Sound — 4
I've been a long time Mastodon fan since the beginning and I'll gladly admit right now that my two favorite albums of theirs are "Leviathan" and "Crack the Skye." Needless to say, when I found out about "The Hunter," I was excited to hear a new take on their sound that they've come to be known for, but was a bit skeptical over the lack of concept for the album. Nevertheless, I gave it a try and I was thoroughly disappointed at the new, radio-friendly Mastodon. Some songs were okay, but the majority of it lacked the creativity that I came to love about the band. Here we find them returning for a follow up album, hoping to perfect some of the ideas that came along with "The Hunter"... Unfortunately, we get "The Hunter Part 2." While, structurally, some of the songs off this new album are a little more interesting at times, I had a very difficult time getting through most of it with how boring it was. Track for track, the album tends to twirl into a downward spiral where I was almost ready to turn it off until the last track with Scott Kelly finally came in (what I consider to be the only "wow... this is pretty cool" track on the entire 11 track album). Here is my track for track thoughts:
"Tread Lightly" starts the album off okay, but previous fans of Mastodon will hear some of the recycled riffs from "Oblivion" off of the "Crack the Skye" album... And this isn't the only time you will hear recycled riffs on this album...
"Motherload" sounds a lot like an '80s hair band song with the chorus practically ripped right from an Ozzy song. For fans of '80s Ozzy via "Blizzard of Oz," you might dig this track... I, aside from Black Sabbath, can't really stand Ozzy's solo stuff, so this track was the start of a put-off from this album.
"High Road" was the first track anyone heard from this album and it is literally just "Black Tongue 2." The riffs are similar, the formula is similar, and even the way the lyrics are sung is similar. While it may be catchy at first, upon going back to listen to this song after listening to previous releases, you can see how recycled and annoying some of their songs are starting to get.
"Once More 'Round the Sun" is the one song off this album that I could see being played on the radio and despite me saying that, it's one of the better tracks off the record. It has this real '70s Rush vibe to it that makes it one of the more interesting tracks, unfortunately being the shortest, clocking in before the three minute mark.
"Chimes at Midnight" immediately starts with this really awesome, psychedelic introduction that first had me saying, "Oh thank god, a cool Mastodon track" and then more recycled riffs from "Crack the Skye" came in and had me drifting off into boredom.
"Asleep in the Deep" takes some pointers from sludge metal/progressive buddies in Baroness, diving into guitar work similar to some of the work John Baizley did on the "Yellow/Green Record." This song actually fits right in with "Eula" and the rest of the songs on the "Yellow" CD with more upbeat and major chords, notably being one of the first times Mastodon used open G tuning.
"Feat Your Eyes" reminds me a bit of Red Fang with some real up-tempo stoner rock, twisting around some more recycled "Crack the Skye" riffs.
"Aunt Lisa" is... sigh... I'm gonna be honest, I don't know what the hell Mastodon was on when they wrote this song, but before the outro, I really wish they continued to do whatever they were doing for this track. Aunt Lisa starts off insane with some really intense prog rock stuff that can easily be compared to King Crimson. From there, the song takes all sorts of twists and turns in it's time signatures to the point where, if it weren't for the vocals, you'd swear you were listening to a crazed Mars Volta track. This track was SO GREAT... And then the ending happened with some cheerleaders (...Yeah... Cheerleaders... Mastodon song... Reread that if you need to) yelling "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" -_- Needless to say, after that ending it was really, really difficult to get through the rest of the album.
"Ember City" has more Ozzy chorus stuff and was a very boring track in general to me, but part of that could be from me still getting over being so distraught by the Mastodon cheerleaders...
"Halloween" I feel like could have been a lot more impressive if they pushed the cool use of delays and textures further forward in the mix, but they became drowned out by all the rest of the boring, recycled guitar riffs.
Finally... "Diamond in the Witch House" Thank god for this track (and by god, I mean Scott Kelly). Scott Kelly saves the day! The longest track on the album seems to be the only song they took the time to care about writing and I'm so depressed the rest of the album didn't sound like this. Easily the stand out track on the album with a really intense introduction and swooping guitar work with bizarre background sounds, especially at first appearance of Kelly's vocals, appearing almost under water in weird whispered, ambiance at first, then ripping into the song like a Neurosis track.
Long story short, the album is "The Hunter 2," but instead of recycling "Remission," they tried to recycle "Crack the Skye," in my opinion, failing miserably. That's not to say there isn't some cool stuff on the album. I love Mastodon. I WANTED to like this album... I just couldn't. For fans of "The Hunter," you might really enjoy this. For fans of their previous work, prepare for disappointment.
Lyrics — 2
"Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" Most of the lyrics I heard weren't anything impressive. Mastodon has never been one for making really, deep and meaningful lyrics to begin with, but at least when they were writing songs for concept albums, it organized them more and made it so when they sang about ogres, droves, and lion slicing, it wasn't so ridiculous. Upon switching to clean vocals, it worked so well on "Crack the Skye" and "Blood Mountain," but with an almost over-processed sound for the recent albums, it really just sounds like they are compensating or trying to edit Brent Hinds' drunken Ozzy vocals. That being said, I haven't heard anything about goat stealing on this album upon first few listens... But... Dem... Damn... Cheerleaders doh...
Overall Impression — 4
As I said, I did NOT like "The Hunter," give or take a few songs and I feel the same, if not worse about this one. There are certainly interesting things going on in this album, I wouldn't think that a band like Mastodon wouldn't do at least SOMETHING crazy on the album. But after all the talk about how intense this album was supposed to be and hearing about songs that "sounded like the imperial march" I was looking for some more epic music like Mastodon used to be. I really miss their albums where you felt like you NEEDED to listen to the album in its entirety because every song was so awesome and cohesive... Alas, that is not the case with recent endeavors. I understand the reason behind wanting to experiment and expand, but sometimes it's just not the right direction for a band. Maybe with the next release, they will draw out another crazy concept and we can enjoy the sounds of both their old music and the open-mindedness behind their recent two albums. One can only hope.