Atlanta-based psychedelic metal heads Mastodon continue to step out of their comfort zone on their fifth album The Hunter.
Mastodon has always been commended for their ability to fuse classic metal with modern styles and sounds. This is certainly still the case with The Hunter, but there is by no means any re-hashing of ideas from past albums here. Continuing a trend from their last record Crack The Skye, Mastodon has fully embraced the psychedelic side that was only marginally present in their first three albums.
Unlike on Crack The Skye where the band had songs as long as 13 minutes, they have tightened up that progressive sound. The longest song here sits at five minutes and 30 seconds. These choices show that Mastodon has really found a new focus for this album and is no longer interested in the long, epic nature of their older music.
To cut to the chase, The Hunter is Mastodon’s worst album to date. It is by no means a bad album, but for a band with such a solid discography it pales in comparison to their previous work.
It is evident on this album that Mastodon wanted to fuse aspects from their harder, tighter albums like Leviathan and put it in a blender with the sound they developed on Crack The Skye. They definitely succeeded in that, but with it they have developed some pop-like sensibilities to mix in as well. All this makes for Mastodon’s most accessible album to date and people who are not into metal may still find it enjoyable.
However, its accessibility is the reason it is their worst album to date. It feels like they are really holding back on a lot of these songs, which is something that must have been sacrificed in order to get that sound.
This also marks the first time that Mastodon hasn’t had an overarching theme in their lyrics. This doesn’t come off as an issue as they are still doing their thing, which is having absolutely nonsensical fantasy lyrics that always feel out of context. Believe it or not, this is a good thing because it gives the band a certain mystical quality.
The biggest problem with The Hunter is an absolute abomination of a song called “Creature Lives.” It is the worst thing Mastodon has ever tried to do. So bad, in fact, that it makes me violently angry whenever I listen to it. I just have no idea where the hell the song came from.
To get a sense of how the song feels to listen to, think of the most awkward moment in your entire life and then imagine some crickets chirping overtop of that memory to get that extra awkward effect — that sums up “Creature Lives.” Although “Creature Lives” is the only truly terrible song on the album, there are a handful of songs that are just sadly forgettable. Luckily, the album does have some really fantastic songs to make up for this.
“Black Tongue” and “The Sparrow” are the best songs on the album, perfectly opening and closing it. The lack of the song “Deathbound” from the album, which they released earlier with a fantastic video done in collaboration with Adult Swim, is a real missed opportunity to replace something like the abomination mentioned earlier.
The Hunter has some truly great moments; it’s too bad they’re shrouded by some mediocre attempts by the band to step outside their comfort zone into more accessible areas.
I respect what Mastodon tried to do with this album and when it works it works extremely well, but all too often The Hunter tends to shoot itself in the foot.