The Hunter


Reprise, 2011

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


leviathan |ləˈvīəTHən|
(in biblical use) a sea monster, identified in different passages with the whale and the crocodile (e.g., Job 41, Ps. 74:14), and with the Devil (after Isa. 27:1).

• a very large aquatic creature, esp. a whale: the great leviathans of the deep.
•  a thing that is very large or powerful, esp. a ship.

The progressive leanings of Mastodon have made them a staple in the discussion for “Best Metal Band” in the present day. Crack The Skye, Blood Mountain, and Leviathan each represented a different facet of the group’s personality. One item in particular about that latter record: I’d be hard-pressed to find a handful of album titles that so perfectly encapsulates what this band is all about.

Just the name of the band conjures up these primordial images, images that Mastodon’s sound is unwilling to back down from. “The Hunter,” “Creatures Lives,” “Dry Bone Valley,” and “Thickening” represent a primal, menacing unity from previous records. Leadoff single “Curl The Burl” practically oozes sludge in its opening seconds before traveling down a more intensive road (a practice Mastodon is quite good at).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The true challenge, at least from the perspective of Mastodon, of The Hunter comes with the underlying intentions of the band – specifically, their decision to forego recoding another concept album. Comparisons have been made to similar decisions made by bands like Metallica when shifting gears from ...And Justice For All to The Black Album, or Megadeth and Countdown To Extinction. Credit must be given where credit is due, however, and Mastodon has accomplished an incredibly difficult task for a heavy metal group: condensing the message while not diluting the music.

The technical proficiencies of Mastodon theoretically would prevent such a precipitous drop in quality, but the same could be said of many other bands that just don’t understand how to make an album like The Hunter. Their sound has not been compromised one iota. In fact there are moments where it sound as if the group is ready to move beyond metal in a meaningful way; “Creature Lives” would not be out of place on some of the great progressive rock albums of the late ‘70s. In fact, there is no better demonstration of the true talent of the band then the transition between “Creature Lives” and “Spectrelight.” The former comes from the cutting room floor of Meddle, the latter a Megadeth-type thrash piece. The quality of both is not surprising.

There’s a lyric during “All The Heavy Lifting” that resonates strongly with what Mastodon has accomplished at this point in their career: “We didn’t come this far, just to turn this around / We didn’t come this far, just to run away.” Success has come to the members of this group, along with extensive critical praise. In turning away the one aspect of their music that in many ways defined them, Mastodon is making a statement. The Hunter is the first volley in a new direction. It is scary to consider how they can get better.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2011 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.