65 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2011
The Hunter is the long-anticipated follow-up to 2009's Crack the Skye, one of Mastodon's finest achievements in their career. After exploring the limits of progressive songwriting with complex arrangements, excellent vocal melodies, and a perfect balance between heavy and melodic passages, the band decided to pursue a different musical style with their new release.
This album marks an important step in the band's evolution. It was mixed and produced by Mike Elizondo whose resume includes non-metal artists like Dr Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent. Worry not, though, the mix is spectacular and the sound clarity amazing (though I prefer the more dynamic production on their earlier work by far). However, Elizondo has definitely pushed Mastodon into writing shorter and less complex songs with heavier emphasis on melodic chord progressions and hook-filled arrangements. There is not a single song that reaches six minutes; the writing is more immediate and to the point. Actually, many of the songs are around the three-minute mark, with "Blasteroid" being even shorter: a punk-infested drive, simple yet powerful guitar work, and melodic vocals balanced out by aggressive singing make up the composition.
The stylistic change in the band's sound and style cannot be entirely attributed to their new producer, however. They also have a new cover artist and they've changed their method of writing. While albums like Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye were painstakingly composed and took a long time to produce, The Hunter was recorded in only a few weeks. Also, the songs were largely written on the road while the band was on tour with Alice In Chains. The album sees Mastodon liberating themselves from conceptual boundaries. Rather than exploring more complex themes and writing everything under that theme, this time around, they've written songs that are independent of each other, songs that stand on their own.
The band's enigmatic lyrics and approach to constructing riffs and melodies is fully intact with a few exceptions. "Curl of the Burl" starts with the line "I killed a man cause he killed my goat," a song whose swaggering groove was possibly inspired by a Queens of the Stone Age track. There are more overt references to their inspirations: I hear lots of Neil Peart-like drum fills by Brann Dailor whose performance is uniformly stunning on this disc. His playing on "Octopus Has No Friends" is impossibly tasty, and his tone is amazing. The song deploys an epic build-up with powerful vocals and deep-in-the-pocket rhythms. The way the cascades of guitars work to the anthemic chorus is nothing short of brilliant.
The band also pays tribute to Pink Floyd in more than one track. "Stargasm" (with lyrics about sex in space!) is informed by Floydian synth swells eventually dissolving under thunderous drum attacks and liquidy instrumental passages while "Creature Lives" is unlike anything they have done before. It mixes tons of sampled voices, lots of keyboard effects, odd tonalities, and deep bass notes to achieve a unique sound with syrupy vocal lines, but honestly, it's not what I expect of Mastodon. I love experimental music, but I consider this one among their least interesting.
There are also similarities to their previous work. The band continues to pen personal lyrics as they did on Crack the Skye. The title track is about the unexpected death of guitarist Brent Hinds' brother while hunting (actually the working title of this album was Brother, but the band decided to go with The Hunter eventually). With acoustic guitars from the shadows, keys mistily creeping through the song, and plaintive vocals, the song morphs into a Lep Zeppelin-inspired blues guitar solo that consumes you. And the lyrics will scar your soul.
Similarly, the final track, "The Sparrow," commemorates the loss of a friend of the band's. It is extremely personal, as the lyrics "Pursue happiness with diligence" are her words. This is arguably the finest closing track on any Mastodon album due to its emotional breadth. The vocals are apathetic, sung as if he'd rather not be there, but the instrumentation is suffused with sheer emotion. This makes the song weightier and more real. The guitar solo is haunting; it wails and wails over worldess vocal melodies, and the song finishes in a strange yet beautiful way.
As with the previous three Mastodon discs, Scott Kelly from Neurosis once again guests on the album on the fast-paced, rhythmically dense "Spectrelight." Kelly's distinct raspy voice drives the piece towards its apex amidst a storm of riffs and pummelling drum slam. The band's fans of earlier material should also enjoy the doomsday riffing of the opening track with its scorching vocals, relentless low end, and intricate rhythm force.
