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 while still managing to retain much of the signature Mastodon sound.
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 however, 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, structural 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 unless you pick up the correct edition, unlike the band's previous two DVD editions, there is no Making-Of documentary to be had.
The version I got from Amazon does feature a 6-minute Making-Of and 18-Minute Track-By-Track interview with Brann Dailor providing sometimes amusing and sometimes informative background information on the album's tracks, be it in lyrical meanings or playing styles.
Instead there are two music videos (for `Black Tongue,' and `Deathbound,') as well as a `Psychedelic Visualizer,' for the song 'Stargasm' that shows interesting imagery on screen along with the album (if you don't understand just look on youtube) and finally an Augmented Reality experience that works in conjunction with the band's official website and with your webcam to place the album art head on your shoulders for video and photo sessions in the web browser which also has Facebook connectivity etc. This requires a 5.6MB file download, acquired upon initial launch.
This DVD is in addition to the alternative packaging that fits in more with previous Mastodon artwork styles and in some cases two bonus tracks, `The Ruiner,' and `Deathbound' which are only acquired digitally once you have the direct-to-fan edition of album, from the band's official website or mp3 sites like iTunes store. ***
on 23 November 2011
mastodon know their reputation, its a strong one, few mistakes, altered sounds, maintained brilliance, it isnt easy to please the world, they all but do it, i know their reputation also, for me, when a new album is on the way i hear myself say, album of the year. This year there was a feast of albums to hang your drool off, well on paper anyway, trivium, anthrax, opeth,machine head,metallica and lou reed, well im clearly kidding with that last choice there, arent i?
Anway, i leapt on this album the day it arrived in my paw, it flew into my cd player and i was away again, on the first few spins i wasnt sure if i loved it or needed more, on repeat spin its a classic , end of review, you wish.
This album was teased as a return to heavy, it isnt that heavy, its spacey as sin at times, i dont know much about pink floyd, there are notions and sounds and ideas thieved from their table perhaps but i love it, boy i love it.
The album is very different than crack the skye, some fans have since found fault in that album, i havent, in time the same thing may happy with this but i dont envisage that happening with me, the year isnt over but for now i will say this is my album of the year hey.
on 14 February 2012
The Hunter is Mastodon's 5th studio album now and the band have rapidly changing their style the last couple of albums finishing with last albums proggy concept album Crack the Skye. The hunter doesn't so much pick up from where they left off as more sort of jumps to a whole new platform.
in essence it is Mastodon but this album feel faster and more hectic than the last album and more like Blood Mountain ( at least in crushing weight)
The Guitar tones have an intense crushing weight to them which pummels you down.
The vocals no longer growl they more melodically shout and sing.
Many of the songs have very catchy hooks to them Such as Stargasm which has numerous hooks the Guitars and downtuned and have an immense weight to them and the Chorus is a singalong (almost) chorus'your on Fire'.
The Drums are played by an octopus it sounds like which is awesome too just listen to 'Octopus has no friends' possibly one the more crazy drum songs with fills left right and centre.
In terms of overall style this album sounds much like the album Master of reality but Sped up and heavified with some added drug inducingness. The cover of the album kind of somes up the whole album, intense hectic, crazy.
Definatly worth a shot for the more adventurous people out there.
I would say get it on vinyl if you can though as there is less compression which is the one downside of this album while NOT quite compressed beyond all belief is a a bit noticeably compressed which might by why it feels so intense so it might be deliberate, However I find the vinyl edition has just a bit more space so you can enjoy though spidery leads and cymbal/hithat fills.
Each time I've bought a Mastodon album I've been a little unsure whether or not I like it, but having made the investment I always return just in case that first listen didn't do it justice and after a few listens I've gone from being unsure to loving it. The Hunter is no exception. Having loved Crack The Skye I guess I was expecting more of the same, surely they had finally found their sound. Silly me, Mastodon don't do more of the same, they evolve (Unlike their namesake). And that is what has happened here. Yes, this is still Progressive Heavy Metal, but they have now moved on again. The songs are more succinct, the growls have nearly completely disappeared and singing has taken their place (Whether that will be the case on stage we'll find out next month). The lyrics are still bonkers, but let's face it it's always been the music we've really loved and the musicianship here is still top notch. A couple of years ago when I first went to see Mastodon I played some of Crack The Skye in the office and couple of old wrinklies said 'They only play that loud to cover up the fact that they can't play'. I not so politely pointed out them that these guys know their way around the fret board and skins as well anybody and better than most. That's why their albums are so fascinating, each time you come back you discover more, and that's the case with all truly great albums. This one didn't get album of the year in Classic Rock and Kerrang for nothing. Hell, it might even get 2011's album of the year from me, it's either this or Opeth's Heritage. Buy it, your investment will be rewarded.
