with me. And Brann Dailor's hyperactive drumming fits like a glove; he's like the Phil Collins/Christian Vander of metal.

Also, some of those who take their 10 seconds to read this review might think: "lulwut? 5 stars? fanboi lololol". The reason for those five stars is that I haven't got sick of "The Hunter" even after listening to it 7 times on the day I got the album, and I couldn't find a single bad/barely memorable song.

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Send comments to The Neck Romancer (BETA) | Report this review (#536540)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mastodon Should be inducted into the Progressive Rock hall of fame, Just on the back of "Creature Lives" on it's own, Holy crap, WTF was that, absolutely just love that tune, The first minute or so had me a little nervous, The thing about Mastodon I think suits them so well is, Almost anyone from any genre of hard rock could find something to like in this album, Big 4 thrash band fans, Fans of Crimson or even the Beatles could find something, listen to the vocal harmonies, I don't expect that Mastodon has been listening to The White Album much, but That influence is there to my ears, Likely it's there via King Crimson and Yes. I like all 13 tracks on this album, Even some of the more commercial sounding tracks, like "curl of burl" still have a nice chugging riff, But "Stargasm" and "Creature lives" really stand out to me as Classics, "The Sparrow" as well. The whole album really flows very well, Sounds more like classic album rock to me, than the the last album Crack the Skye, which was more complex to my ears, and still very enjoyable. I feel this music has a fully realized maturity, I feel as if this the peak, I wouldn't rate this better than any of the previous albums, but I think it's more accessible than any other album, But not in a spit and polished way, Not over produced, the music still has the raw sound I like from Mastodon, Crack the Skye I think has a slicker sound than The Hunter. Take my review for what it's worth, I liked the Opeth Heritage album as well. I have no problem giving The Hunter 5 stars. One great slab of music, with a few surprises. Some die hard Mastodon fans will hate "Creature Lives", but I think it's fantastic.

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Send comments to darkprinceofjazz (BETA) | Report this review (#544863)
Posted Friday, October 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Hunter is definitely one of the best albums of this year.

While Crack the Skye was a full blown concept album with few songs reaching over the 10 minute marker, The Hunter gives us diversity in a stripped down and more compact form.

13 songs, and not one of them can be said to be a filler. Also the stylistic diversity to be found on this album is incredible, there's old style fast and aggressive Mastodon (Black Tongue, Spectrelight), more commercial sounding hard rock songs (Curl of the Burl for instance), more spacey explorations (Stargasm, The Hunter, The Sparrow) and also some experiments like the wonderful Creature Lives. Despite this all, the album is tied together with the trademark Mastodon sound: Brann Dailor's extremely busy drumming, off-the-wall riffing and the familiar double vocals by Hinds and Sanders.

One sector where the band succeeds better than ever before are the vocal melodies. They were great even before, but this time they have managed to add lot more to them, making the melodies melancholically aching at times but always pleasing the ear. Also the singing has improved. There are also more keyboards, a trend started with Crack the Skye. While on CtS some of the keyboards didn't seem to fit perfectly to the music they complement the sound perfectly this time around.

Mastodon is a band that can't be classified to any genre in particular, except saying that they are a rock'n'roll band. With The Hunter they manage to be progressive while keeping the songs compact (the longest is the closer The Sparrow, clocking in at 5:30).

This is progressive rock in the true sense of the word. An album of the highest caliber, 5 stars.

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Send comments to nikow (BETA) | Report this review (#546755)
Posted Sunday, October 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Mastodon's Crack the Skye was a milestone prog metal album, the kind of album that benchmarks are set by such was its quality. Two years later and Mastodon are back with The Hunter. Can it live up to its predecessor? Well to be honest no, but that doesn't mean it's not a damn fine album but in keeping such illustrious company as Crack The Skye it was always going to be a near impossible feat to achieve.