The Hunter is likely to be Mastodon's breakthrough album, gaining them more fans than before. It is a very strong addition to their discography. Fans of their earlier, sludge-infested material with aggressive vocal parts, pulverizing riffs, and complex songwriting may or may not embrace it depending on their tastes. Personally, I consider Blood Mountain their high-water mark due to the fact that it seamlessly blends the raw aggression of Leviathan with the progressive mindset of Crack the Skye, but I enjoy all of their albums, including this one. I just enjoy them for different reasons.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2011
Some initial words on the DVD content of the Limited Edition version: If anyone is expecting a long "making of" documentary like the one included in the "Crack the Skye" package, you may be a little disappointed. Yes, it does include such a program, but it is very short compared to the previous release, clocking in at only a few minutes. Beyond that, a song by song commentary is also included, but it is only Brann Dailor sitting outside on a chair (presumably at night time), giving his thoughts on each track. No other band members appear in these segments. The music videos included are the "Black Tongue" clip, which was available online for some time and is essentially just the artist creating the album cover's wood statue/head. Also included is the totally hilarious "Deathbound" video, which is a grand violent spoof of the old children's show, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". Oddly, again Brann is the only one who appears, and only in the very beginning before the puppet mayhem begins. The remaining video is billed as a "psychedelic visualizer", and it is only for one track, the song "Stargasm". For some reason I believed that this trippy screen production would accompany the whole album, much like the website version, but sadly it does not. That wraps it up. No official video to "Curl of the Burl" or anything else. I don't want to express that anything here was not well done, but there is just not enough content compared to the previous release.
As for the album itself, at first take the songs are shorter and perhaps less developed than those on "Crack the Skye", but the brutal intricate beauty is well intact. Brann's drumming is truly epic in scope. The full sonic assault is occasionally melded once again with spaced slower movements, making the album as a whole flow as a timeless voyage.
Overall, the album is not as urgent or edged as "Blood Mountain" or earlier releases, but certainly a work of art from masters of the craft. A great addition to the Mastodon body of work.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2011
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.
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 Augmented Reality experience that works in conjunction with the band's official website and with your webcam to place you within the album art, putting the head on your head for video and photo sessions in the web browser which also has Facebook connectivity etc.
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' which are acquired digitally once you have the album BUT ONLY IF YOU BUY IT DIRECT FROM THE BAND'S OWN WEBSITE, OTHERWISE YOU'LL HAVE TO BUY THEM YOURSELF AT AN ADDED COST. ***
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2011
I am a strong fan of Mastodon's recorded music. I say recorded, because unlike one of the reviewers, I feel it's Mastodon's usual gravelly raspy vocals that none of them can actually pull off unless they're in a studio with special effects and not playing instruments at the same time. Brann is possibly the exception, usually singing clean, but how often does he get to sing? Come to think of it, Mastodon needing to tour supporting an album with songs they can actually sing in concert would explain a lot about The Hunter, though not everything.
Anyway, I am a strong fan of Mastodon albums (and the EP). I would rate Leviathan five stars because the songs are well composed and because it was revolutionary at the time. No one had ever sounded like that before, including Mastodon. Blood Mountain gets four stars from me. Pretty good album--basically in the vein of Leviathan, but not quite as good and obviously not as revolutionary. Crack the Skye also gets five stars. I can understand the Mastodon fans who were disappointed by Crack the Skye because it was not as heavy and for other reasons. I for one liked the songs (most of them). The album had seriousness (Why does Skye have an E), the songs were thematically connected, and it was musically original (though some will disagree). I believe it is a masterpiece and deserved a Grammy nomination (if it got one, and I somehow missed it, somebody let me know).
Now, we come to The Hunter. This can't be five stars. It lacks the originality and brilliance of Leviathan or the coherence and novelty of Crack the Skye. It can't be a one star either. That would mean, to me, that most of the songs are unlistenable. Closing in from the top again, it's no four either. That would mean it's another Blood Mountain. I can't think of a single track on The Hunter as good as Sleeping Giant. Hunters of the Sky, or Siberian Divide, although "The Hunter" (track) seems to be hearkening back in that direction a little. Two stars? As I'm listening, it just doesn't have the irritation factor I expect from two stars. Even Curl of the Burl, which has an irritating name, I couldn't bring myself to fast forward through (and least the second or third time--after that, who knows). The one exception is Creature Lives, which makes me want to shoot myself, and not in a good way (it's Yes, whose early work I love, after they decided to stink). On the other hand, there are some songs, like The Sparrow, that I was surprised to find out I like. So, that leaves me at three stars.
This is never going to be a classic Mastodon album. It's just not original enough. Most of the tracks sound like simplified--can I say it?--HAPPIER sounding versions of older Mastodon. An exception is Curl of the Burl, of course, which sounds like Govt. Mule with metal fuzz. Mule fans who like metal, I wonder if that track hits the spot? I imagine it will be one of those albums that people buy in one of two ways. 1. You are a die hard Mastodon fan and you will buy anything they put out. Some of you apparently love this album. Fine. Either way, you bought it. Or, 2. This is the first, or one of the first Mastodon albums, you ever bought. If you even sort of like The Hunter, you may be in for a treat, going back to discover Crack the Skye and possibly Leviathan (though you might not have the stomach for the vocals in early Masto right away).