on 31 October 2011
So they decided to ditch the concept idea and go with what feels natural. On the very first listen i thought ok this is 7/10 but then as usual with subsequent listens it grew to a more 9/10.
Production wise it HAS lost some of the dynamics as featured in leviathan and blood mountain but i am a fan of tight production so it doesn't bother me at all. There are what, 3 episodes of shouting on the entire album? Again this doesn't bother me. The vocals are in the majority clean (for brent and troy anyway), are VERY processed but nevertheless sound awesome. Brent sounds like ozzy in some places!
It seems they've decided to cut the crap and write shorter songs without dragging anything off for the sake of it. It's their most focused, weird and spacey LP to date. Just watch Brent all baked out while he's listening to the beginning of 'creature lives' on the DVD, ooh the look of satisfaction! ;)
on 2 September 2012
OH NO Mastodon have gone pop but you know what it doesn't sound as bad as it could have. Yes ok they are trying to increase their fanbase, but when the songs are as good as these who cares. I hope they make enough money out of this album to buy boats... as long as they don't go whale hunting in them that is.
Shorter, sharper, more to the point, better? Probably not, just different. It does require less of an effort from the listener and so if you have less time to spare you can blast a few songs out and be satisfied. There is heaviness, there is groove, and there is occasionally a hint at their old grandeur. It's all there just different and if you want something in the style of their old albums go and buy their old albums just don't ignore The Hunter.
Black Tongue: Falling drums are a particular highlight of the track, there is certainly a swagger not seen before.
Curl of the Burl: My four year old loves this track and with good reason, the groove is tremendous and annoyingly memorable. Pop? a bit. Good? oh yes.
Blasteroid: Funny lyrics, well delivered. Most accessible vocals ever.
Stargasm: Feels a bit more like the grander Mastodon of old, Has a nice wide open space feel to it as well.
Octopus has no Friends: An interesting track which verges on the brink between repetitiveness and sublime genius.
All the Heavy Lifting: The drums are on fire on this track which cements the guitars in place.
The Hunter: Acoustic haunting introduction pulled together by the understated drumming guides in Mastodon's gentle thoughtful track. Delicate and haunting.
Dry Bone Valley: This song has a `leviathan' feel to it, just with lyrics that are a bit more pop.
Thickening: This has quite a chilled out air to it in the long build up. It holds this feel once the vocals come in despite the introduction of what should be a jarring guitar riff, which ends up fitting right in.
Creature Lives: Very strange tripped out intro, into the beautiful acoustic section with drums that highlight it brilliantly. A beautiful song like some sort of 60's hippy band. Inspired.
Spectrelight: Just to counter the ambiance of `Creature Lives' there is the smash in the face that is `Spectrelight' where even the vocals sound old school Mastodon. Relentless, heavy and hard rocking.
Bedazzled Fingernails: Unsettling. There is so much going on as well, one of the more interesting songs.
The Sparrow: Nice acoustic start again with a nice drum movement. Simple lyrics, but words to live by.
I really cannot wait to see what Mastodon do next. Whatever it is I'm sure it will at least be exciting. If you can't stand to see a band develop, this will probably make you get in a bit of a huff. For anyone who likes music this is a must. If you come to Mastodon through this album, enjoy it and make sure you check out their older albums. All of them.
on 11 December 2011
I was looking forward to this album even though I had not been much of a fan of the ban until I head Crack The Skye earlier in 2011. Since then I have also managed to track down Blood Mountain. So it was with a sense of trepidation that I heard about the release of "The Hunter". I knew I would buy it, but I did not know what I would think of it. Then the pre-release songs were released and while good, were nothing of the level of Crack The Skye. I had no problem with that as often individual tracks will be like that. It is the whole album that I look forward to. So on the first listen I sat there knowing I would not form a whole judgement on the album but rather get an idea on what I would like and what I wouldn't.
