Thursday, September 29, 2011
The Hunter - Mastodon - 2011
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.