If you're in camp #1, you may listen to The Hunter a few more times because you have worn out the tracks in your LP or CD or MP3s of the earlier ones. Familiarity may make some of the tracks sound better with time. Maybe some worse. There is value in this album. It's not a beer coaster. Unless I'm stunningly mistaken, it's not a future retroactive masterpiece either. Three. Stars.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2011
Pay no attention to the "story" regarding "The Hunter". You know the chatter of which I speak. That which would lead you to believe Mastodon has wandered off track and cranked out a non-cohesive, non-thematic, "just for fun," record--the implication being that well-executed as it may be, it's a disappointing departure. This advance word of mouth that implies an inherent weakness to a presumed tongue-in-cheek looseness is off-base.
Read the recent Decibel interview with Brann and his band-mates, and you get from the horse's mouth that this is a anti-concept album. That it was composed in a shoot-from-the-hip fashion; a way of blowing off steam by thrilling in being creative without worrying about honoring some larger narrative cohesiveness. Listen to the album, and you will feel that. But wait...
"The Hunter" is as heavy as any record Mastodon has recorded. "The Hunter" is as dark and meaningful as Crack the Skye (but it's soul is on the opposite side of the color-wheel). "The Hunter" is the only possible next step. After the super self-reflection of "Crack the Skye"--after the last strands of "The Last Baron"--we're left, as an audience, drifting though space. Mastodon is not going to hold our hand anymore. They're not going to read the runes for us.
No previous Mastodon record was written or recorded as quickly as "The Hunter". The result is not a half-baked collection of unrelated tunes. The result is a aurally palpable sense of urgency that fits the record's spirit of expression without worry.
"The Hunter" is not a concept album in the same way that Mastodon's last three to four albums have been. But it is the next chapter in the saga, and there is a story. The Hunter is a more personal record than anything Mastodon have recorded, because steeped in the fantastic as it is, The Hunter is an artistic chronicle executed by men who feel they have neither the time nor the inclination to fuss about obscuring their feelings in a byzantine, self-contained artistic apparatus.
Do you just NEED "The Hunter" to tie into the thematic cycle? I'll help.
Fire ants march across the flesh of a burning mare to extinguish themselves in the sea. Out of an angry sense of adventure, we follow them into waters haunted by a world-sundering beast that we feel doomed to pursue. Somehow though, we wash ashore on a volcanic beach, and stagger to our feet, only to be chased up the monster-infested slopes of a titanic mountain. We lose many of our party amid myriad horrors. After these trials, trapped in a blinding blizzard, we stagger to the top of the mountain and drift into the ether-filled space between the stars in our grief.
We mourn, hurt, and reflect. Then, with our last shred of self-awareness, we recognize that we have a simple choice that we make now...or not at all. Either we drift forever, and lose ourselves to the scattered stars, or we pull ourselves back together, and find the tug of gravity. We choose action over inaction, and the acceleration of our descent is hallmarked by the frictive-fire that melts our protective golden bubble tighter around our ears as we near impact with the mountain below.
The totemic resemblance of the cover of "The Hunter" to "Blood Mountain", is not a coincidence. We are re-grounded in a sense, and while there's a clear continuity of identity, we are not retracing an old path. We have regained the rocky firmament because it is time to reverse the atrophy of our muscles, and stand.
"The Hunter" is a masterpiece. And it is no less about loss--or fun--than it's canonical forebear. "The Hunter" is about the crushing burden of loss--and the seriousness of life--juxtaposed with the need to move on. To move. Frantically, reflectively, completely. Full speed ahead.
All hail Mastodon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2012
Okay, so I see a lot of other Mastodon fans crying that they've sold out or some crap like that. Every time a band decides to change things up, they're labeled sell-outs. Well, I'm here to prove those accusations wrong. I listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Deftones, Melvins, Black Sabbath, Meshuggah, Death, Slayer, Helmet, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Machine Head, Tool, Rush etc. Can you see where I'm going with this? Each one of these bands have experimented and its opened my eyes up a lot. Music gets stale if it's the same style on every album, experimentation is key. I'm just getting into Mastodon and I've actually listened to some stuff from Remission and Leviathan. Remission was actually the other Mastodon album I ordered (the deluxe version) but it hasn't gotten here, yet but I love the songs on that album, too. That one and The Hunter are my first Mastodon albums. Anyways, honestly, I liked the material from those albums and The Hunter. I fell in love with each one of these tracks on the first way through, although 3 of the songs I had heard prior.