This album sees Mastodon get spacier. And when they do, I love it. My favourite tracks are the spaciest. What you get is a band who are happy to write metal with space, with a ton of effects at times, and, most oddly, are not afraid of the G,B,E strings of there guitar. And yes, I mean the high E! Mix this in with the unique production that Mastodon have and yeah, it is a very unique mix and definitely left me wanting more of this style of music. Also, the use of multiple vocal parts is something I highly commend
The Hunter and The Sparrow are easily my two favourite tracks on this album. Both are just superb to my spacey ears. Hell, give me a whole album like this and I'd wear my CD player out. (Arcam, I still get a warranty if this happens? Right? RIGHT? Bueller?!) Stargasm is also worthy of a mention, and Creature Lives as well. Thickening is pretty good, as well, though one which was slow to catch on with me. Black Tongue is not bad as an upbeat more aggressive opener.
The in between...
Well, this is where most of the songs fall, in that 5 to 7 out of 10 area. This is not because they are bad, but possibly just because the quality of the good songs, above, is so damned high. These songs, while having their own unique personality, just don't have as much personality as those above. Curl of the Burl, for instance, is an okay song, but, it just doesn't have the sheer uniqueness and feel of the songs above.
I am happy to say there really is nothing that is hatefully bad. There are songs I skip, but that is just my impatience to get to the good songs.
The production again is uniquely Mastodon. Think heavy in an almost fuzzy way. There are a lot more clean vocals than not, which I consider a good thing. There are more keyboards, which I do not have a problem with (look at my Music that I own page for proof).
The spacier sounding songs are fantastic though, a really good mix of all the instruments. I must say I love being able to hear a bass clearly and without competing with the drums.
This is a strong album. Not as strong to my mind as "Crack the Skye", which to me was a stunning album. It may be partially due to the lack of a concept here, or the feeling that a few of the songs could have had more development, but there is that slight level of difference, to me, that makes this album worthy of repeated listens, but not likely to be as long lasting as an album. The shorter songs on this album work in some places, but may have stunted some tracks of that little bit of development that could have taken it to that next level. Having said all that, these songs *may* work better live for those very same reasons. Oh, and for all the fans who mention commercial because of the clean vocals is my take. They would be more commercial, selling to a known fan base, than to chop and change as they do and continue to potentially alienate their fan base with each new album. This is something I actually commend them for as it is never without risk. While AC/DC can get away with making little changes over many years, I am glad that there are bands willing to be a little different all the time. Now my mini rant is out of the way, I will finish by saying this is a good album, but probably not a 2011 top 10. Which isn't really fair as there have been so many good albums this year, in any other year it may have made it.
on 11 December 2011
Where does one start a review for their most anticipated album of the year? To say one is looking forward to the latest magnum opus from serial sludgers-turned-proggers Mastodon is an understatement of the first degree. The fact the band had been teasing us fans for weeks with snippets from album opener Black Tongue and featuring a short video showing the making of the model featurd on the albums cover, hardly helped to ease the anticipation that was reaching a fever pitch one had not felt since the release of their previous record, 2009's Crack the Skye, a relative departure from the previous albums' all-out metal sonic bombast. This prog departure has been eradicated for the follow up to CtS and so it is a return to the heavy songs that, although were disctinctly missing on CtS, were not as much missed as was expected.
On concerning the bands morphing back to all-out metallers, with a dashing of prog for good measure, drummer Brann Dailor describes the fact the latest album is a departure from elemental and conceptual albums down to: "I came up with this crazy long plot, but when it came down to it, Brent (Hinds, guitarist) was like "I don't want to do that again!" From the freedom came a flurry of ideas." It seems that the band were wanting to make a departure from their conceptual background and into territory where a song is 10 minutes long, features four `acts' and is about astral travel. Looking at the length of the songs on the album, only two clock in at over 5 mintues (just), so my initial feelings are that we will be seeing more shorter snappier songs, with big choruses, and none of the musicianship will be lost.