I have to admit that on first impressions I was a little disappointed with The Hunter but after a few plays it got me hooked. It's less of a prog album than CTS; In short on the surface it may appear that they've took a few steps back to earlier albums. In some ways they have yet despite being a more straight to the point album - only two tracks breaks the five minute barrier, they still retain elements of CTS in terms of feel and the overall sound. It still has those psychedelic touches and of course is incredibly heavy and intense. Where The Hunter also beats anything pre-CTS is on simply great songs with strong hooks and the vocals retain the improvements made on the last album, in other words real singing. There's some killer tracks none better than Spectrelight which captures them at their most brutal. Equally good is opener Black Tongue and for some light relief from the overall heaviness the title track with its chiming guitar arpeggios and strong melody is excellent and likewise The Sparrow, a brilliant piece of psychedelic heavy rock to close things. Dry Bone Alley is yet another highlight with some killer riffing yet retaining a strong hook.

Thirteen tracks then with only the occasional glitch - Curl Of The Burl and Blasteroid, two early appearances hence my initial apprehension are merely ordinary by Mastodon standards. In fact it's in the second half that most of the best gems lie, where it's more adventurous and they barely put a foot wrong. Any quibbles however are minor and The Hunter turns out to be another excellent album from the American prog metal band and sure to delight most fans.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#553240)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Any Colour You Like
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I killed a man because he killed my goat / I put my hands around his throat

Really? It's good to see Mastodon have a sense of humour and don't take themselves too seriously. Otherwise I'd be laughing at how bad some of these lyrics are. Sure, Mastodon's fifth studio album 'The Hunter' isn't about anything in particular, but bad lyrics aren't necessary in any domain. Apart from the decidedly mediocre stoner rock middling of 'Curl of the Burl', thankfully, the rest of the album is markedly improved.

The longest lasting image of this album, surely is the emphasis on shorter song writing, laced with psychedelic edges and bizarre imagery. I would argue that this album has a tenuous thematic link to space rock, not only in imagery but in sound. Sure, not all of the tracks here follow the same formula, but there is an overarching sound, undeniably Mastodon, but also an amalgam of influences which were formerly hidden, or less obviously used. There's a tangible Pink Floyd aura on some of the compositions, as well as other classic rock icons. The result is that Mastodon's heavier and chaotic edge is softened by phasers, delay, tremolo and other such effects. Combined with an emphasis on vocal depth, many of the compositions are layered extremely deep within the dense production. Mastodon's break-neck riffing and mercurial percussion remains, but's it's not called upon to be at the fore all the time. In this sense, 'The Hunter' is the culmination of Mastodon's previous four albums. The lack of a specific theme perhaps signifying the band's intention to experiment even further within their own history, and a slight reluctance to fall into a comfortable sentimentality.

The reliance on poppy hooks isn't as sickly as one may think. It obviously makes 'The Hunter' somewhat more accessible to casual listeners; but that doesn't stop Mastodon from mixing tracks up, just to make sure you never really settle into a one-paced groove. As mentioned, some of the lyrics are little bland, but that can be largely forgiven if you take a step back and consider the album entire. Thirteen tracks, thirteen different moods, thirteen different examples of why Mastodon is one of the pre-eminent modern compositional artists. Sure, they've crafted better individual pieces, and more cohesive 'concept' driven albums. But 'The Hunter' may be their most daring statement of intent. There's enough here to please most; a touch patchy, but there's always gold to be found in every Mastodon release.

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Send comments to Any Colour You Like (BETA) | Report this review (#554252)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Two years after 'Crack the Skye', Mastodon returns with a more straightforward album, maintaining the melodic and technical approach from previous albums but sticking to shorter and more immediate songwriting. And I believe that's exactly the problem here, it makes a very good impression at first but as soon as the second listen the simplicity of most the material becomes more explicit, to an extent where continuous listens made me wonder what the heck I though was good about this album at all.

They hit it off quite all right though. 'Black Tongue' is a catchy roller coaster with nice eastern tinged riffs and melodies. The spacey and psychedelic effects are a constant element throughout the album. The stoner of 'Curl the Burl' is more down to earth and a clear omen of less proggy things ahead. This wouldn't be a problem if the material was good, but most of the songs are simply dreadful with their cliched alteration of tech-y brutal sections and melodic breaks that reveal a plainness and cheesiness unseen with Mastodon. The endlessly repeated one-line choruses like 'You're on fire', 'I'm on my way back home', 'Just close your eyes','creature lives',... are tuneless clones of one another, bringing in the sort of ordinary pop-rock features I don't want to hear at all. A shame really as some of the psych-tinged sludge music on this album is actually quite good, but all the shout-along emptiness is too hard to bear.

