Mastodon – The Hunter

written by: September 27, 2011
Release Date: September 27, 2011


Atlanta’s most successful progressive-sludge outfit, Mastodon, has grown exponentially since the release of its full-length debut Remission. The band garnered attention rapidly among metalheads and music critics alike by melding Neurosis-influenced sludge with mathy interludes, creating the first unique take on sludge in some time.

Mastodon’s ambition grew as it released three ambitious concept records in a row. Each one saw the group push itself in new directions, even if the albums could be a bit bloated and overwrought at times. On its fifth studio album, The Hunter, the band has created its first nonconcept record since Remission, and it’s the least Mastodon has ever sounded like Mastodon.

What The Hunter lacks in concept, it makes up for with pummeling riffs courtesy of guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher. The riffs often are less challenging than what has appeared on previous Mastodon releases, displaying that Hinds and Kelliher were channeling their classic-rock influences in the making of The Hunter.

The group scales back its ambition, but despite the lack of time-signature shifts, drummer Bränn Dailor still makes the most of each song, even composing and taking up lead vocals on “Creature Lives.” After the pointless, minute-long intro is over, Dailor’s contribution proves worthwhile. It is perhaps the most stripped-down, classic-rock arrangement in Mastodon’s catalog, and Dailor’s clean vocals allow for huge harmonies to be placed atop and appear natural.

Throughout The Hunter, it is obvious there is little linking one end to the other.

It’s not that the record is disjointed; it functions as a collection of standalone rock songs instead of a cohesive record. This, of course, is not because Mastodon lacks technical ability. If anything, it appears that the group has been listening to a lot of Torche and is infatuated with that group’s pop-metal approach. Unfortunately, it takes the proficient bass playing and hard-edged vocals of Troy Sanders and ostracizes them from the rest of Mastodon.

The Hunter is an enjoyable listen when one disconnects the fact that it is a Mastodon album. “Curl of the Burl” is an example of how well Mastodon can turn sludgy riffs into a downright catchy rock song. But after 13 tracks that all employ this approach, it begins to feel as though Mastodon is holding back, eliminating the adventurous and progressive nature that made it so powerful.

The problem with The Hunter is not that it is a bad album; it just proves to be the group’s least-remarkable offering. There are numerous moments that are inspired, heavy and damn catchy, but it is far from unique. If it were pared down to an EP, it would be a highly enjoyable release that sees the group pay homage to its favorite rock gods. But after nearly an hour, it ends up wearing thin and offering few reasons to give it a repeat listen.

Mastodon – The Hunter Tracklist:

  1. “Black Tongue”
  2. “Curl of the Burl”
  3. “Blasteroid”
  4. “Stargasm”
  5. “Octopus Has No Friends”
  6. “All the Heavy Lifting”
  7. “The Hunter”
  8. “Dry Bone Valley”
  9. “Thickening”
  10. “Creature Lives”
  11. “Spectrelight”
  12. “Bedazzled Fingernails”
  13. “The Sparrow”