From the get off, there is more than a hint of the prog that the band so blatantly loves, and that is more than evidenced in the album opener "Black Tongue", the song that was previewed on the teaser. It's a strong opener, and goes well into first single "Curl of the Burl", where the chorus of "It's just the curl of the burl/ It's just the curl of the burl/That's just the way of the world/It's just the curl of the burl" is surely going to be a favourite for the live crowd when the band add it to their setlist. Finishing off the final 1-2-3 opening punch is "Blasteroid" which will surely incite many a moshpit when this song is played live. It's short and punchy afair, leaving no room for you to breathe as it hurltles forwards. We are then treated to some CtS prog epicness with "Stargasm" and "Octpous Has No Friends" holding strong until the next slab of riffing in "All the Heavy Lifting". The albums title track is an ode to guitarist brent Hinds's brother, Brad, who was a huge hunting fan, and this represents another strong case, along with "Oblivion" from CtS, for Mastodon's more personal songs being among their best. "Dry Bone Valley" has the outstanding Dailor taking lead vocals for the first time on the record, and the fact he can carry the song with both lead vocals and drums, shows the sky-high well rounded level of musicianship that the band can display. "Thickening" is reminiscent of the wild beast their music of debut Remission was, before the most interesting song on the album, "Creature Lives" takes us back to the synth prog days of the 70's, much of which is heavily influenced on the band. It's prog from here on out, as "Spectrelight", "Bedazzled Fingernails" and closer "The Sparrow", although winding down the album, offer yet more insight to the technical and genius of the Mastodon fold.
on 11 November 2011
I really liked Crack The Skye, so when I heard that this album was going to be more 'straight forward ' no weighty concepts connecting the tracks I was slightly concerned. However I should have had more faith in a band that keep on delivering one quality record after another. This album gets better with each listen and it sounds like a band that are very content with their musical output at this point in their career. There are thirteen tracks on this album and IMO not a single filler.
The musicianship is Mastodon's usual exceptional quality and the song writing is equally accomplished. I know there are fans that will be disappointed and see this as a backward step from Mastodon's concept, complex driven albums: but to me they haven't lost any of their musical integrity. I'm sure they still have another concept album or two up their sleeves! I've also heard people say it's not metal! This is still a metal album, but it also has some massive raw rock riffs interspersed with some great melodies and fantastic vocals. I have been lucky enough to here a few of these new songs live and they sound belting!
When a band has had so much praise heaped on them as Mastodon deservedly have, people are going to expect the highest quality, if it's not exactly what they were expecting it will get picked at and scrutinized, but I think that's all it is, nit-picking. Mastodon set themselves such high standards and it shows, they are leaps and bounds ahead of the majority music that's out there at the moment. There are three albums that have stood out for me this year: this one, Obscura 'Omnivium' and Septicflesh 'The Great Mass'. They are very different albums but do have a few things in common, great musicianship and the ability to turn that into very strong song writing, which is why I think they are on top of their respective genre's.
As for this album I strongly suggest buying it, diving in and enjoying the experience, Mastodon have and for my money it works.
on 22 October 2011
Mastodon's appeal over the recent past has been ever increasing, with 'Blood Mountain' and 'Crack the Skye' showing how progessive metal can be brought to a wider audience.
Each successive album has moved further and further away from the typical stereotypes of metal and has delved deeper into the whole 'prog rock' aspect of heavy music.
Previous effort 'Crack the Skye' was an essay on how to strike the balance between balls to the wall metal and the fretboard wankery of progressive music with equal parts brutal and ethereal.
'The Hunter' tips that balance firmly towards the ethereal aspect of the last album with more emphasis on soundscapes and vocal work than it's instument heavy predecessor. This is not to say that 'The Hunter' doesn't have it's heavy moments; the chorus to 'Blasteroid' and the song 'Spectrelight' harken back to the days of songs such as 'Blood and Thunder' and 'Wolf Is Loose'
As a single piece of work, this album flows well and keeps the concept album feel of Mastodon's earlier albums despite the band distincly stating that 'The Hunter' was not to be a concept album.
Individually, the tracks seem weaker than previous efforts and in several places verge on the pretentious.
In terms of production, it doesn't seem as polished as Mastodon's previous albums and some of the finer detail is lost in a sea of mushy noise that spoils some of the tracks.
In summary, this album won't blow you away on the first listen but it's a definite grower and will be incredibly popular. However it does lose some of it's power to substandard production and over-the-top choruses.