At its best moments the album tones down the melodic attempts in favor for a moodier Floydian approach that works quite well on songs like 'The Hunter' and 'The Sparrow'. Mastodon is best when they avoid bringing our attention to their vocals, which are whiny and uninspired, and not adding anything interesting at all. Too bad they are all over the place this time.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#555374)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Hunter" is the 5th full-length studio album by US metal/sludge metal act Mastodon. The album was released in September 2011 by Reprise Records. There's a deluxe version available which features two bonus tracks titled "The Ruiner" and "Deathbound". The deluxe edition features a different cover artwork from the "regular" version.

After increasingly putting more and more progressive elements into their basic sludge metal sound, culminating in the very progressive "Crack the Skye (2009)", Mastodon have chosen to go in a different direction on "The Hunter". Listening to the album it's obvious that Mastodon have gone for a much more stripped down and accessible sound. The tracks are for the most part vers/chorus structured and all tracks are between 2 and 5 minutes long. I hear a choir screaming "Sellout", but I assure you that's not the case. While the 13 tracks on the 53:01 minutes long album may not be structurally challenging, there is a lot of depth in the songwriting. Add to that a powerful warm sound production, strong musicianship, better and cleaner vocals than ever (there's still a way to go in that department, but the vocals are generally great) and you have a beast of a Mastodon album.

The music is heavy, the almost psychadelic nature of some of the tracks works well, the riffs and the vocal melodies are memorable after only a few listens and while the more stripped down songwriting approach doesn't always work for other artists, the ever progressing Mastodon masters this more simple musical form in great style too. The change is bold, it's daring and it's quite frankly brilliant. While the more stripped down and less progressive form might suggest a "back to the roots" kind of album, that's not the case. While "The Hunter" sounds unmistakably like Mastodon, the album is different from anything the band have made before. They are simply not content with making the same album twice. So while the music might not be progressive anymore, Mastodon have still progressed their sound. Take a listen to tracks like "Curl of the Burl" or "Creature Lives" for proof of that. Those tracks sound like nothing Mastodon have ever done before. They took some getting used to but both are among the highlights on the album along with the stunning title track and album opener "Black Tongue"

I'm sure "The Hunter" will prove to be a fanbase divider, but I guess you could to a lesser extent say the same thing about "Crack the Skye", so the guys are probably used to the mixed reactions by now. While some fans might turn their backs on the band because of the accessible nature of "The Hunter", I'm sure the album will earn them more fans than they lose. I smell a bigger commercial breakthrough might come with this release. A 4 - 4.5 star rating is well deserved.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#569739)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 7/10

'The Hunter' is a collection of short, earnestly crazy songs.

Mastodon, it's easy to say so, are the biggest Metal band, appealing even to a more mainstream crowd. Ironically, they were able to do so with their most progressive album to date, 'Crack The Skye'. The album was infinitely praised, and it was indeed a great album. It was hard to follow up such an LP, and in general to follow up the four part concept Masotodon had created with their previous and only four works (Remission=fire, Leviathan=water, Blood Mountain=earth, and Crack the Skye=air), but they managed to stay on track and to still be creative, original, and thought-provoking.

'The Hunter' was intended and surely is the most straight-forward of all Mastodon efforts. It was a wise choice in my opinion, not because of a need to reach a different crowd, but to expand their sound, and they accomplished in a way that I honestly did not expect. These songs have that usual, energetic feel that Mastodon always gave us, but the melodies are simpler, the songs much more in quantity and much shorter, (no one of them more than five minutes). However, this album has enough variation to be called Progressive Metal, thanks to bizarre sounds in some points, many time changes, or simply different guitar effects,. This last instrument has always been dominant, in the most absolute way, in this band's music, ad it is so even with this album, having that sludgy tone that is familiar to anyone who knows this band. Musically, in the end, they haven't changed much in sound, but their way in interpreting and executing the music has.

