For the Atlantan metal giants, The Hunter is a different kind of album than any other in their catalogue, both in its light conceptuality, and

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A Track-by-Track Exploration of Mastodon's The Hunter

For the Atlantan metal giants, The Hunter is a different kind of album than any other in their catalogue, both in its light conceptuality, and its downscaled--or more condensed psychedelia. Of course there isn't as much guttural lyric barking as in the earliest Mastodon recordings, that's not their shtick any more; their vocals are the piercing, back-of-the-throat screams of Troy Sanders, and the haunting wails of Brent Hinds. Brann Dailor's drumming has always been extremely complex, which has caused him to be both revered for his technical prowess, and shunned for his showy, out-of-pocket fills, and not much has changed here in either respect. They're as good as ever in my book. The Hunter's tracks are short, concise bursts of creativity (although they have a sludgier production value than the super crispness of their last few released that enabled you to delightfully--if painstakingly--pick apart the core elements), with the band's signature braun. It's an experiment, but is writing an album like this at this point in their career a risk? Probably not a huge one, and plus, they'll probably do something completely different next time around, so even if you don't dig it, there's no need to worry.

Follow along after the jump...

1. The disk opens to the 'don working the same kind of rolling, sea-sick riffage on "Black Tongue" that they played to perfection on Blood Mountain's "Hand Of Stone", and doing it just as well, effectively welcoming you back into the fold to enjoy another helping of calculated brutality.

2. Things fall right off with the second track, single "Curl Of The Burl", though. After my first listen, I wrote: "the intro is all down-tuned and cool, but what comes after turns into the worst track I've ever heard from the band," and called it "generic nu-metal" and my opinion hasn't changed much. The group teeters on this kind of formulaic heavy-guitars-meets-brainless-melody thing only rarely, but this time they fell over the edge (which, in my mind is their first major misstep since unforgivably abbreviating the video version of "Colony Of Birchmen" so it could be consumed more easily by its newfound MTV audience).

3. While third track "Blasteroid" is poppy in its own right, fucking happy even, it operates effectively as a metallic invasion of surf-rock rather than an ill-advised mashup of the two genres, which deserves some serious props.

4. With its digital spaceship bits and slower, earthquake guitar/bas lines, "Stargasm" could almost be a movement from Crack The Skye, but there's a certain country-blues element--most clearly stated during the intro--that sets it apart.

5. Fifth track "Octopus Has No Friends" begins with guitar lasers shooting off all over the place, which is then overtaken by several Zeppelin-derived progressions, with a specific nod to "Fool In The Rain". They do an awesome riff-morph at about 1:04 from a menacing sludge-metal line to its latin-tinged counterpart by taking it up a register.

6. "All The Heavy Lifting" is good studio metal. Big sledgehammer guitars; loud, yet audible, breathy lyrics; double bass drum.

7. At five minutes and eighteen seconds, the title track (the album was reportedly named after Hinds' brother who died unexpectedly on a hunting trip) is the second longest on the album, and is slower building than the others. The screaming guitar solo that soars in about two thirds through helps bring the track to its crescendo, which is loud, but not overly heavy, which produces a cool, bluesy atmosphere.

8. The instrumentation is cool on "Dry Bone Valley", but the vocals are too singsongy. Not enough punishment for me.

9. "Thickening" stays true to its name, beginning with a simple, three-note bass line, then layering guitars, changing tempos, with a very Queens Of The Stoneage chorus which causes me to like it immediately.

10. "Creature Lives" has a remixed Space Odyssey-sounding introduction, and an anthemic, chanty body. You can sense the kind of rebirth, or emergence feeling they're going for, but what "emerges" is something like a power-pop Fraggle Rock.

11. "Spectrelight" is a return to everything great about Mastodon: primal heaviness; screaming; controlled thrash; a complex structure that sounds effortless.

12. There are Rammsteinian Dracula whispers at certain points throughout "Bedazzled Fingernails" that kind of bother me, and the whole thing sounds a little forced-Transylvanian, but it's good for a cheap thrill.

13. "The Sparrow" closes the album out in pretty badass fashion, a lot like "Pendulous Skin" brought a close to Blood Mountain. Trippy highway music as the band takes off on another mythological adventure to write songs about.

 
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