In 2009, Mastodon released "Crack The Skye," which is the bands most successful album to date. It is also considered to be their best work ever. The question is, where do you go from there? How do you follow up such an amazing album? Do you stick with a similar sound or do you change things up and lean back to your older style? After being asked questions like this for 2 years straight, Mastodon has finally answered with "The Hunter." This album has nothing to do with their previous four albums, which were based on the elements of fire, water, earth and wind. The band has taking a completely different direction with this new release.
"Black Tongue" opens up the album with booming drums fills and a catchy guitar riff. The vocals consist of harsh clean singing throughout the entire track. Dailor's drum fills are insane right from the start, with lots of detail in every fill. The guitars are layered well covering multiple octaves as distortion fills the air. This is a perfect track to open up this strange and interesting album.
Up next is the song "Curl Of The Burl" which was the first official single off of the album. With a title such as this one, it kinda makes you think that it might not be so great. However, that isn't the case. Once the chorus hits with its catchy melody and silly lyrics you'll be singing along in no time. Or at least whistling along with the tune. This is probably the most radio friendly song on the album. It definitely plants a seed in your head after hearing it a couple of times. Eventually, the melody will be stuck in your head for days. Now moving along, the following track, "Blasteroids," has some interesting elements to it. The lyrics open with "Changing, change your clothes, I rearrange your face for you!" This, of course, having a catchy little tune to it, makes you wonder where this is going exactly. The song is only two and a half minutes long but they manage to fit a lot into it. The refrain has some heavier screams to it in which they cover the vocals with some strange filter effects. The guitars are relentless as the are not stop blasting away at you. Even the bass guitar has some really explosive lines in the song that sound great when you crank up the volume.
The mood gets more serious with the oddly named "Stargasm." The band shows a little more progression with the repetitive guitars in the beginning that slow build up to the verse as the drums introduce themselves in a smooth yet complicated way. The guitars are filled with heavy distortion throughout the song as you hear layered guitar effects that add a psychedelic tone to the song. The vocals are absolutely amazing as they will have you singing along immediately in the chorus. The tones of the song really bring back their sound from Blood Mountain's "Sleeping Giant" with its trippy melodic feel. Definitely make sure you check this song out.
Now there were a few songs on the album that really raised some controversy between the fans. For example "Octopus Has No Friends" has some odd verses as some of the vocals sound a little weird. The melody of the lyrics are sort of cheery, I guess you could say. Definitely not something that Mastodon has ever sounded like before. The one thing that really attracted me to this song, however, was the incredible drumming that Dailor delivers throughout the track. One after another, the fills are packed with fast snare rolls and monstrous fills that will knock you on your ass. Also, the melody of the chorus does start to grow on you with its catchiness.
Jumping a couple of tracks, the other song that brought up a lot of questions was "Creatures Lives," which is track 10 on the album. It starts out with strange futuristic sound effects and a man laughing in the background. After about a minute and a half of psychedelic synth sounds enters a soothing guitar riff with quiet drums that creep up slowly in the background. The vocals are completely clear singing throughout the verses and refrains and are filled with strange lyrics. The song isn't bad, it just doesn't seem like it belongs on the album. Mastodon has never really sounded like this before on any of their previous albums. I wouldn't call it a ballad, but it definitely has nothing to do with the metal genre at all. This just gives the album an even more unique edge than it already has. I don't mind the song, it's just not what anyone would ever expect on an Mastodon album.
Now there are songs like "Dry Bone Valley" and "Spectrelight" which have amazing instrumentation. The guitars on constantly blaring away with heavy riffs while the drum fills lead each verse perfectly into the next. These are some great tracks to bob your head to. Even "Bedazzled Fingernails" has some incredible guitar work. Also, the vocal performance in the song is phenomenal. This gives you more catchy lyrics to sing along to while rocking your devil horns to the beat of the drums.
The album comes to an end with "The Sparrow." Soothing guitars soar through the air as the calm clean vocals consume you. These are some more vocals that you aren't really used to hearing from this band but they sound great and really paint an interesting picture to the music. The guitars give off that "Hearts Alive" type of vibe which is a song off of Mastodons 2004 album "Leviathan." Angelic synths surround the instruments drawing you closer to the music. They do manage to add some heavier guitar work and a melodic solo in the middle of the song along with more thunderous drum fills however the tempo and vocals stay the same. It's a great track and a perfect way to fade out the album.
So after all the questions of what's next and how will they out do "Crack The Skye," the answer is clear. You release an album that is full of strange and unusual surprises. The vocal delivery changes about five times throughout the album along with all the different sounds and tempos that drastically change between each track. You simply cannot compare "The Hunter" to any of their other work simply because there is nothing to compare. This album stands on its own, just like every other album that Mastodon has released. It's got its ups and downs but in the end... it's a damn good album.
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