'The Hunter' is a collection of short, little crazy songs, that however are at the same time very serious. The faster songs, basically, are like cracks of fireworks, while the slower songs, well, they're just fireworks in slow motion. It's an incredibly dynamic album, very solid, very memorable, with brilliant musicianship and brilliant songs. 'Black Tongue' is a strong, powerful song, that makes you want to start breaking stuff, while 'Stargasm' moves in an almost sensual way, and 'Octopus Has No Friends', despite having a silly title, has a kind of serious tones you wouldn't expect. 'The Hunter' is a nice slower song, 'Creature Lives' reminds of a strange mix between the cheerfulness of Christmas songs and the cheerfulness of Devin Townsend.

An album that is pretty easy to listen to, with many memorable tracks, and with a great sound that we anyway are used to hearing from this band. A good turn for Mastodon, I hope they again release albums as good as this or as the previous ones.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#574495)
Posted Thursday, November 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A mix of old and new.

I will always be a die hard old school Mastodon fan, (Leviathan being one of the first metal albums I listened to) that over the top, mind shattering madness and, barely, organized chaos. I enjoy their later 2 albums, don't get me wrong, just not as much. The more progressive, streamlined, psychedelic and accessible style of sludge metal.

So I was pleasantly surprised upon my first listen of "The Hunter" to find it is a mix of old and new Mastodon. It's a bit of a throw back to crazy Mastodon, but still in the more streamlined style. It's psychedelic sludge metal, filled with a plethora of vocals, is still prominent. Indeed, the vocals range from clean singing to shrill screams, grungy singing and yelling. Dailor's drumming, though nothing like the fill laden, chaotic style I loved so much, touches upon said style at times. The guitar work is heavy, and runs the spectrum...covering everything from melodic to insanity.

"The Hunter" is also much hookier and overall accessible than anything Mastodon has previously done. For many progressive minded fans this may cause cringing, but fear not. Shorter, more to the point song writing is not a bad thing. Sometimes it's fine to just hang around town and not go on an epic journey. Besides, accessible is one thing but musically this is no pop album, technical skill abounds.

As noted by others, the album doesn't take itself too seriously either, always great to see some fun in metal, (or music in general) especially after the grandiose and powerful "Crack the Skye".

Oh, this has nothing to do with the music at all but sweet Jesus look at that album art! One of the best things I've seen in a while, it reflects the insane nature of the album and seems a bit silly almost, but I'm guessing that's the point. Also, it's pretty damn metal \m/

Another great album from Mastodon, "The Hunter" takes a bit of everything they've done and mix it up into one great meal, served in easy to handle dishes. I almost didn't hear it at first but there is some crazy guitar work going on, textured perfectly with more straightforward songwriting. Great vocal performance all around to boot. One of the better releases in 2011.

Four Stars

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Send comments to JJLehto (BETA) | Report this review (#574887)
Posted Friday, November 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars My opinion of Mastodon have really shifted back and forth over the years; Initial encounter occurred at the 2007 Metaltown Festival in Gothenburg where the band's time slot was squeezed somewhere between Machine Head and Meshuggah, thus not making too much of an impact on me at the time. I'm sure that the fact that Mastodon were doing a supporting tour for Blood Mountain didn't exactly help their cause since I still consider it to be their weakest release to date.

Two years passed and suddenly things were completely turned upside down with the release of Crack The Skye! I'm really not sure what these guys were on when they wrote the concept for that album, but who cares when the final results are this great? Crack The Skye sounded almost nothing like the band's previous offerings and the fact that the album featured two pretty awesome 10+ minute pieces made me completely forget that bleak initial encounter with the band in 2007.

Since 2009, Mastodon have clearly been confused in terms of setting their next big goal, something that often happens with bands that suddenly get some attention from a broader audience. The release of Jonah Hex EP was a interesting but ultimately unsuccessful attempt of scoring a film that would go on to be one of the year's biggest box office bombs. Of course, it would be pointless to even suggest any connections between Mastodon's score and the film's failure, I'm simply implying that this score was pretty dull. The release of Live At The Aragon was a nice treat for the fans, where the band performed their entire fourth album, but I can't help to recall the lessons from the past when record labels tried their best at squeezing every single dollar out of a successful franchise.

These two minor side projects did some damage to the rising reputation of Mastodon, but all of it could have been potentially swiped clean with the release of the band's fifth studio album. Of course even that was turning for the worth when I initially saw the Adult Swim video for the song Deathbound and assumed that it was the first single of the upcoming new Mastodon release!

