Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Hunter - Mastodon - 2011

I have been playing Mastodon's latest, the much-anticipated The Hunter, since receiving it Monday and, specifically, during virtually all uninterrupted waking hours since my last posting two days ago. Not necessarily because I was immediately smitten but because, despite its 53-minute length across 13 songs, it flies by and the compositions, dense as ever, are so hard to digest in this fleeting form. It's also been a challenge to define what makes The Hunter so very different while at once so familiar. It's an album in the purest sense, a collection of songs in a single sleeve, not necessarily linked by any overarching theme apart from rock and roll by Mastodon. Fun-size nuggets of progressometallislopera replace the extended feasts we've become accustomed to and it's more than a little difficult for this listener to decide how best to dig in.

My immediate reaction to The Hunter was, as with most records, to pick out what sounds like who else. I can hear The Sword. I can hear Queens of the Stone Age. I can hear Sabbath. Not really. I can hear Mastodon. And I can hear specifically the strands of their DNA shared with those purveyors of rock that transcend riff, hook and chorus. That's not to say that individual selections from The Hunter do not indeed hook the listener and provide standalone replayable tracks structured in traditional four-minute rock song form. It's just that, somehow, creating an album of pieces seems almost irreconcilable with the existence of Mastodon and, no matter how they edit and sequence, the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts.

Still, song-for-song, The Hunter is a triumph. It rocks well, it stays interesting, and, in Mastodon fashion, it goes in directions that metal this successful has no business going. The compositions demand your attention, beg for repeated plays and practically require headphones. "All the Heavy Lifting," "Curl of the Burl," "Octopus Has No Friends," "Black Tongue" and "Blasteroid" all have all the components necessary to stand entirely on their own and each would function handily as the centerpiece of any respectable metal release. To have them together, then, is nearly overwhelming though, ultimately, I find I have to listen to this record beginning-to-end. I have literally logged 22 full plays of the record and feel as though I have only started to scratch the surface in terms of exploration of The Hunter's bountiful offerings.

I'm almost afraid that too many of the great unwashed will enjoy The Hunter and somehow render Mastodon less precious to those of us who consider this band to still be our cult secret. Somehow, like Zeppelin, like the almighty Black Sabbath, I think these guys can somehow rise to that mystical level of critic-proof perfection that still remains palatable on a massive scale. Scratch that. I think they're there.


  1. My first impressions are's almost as if it's a Greatest Hits album that they made from scratch. It's kind of hard to put to words but it makes sense in my head. Rather than just copying and pasting tracks from their catalog, they took the best riffs/snippets of their stuff and then made new songs.

    Either that or it's like a collection of B-sides. Some songs some very stylistically similar to other albums.

    Even though there's not necessarily a concept, I still think it pieces together pretty good. Maybe it's just me but so far most of it has me thinking of Outer Space.

    Pissed they can't be bothered to come through OK again.

  2. "Greatest Hits album that they made from scratch" may be the most precise (and perfectly concise) assessment I've come across so far. Very well said.

  3. Probably going to buy this one tomorrow based on your positive words.