From Mastodon's early albums of raw sludge riffs to the musical shift on their last album 'Crack the Skye'; which included progressive rock and psychedelic tendencies, the question on many people lips were where could Mastodon go next?
'The Hunter' is Mastodon's fifth album and after success of being one of metal's finest acts of late; especially playing high up on the bill for such festivals as Sonisphere, Mastodon have been noted as of the best live metal acts around have created a fairly large and loyal fan base.
It's arguable that 'The Hunter' could be the most anticipated release of the year for many metal fans. After Mastodon's last album 'Crack the Skye' divided fans that were perhaps more used to their sludge riffs on early records, it was hard to deny that 'Crack the Skye' was a bold move and made Mastodon not just an ordinary metal band, but a band that could constantly shift your perception of who they are. 'Crack the Skye', however different it may have been from previous releases, still had key elements that were instantly recognisable as a "Mastodon sound".
'The Hunter' however, couldn't be further from 'Crack the Skye' or any other album that Mastodon have released, and have yet created another shift and turn within their sound. You wouldn't be too wrong to assume that 'The Hunter' is like a balance between their early sound and their last album 'Crack the Skye', except you would be missing something.
It's apparent that with 'The Hunter', there's a few songs that would be hard to classify as a typical Mastodon song or sound. Song's such as 'The Octopus has no Friends', 'Stargasm' or 'Dry Bone Valley' sound completely out of kilter for what the band have been known for. Songs such as the recent single 'Curl of the Burl' or 'Blasteroid', are a more accessible sound from the band, but is in no means a typical accessibility. Some fans may find this hard to swallow at first but on repeated listens, the catchy hooks, riffs and melodies will be hard to turn away from.
The real star of this album musically has to go to Bran Dailor, whose drumming is phenomenal and really drives and accentuates the songs in a musical way that hasn't been heard from a band like this in a long time. Bran Dailor paid homage on the last album 'Crack the Skye' to his sister who had committed suicide and it seems as if the emotional journey hasn't stopped with 'The Hunter'. This time the new album is dedicated to Brent Hinds brother who unexpectedly died from a heart attack whilst hunting.
The musical styles on 'The Hunter' constantly shift and challenge your awareness of what you thought a genre could be, pushed beyond it's limits. The band combine certain sounds that I doubt have ever been atomically combined on any album before. There's a whole sound world here to be discovered and you may have to pinch yourself to what you are hearing at times.
'The Hunter' could well be Mastodon's best album to date and I guess only time will tell. Mastodon show us that they are one of the most forward thinking bands in recent years and certainly aren't holding back, but are pushing forward with every release. I'm sure this album will be one of the most talked about albums of the year and I will be surprised if it doesn't reach most people's favourite album of the year lists.
Mastodon's 'The Hunter' has to be heard to be believed!
'The Hunter' is out now!