The two singles that were released leading up to The Hunter were far apart in terms in quality and gave me a very mixed expectations. Black Tongue was a solid but rather standard Mastodon composition while Curl Of The Burl was easily one of the worst compositions that they've recorded so far. Luckily, the album wasn't as bad as these individual moments, but since I prefer to judge releases as a sum of its parts the final results are rather mixed. Yes, there are a few pretty good songs here but there are also many that aren't worth your time. The fact that Mastodon constantly shifts between different styles of their repertoire and decided to do a set of pretty short 13 songs instead of a few much lengthier pieces looks to me like an attempt at pleasing the wide spectrum of their audience instead of sticking to their guns. The final results are good but not good enough to be considered a successful followup to the colorful Crack The Skye.

***** star songs: Stargasm (4:40) All The Heavy Lifting (4:31) The Sparrow (5:32)

**** star songs: Black Tongue (3:26) Blasteroid (2:35) The Hunter (5:18) Dry Bone Valley (4:00) Creature Lives (4:41) Spectrelight (3:10) Bedazzled Fingernails (3:08)

*** star songs: Octopus Has No Friends (3:49) Thickening (4:31)

** star songs: Curl Of The Burl (3:40)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#582958)
Posted Monday, December 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I killed a goat, and I liked it...

I've yet to hear 'Remission', but I personally see 'Leviathan' as the Mastodon's sludgiest moment, then with 'Blood Mountain' they cranked up the tempo and technicality before toning down for their most refined, and greatest achievement to date, 'Crack the Skye'. So where does The Hunter fit in to this series in terms of quality and style? I guess it depends a lot on what you personally expect from a Mastodon release, but I find it to be on par with 'Leviathan'.

I have read several reviews which criticize this album for being oversimplified with too many shorter, radio friendly(?!) songs, I even read something that claimed Mastodon were 'sell outs'. I can fully appreciate this point of view, after all, only two of the tracks are longer than five minutes and The Hunter is definitely their most accessible album to date. However, whilst Mastodon certainly have a signature sound, their style never sits still for very long and this willingness to adapt and evolve make them one of today's most exciting progressive bands.

The 'hit singles' taken from The Hunter may not be the most complex pieces Mastodon have ever written, but the hard hitting Black Tongue and the lyrically brilliant Curl of the Burl still place them in a different league to the vast majority of modern rock and metal. I actually find them to be more admirable than the more 'nostalgic' tracks such as All the Heavy Lifting and Spectrelight. When considering prog in a traditional sense I don't find The Hunter to be quite a deep as 'Crack the Skye', but it still features some interesting approaches to songwriting, both sonically and structurally. Take Creature Lives for example which sounds like a cross between "On the Run" by Pink Floyd, and a half-speed version of the indie rock band, Arcade Fire.

On a side note, the deluxe edition is worth getting if of only for the cover art, which is roughly a thousand times better than the standard edition.

The Verdict: A step in the right direction.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#594607)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Mastodon shed their progressive technical brilliance and replace it with mediocrity.

Mastodon are capable of some excellent albums as they proved with the ground breaking "Crack the Skye" and before that "Blood Mountain". I put this on eagerly expecting more masterful technical metal but was rather disappointed. It was rather a noisy distortion, not as technical or proficient as other material. This album was louder but the guitars are really fuzzy psych and there is a lot of screaming and layered vocals. There are not that many lead breaks, none of which stand out, and hardly any of the songs stood out as classics, they all just blended together.

Nothing jumped out for quite some time till we got to 'Stargasm' that had some nice spacey atmospherics and psychedelic vocals. 'The Hunter' is a fairly good song with good riffing. 'Dry Bone Valley' had some awesome riffing and cranked along nicely. This really is nothing like previous Mastodon though, very accessible FM sludge meta with repetitive pump-your-fist-in- the-air anthems. The vocals are always multi tracked and sound the same throughout. The lyrics are pretentious and silly though humorous at times. The riffs are not that creative. There are no virtuoso lead breaks.

