Sound — 9
It's been seven years since Mastodon's influential album "Leviathan" created a daring impact on what was becoming a seemingly stale music scene. Since then the quartet have stretched their imagination and creativity to mouth watering heights, constantly improving their collective efforts with each album. "The Hunter" is the natural predecessor of Mastodon's continual evolution, whereas, "Crack The Skye" revealed the extent of their theatrical and technical prowess the latest release has something for everyone. Mastodon created this album from spontaneity; and this shows in the presentation of the album itself. The songs are generally shorter and; whilst still technically brilliant; have the capability of reverting back to a net of simplicity which was not often found in "Crack The Skye". There is even a tendency to delve in to aspects of music not used before in their previous works. Songs like "The Creature Lives" and "All The Heavy Lifting" have the distinct arena sized impression with the latter having a huge almost pop like chorus. This is a testament to the development within the vocal harmonies from the previous album. Even more impressive is the improvement from Brann Dailor his vocal range and melody seems much more assured when measured up against the strength of Troy Sanders and the grit of Brent Hinds. Musically it has always been clear that Mastodon have a purpose when creating music, so it is odd to approach this LP without the view of listening to it as a concept album. The musical spectrum lacks any real direction yet somehow manages to find itself within the parameters of Mastodon's strengths, and even advancing towards public accessibility with songs such as "Curl Of The Burl". It's easy to remember however that change is not always an action received with such reverence by music enthusiasts, in this respect fans will wonder what is happening to the band they knew. The Answer? Simple. Evolution. However that doesn't mean this album is a drastic change, there are some songs which embody their typical sound such as the blistering pace of "Spectrelight". The heavy guitar work is matched only by Brann's furious drumming and Sander's gravel voice which carves a path straight through the music. Likewise, "The Thickening" is reminiscent of Mastodon at their finest, accentuated by a rhythmically enforced bass, which bares the brunt for the guitar to play the country, metal twang's with more freedom and success. As an over sight, the instrumental work is almost hypnotizing in the way it loops in and out of psychedelic transitions, off beat movements and crushing riffs. The introduction of frequent solo's is a welcome exchange from overbearing melodic repetition and emphasizes the aesthetics of the music such as the title track "The Hunter". The interesting thought about this album, is that it is actually longer (Albeit by 2 minutes) than "Crack The Skye", yet with it's musical variation it carries you along a continuous ride with surprises around every corner.
Lyrics — 7
The permutation within Mastodon's album does not merely stop at the instrumental side. They are generally methodical within their approach to the lyrical content as there is usually a continuous story to be told throughout the LP. Whilst their lyrical content alone will never win them an award, you cannot overlook such lyrics as "All the love I've shown/ Given to the ones I've known/ All the love I make/ Is equal to the love I take". This phrase alone highlights the change within the lyrical content depicting the amplitude of love. This transformation from beasts and journeys to emotional expression has somewhat taken the bite out of their stature, but then one also wonders whether this was a long overdue process, especially when emphasizing the labor of touring or death of a relative. This form of lyrical content allows the listener to delve in to the thoughts of the band and hand pick an emotion from which to relate with. Of course this direction does not continue entirely. "Blasteroid" for instance was intentionally created to represent a teenagers mentality towards musical and lyrical content. And who could argue with lyrics such as: "I wanna drink some f--king blood / I wanna break some f--king glass..."
Overall Impression — 8
Overall the album is another natural step of progression. There is a depth of musical understanding on show that very few bands could match but more importantly there is an impression of enjoyment offered from the spontaneity of the album itself. There is a feeling that the songs on this LP were designed with the intention to capture and portray a live sound. In comparison to other Mastodon albums, it is not hard to see that there is a willingness to sing from a broad sheet of inspirations other than metal. It is also a brilliant album from a vocal and lyrical view point, Dailor and Sanders in particular seem to have taken a step further in their personal advancement whilst Brent seems to have taken more of a back seat roll this time around. There is of course a disappointing flaw within all of my praise, and after many listens it becomes more and more apparent that something is missing. It has everything from perfect melodies within "Dry Bone Valley" to the sludge and fury of "Black Tongue" and even a guest vocalist in Scott Kelly of Neurosis. The missing component is of course forgetting the likes of "Blood Mountain" and "Crack The Skye", for each album is able to live within it's own world of existence. There are few over layered, technically complicated pantomime musicals, and for some that is almost sacrilege. To truly understand and comprehend the art of "The Hunter" you must first acknowledge that it will sound (for the most part) nothing like previous albums.