The point? You have to be open-minded to growth and experimentation to like this album. Sorry, but being a metalhead elitist will get you no where with this record. Be open to all forms of metal and rock. The sludgy riffs are still here but they're a bit more clean, I should say. Some guy on youtube described the riffs as "Crunch, sludgy, melted-candy-bar-in-the-sun guitar riffs." He was describing Mastodon's riffs as a whole on all their albums but this comment was made on a Curl of the Burl upload. Well, a Mastodon fan that actually liked the album. That description makes The Hunter even better. This record is a real treat if you take the time to hear it's beauty. I can see where Brent and Troy are going with their vocals. They still scream on this album and get heavy (Blasteroid being a prime example) but not on every single track and it's not a bad thing.
Troy's vocals (I believe for most of the song, that's Troy singing) on Dry Bone Valley are amazing, the guy can belt it out. Same with Brent. I mean, don't you think they'd start to take interest in wanting to brush up on their clean vocals a bit more? They're honing their vocal skills, that's all and it paid off. So to sum it up, this is a great progressive sludge metal album, although leaning a bit into rock. It doesn't sound anything like Leviathan, so I'd advise learning a bit more about experimentation before you pick this album up. If you take the time, open up your mind and widen your musical horizons, this record really is something to behold. Bravo, Mastodon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2011
On their fifth album Mastodon have created their most streamlined, rock-oriented offering yet, veering away from the conceptual masterwork and dazzling prog metal of their critically acclaimed Crack The Skye album. Despite the more straight forward approach and accessible song-writing, The Hunter maintains the hefty weight and stellar craftsmanship that has defined their career.
Typically robust opener `Black Tongue' could fit snugly on Blood Mountain or Crack the Skye, capped off with an elegantly melodic guitar solo. "Curl of the Burl' is likely to raise eyebrows and polarise fans. This is the most accessible song the band has written, following a fairly standard rock structure, stripping back the sludgy weight and delivering a catchy stoner rock anthem.
Guitarist Brett Hinds' melodic vocal delivery continues to improve, contrasting with the hoarse vocals of Troy Sanders. `Dry Bone Valley' and 'All the Heavy Lifting' are particularly memorable from a vocal and musical standpoint. The only misstep is the bizarre `Creature Lives'; a forgettable, drawn-out experiment that fits awkwardly with the album. This is rectified by the stunning trio of songs that round out The Hunter; the sonic power of "Spectrelight', tricky rhythms of `Bedazzled Fingernails' and melodic sensibilities of `The Sparrow'. The Hunter is a taut collection of addictive rock songs and the sludgy, unique metal of a band in continuous creative upswing.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2011
I received my copy of "The Hunter" earlier today and have now listened to it twice through. On the first listen I really wasn't sure how I felt about this album, especially with some of the more overtly mainstream moments (eg Creature Lives). After the second listen I began to fall in love, and as soon as I finish writing this I'm gonna listen to it again.
No, this album is not Crack the Skye. It's not as consistently good as Crack the Skye (thus the four stars), which was a masterpiece of the highest order. But I tell you what - there are some pretty damn good songs on here - personal favorites are "The Hunter", "Spectrelight (f&*$ yeah Scott Kelly!)" and especially "The Sparrow", which is hauntingly emotional.
I do wish that there were more awesome riffs like on past efforts, but the band has traded their earlier riff-based sound for an aesthetic based on emotive vocals and economic songwriting - and you know what? Most of the time they really make it work for them. Actually, at times during this album I wonder if touring with Deftones last year didn't influence them a bit - there are really some similarities between songs like "The Hunter" and "The Sparrow" and the songs on Deftones' "Diamond Eyes".
I, for one, am really happy with this album overall, and I hope Mastodon's other fans are open-minded and accepting.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2012
I absolutely love this album!! While it is not a concept album like Crack the Skye, it has great songs on it. The album as a whole is great, but to me the individual tracks are more memorable.
One big disappointment is the DVD. The "making of" feature was 5 minutes... As a guitar player, audio engineer, and fan, I was extremely disappointed. I know it's not the band's fault, but it just seemed lazy to go in with (I'm assuming) hours of footage and hacking it down to 5 minutes. I did like the track-by-track commentary, but that also disappointed me because it was ONLY Brann's take on them. While I enjoyed it, I'd like to hear what Brent, Bill, or Troy had to say about them. Again, probably not the band's fault. The filmmaker probably was only able to catch Brann after a night of recording and didn't feel like catching up with the rest of the band the next day. I don't know... I just think it could have been a lot better.
Buy this for the amazing songs, not the DVD.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2011
Let me just start by saying, I love Nickelback, old Creed and yes, I'll say it, even some Daughtry. I'm not ashamed. Why should I be? I like what I like! And this album ranks right up there with the best of any of those bands. I find myself humming "Bedazzled Fingernails" at work all the time (I'm a youth pastor). And even though some of the lyrics are a little bit weird, I just can't get enough of THE HUNTER! YES!