Best song finally comes well into the album, 'Creature Lives' with weird laughing and synth soaked spaciness. It moves to a nice acoustic feel, and the lyrics are a little strange but work; "I saw the creature fall into the swamp from which he spawned, I heard them laugh and say they never liked him anyway, I tried to talk to them to help you on your feet again, they laughed and said to me the swamp is right where I should be." Ok it's not Shakespeare but this stoner rock is okay with me. I especially love the creative use of a choir sound, and the sustained crunching distorted chords. Even the lead guitars are sounding wonderful on this.

It is followed by the blasting abrasive 'Spectrelight' which is just an awful noise, complete with barf up your breakfast shouting vocals. 'Bedazzled Fingernails' is next, and it has an odd time sig that agrees with my tastes. The vocals are better, the lyrics are worse, "lay me down, stand my ground, taking a life, I see it flash before my eyes." Next is "The sparrow" and the one line in it is, "pursue happiness with diligence, aaaah, aaaaah, aaah, aaaah, aaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaa- aaaaaa-aaaaaaahhhh." Sound advice, guys. This instrumental is actually rather good, acoustics, atmospheric spacey soundscape and dreaminess in the structure. The lead break is very good on this, really outstanding. A pity that the album has some gems but is overall very mediocre, and it doesn't grow on you, quite the opposite.

It was a real sleeper album for me and I was expecting something to blow my head off. Sadly it is a new direction for the band. They have sucked out all the technical progressive time sigs and replaced them with stoner psych acid rock, and its not a compelling listen. I don't hate it but I checked the collaborator's reviews thinking I was being too harsh and saw that most were forgiving enough to give this 4 stars or 3. I will settle for 3 for the overall content which is still well played if not prog or inventive.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#617611)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I had the pleasure of seeing Mastodon play songs off of this album live with Opeth, and I must say they were spectacular. They had the crowd moshing to just about every song, and many people even knew the words to ALL of the songs. Impressive. So I picked up the album and gave it a spin. I knew that I shouldn't give it a review after just the first listen, so after the second listen I have come to the conclusion that this is THE metal album to own in 2012, and possibly even this decade.

Almost all of the other reviewers mention the fact that these guys do something different on every record so I won't go into that very much, but I will say that it is indeed different. Those looking for a carbon copy of 2009's Crack The Skye, look elsewhere. This album offers up 13 unique songs.

I usually do song by song reviews, but those can be found in abundance on this al;bum. What I will say, is that if you like sludge metal with psychedelic influences and incredible songwriting and production, give The Hunter a couple of spins. You will not be disappointed.

My favorite tracks: Stargasm Black Tongue Curl of the Burl Bedazzled Fingernails Creature Lives The Hunter Blasteroid Thickening All the Heavy Lifting

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Send comments to theRunawayV (BETA) | Report this review (#752965)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars 8.5/10

Pursue happiness with diligence.

With The Hunter, Mastodon back to the days of Blood Mountain, with a material more concise and less prog-oriented. Yet this album offers a nice complexity, even with songs not exceeding 5 minutes. Definitvamente is my second favorite album after the stupendous and progressive Crack the Skye.

In fact, this is (apparently) his most accessible album, but in no time it becomes clear that they are selling. There is a great deal of weight in the Curl of The Burl (with that crazy clip) Blasteroid, Dry Bone Valley, Octopus Has No Friends. But as always, the tracks longer stand out, especially the two longer, the fiaxa title and psychedelic epic The Sparrow, which closes the album beautifully (seriously, this must be the most beautiful song they've done). Another thing I like is the greater involvement of Brann Dailor on vocals. In my humble opinion, he is the best of the three vocalists of the band, their melodic singing serving great counterpoint to Troy Sanders' hoarseness aggressive and Brent Hinds' nasal voice.

4,25 stars, rounded to 5.

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#946560)
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Having wrapped up their "four elements"-themed series of albums with Crack the Skye, Mastodon must have been ready for a change, and The Hunter certainly is that. Presenting a more accessible and less overtly technical Mastodon than we've seen in a long time, this is light progresssive metal with stoner and sludge influences that feels a bit like Mastodon on holiday - taking a break from trying to push the boundaries of the genre and simply having a bit of fun with some corny stoner metal material. The end result is a decidedly listenable album which would be a great first choice for anyone just getting into the band.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1124596)
Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 | Review Permalink

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