Out of pure observation, I have figured out that there are basically three different types of metal fans. The first of which are the “main stream” crowd, who like to listen to bands like Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, and Disturbed. Next are the “old school” fans, that believe the best days of rock/metal are behind us, with bands like Judas Priest, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Lastly, there are the Warped Tour listeners, who are behind such acts like We Came As Romans, Attack! Attack!, and Bring Me the Horizon (who, on a personal level, I absolutely hate).
Each of these fans have their personal favorites, but a band that can seemingly fit into any of the three categories is Atlanta-based metal outfit Mastodon. Whether it be their outstanding live shows, or their diverse and immense concept albums, Mastodon have stretched their music to fit all of the sounds of their competitors, and somehow turns them into instrumentally sound masterpieces.
The Hunter, Mastodon’s fifth studio album, is surprisingly enough NOT a concept album. Their last three releases, 2004′s Leviathan (about Moby Dick), 2006′s Blood Mountain (about climbing said mountain), and 2009′s Crack the Skye (which is about Rasputin being assassinated and his soul trying to find his way back to the body) all were critically acclaimed and for good reasons. So, of course, I was a little bit hesitant on how a Mastodon would sound without a direction. Apparently they don’t need a direction, because The Hunter is quite possibly their most complete and satisfying album to date.
The album starts off with three incredible songs: “Black Tongue,” “Curl of the Burl,” and “Blasteroid.”
The first single, “Curl of the Burl” is a bombastic metal delight, sounding a bit like Black Sabbath mixed with their current sound. “Blasteroid” is the only example of Mastodon being able to appeal to the Warped crowd, but the fastest song on this album happens to be one incredible clusterf#^& of a song that will undoubtedly get people in the pits.
Even when the band slows everything down, they still are able to blow you away. The title track is an instrumentally sound ballad, which takes parts from their earlier releases (a lot from Crack the Skye), brushes off the dust, and turns it into a rather mellow experience. “Creature Lives” starts off by sounding like a bad acid trip, but when the melody kicks in, it could possibly take the most hardcore metal head and bring him back down to Earth for a deep breath of fresh musicality. Even “The Sparrow,” a five minute instrumental showcase, is gentle enough to calm the show, but can keep up the heavy with some beautiful solos and some haunting last words to end the incredible album.
I don’t know who has the metal crown right now, but whoever has it, needs to deliver it to the rightful recipients. The Hunter might not have a concept, but it doesn’t need one. From top to bottom, the album encapsulates the essence of both modern day rock and old school metal. I don’t believe that there will be a metal album this year that will be able to captivate listeners as The Hunter was able to. No matter what crowd you are a part of, you must respect the consistency and delivery of what Mastodon does.
A must listen. That is all.
Final Grade: A
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Go Download: The entire album.