Mastodon - _The Hunter_
(Reprise, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (6 out of 10)
I am going to assume you know about Mastodon. If you are reading a website dedicated to extreme forms of metal, then I am going to take an educated guess you have heard abut this band. They are literally two steps away from being on a cereal box. Mastodon, for me, was a conduit into the world of more extreme metal. The band's 2004 record _Leviathan_ was a stepping stone into a land where progressive sludge and concept albums walked hand in hand. 2006's _Blood Mountain_ took a step further and opened themselves up to even more progressive territory, much like a house would in the midst of a tornado. _Cracke the Skye_, in 2009, was the result of that incident where everything, from interior and foundation, was sent into a goddamn vortex.

To some, _Crack the Skye_ has come to define the band in its frontal assault on concept and progressive conversion. I cannot begin to lay out the storyline in the record, but it does involve astral projection, time traveling quadriplegic protagonists and long dead czars. _Crack the Skye_ was an important milestone in Mastodon's discography, because it marked the point when both the band and I parted ways. Mastodon went so much further than where I was willing to go; what the band eventually created and what I enjoy are sometimes two different entities. _Crack the Skye_ is not a bad record, it is just one I care less and less about. Its adventuresome concepts and weaving high level progressive elements makes it desirable among a certain audience. I still keep this sentiment whenever encountering other Mastodon news, including tours with Metallica, a disastrous soundtrack for "Jonah Hex", and finally, the announcement of a new record.

_The Hunter_ breaks a long tradition of heavy concept related to the lyrics. The band's previous three records have all been centered around either a concrete or abstract storyline. This change is a part of a larger desire to break free of previous tenet in the band's music. _Crack the Skye_ was a peak in terms of concept and progressive reverence. Where does one go when they have done the story with the time traveling quadriplegic? There is only moving on after that point. There is no more here for anyone. Mastodon has rightfully moved onto a new evolution in the band's sound. Whether or not that next step involves questionable hard rock is entirely up to the listener.

Seeing people's reaction to _The Hunter_ reminds me of the times when anticipation and slight disappointment collide, producing vague justification -- whether or not fans react to the entirely radio friendly styles of "Curl of the Burl" or the grunge inspired antics of "Dry Valley Bone Valley". If Mastodon wanted to surprise the fuck out of everyone, _The Hunter_ is one fine choice. With steep inclination towards early '90s alt rock, the band has certainly avoided any trappings of stagnation. Whether or not it is any good is entirely up to the audience. I would make a judgement here, but I have divorced myself from this band.

Being separated from Mastodon emotionally allows one to process their albums more efficiently. One the one hand, _The Hunter_ is engaging and honestly moves forward in the band's constant evolution. The level of craft in "Creature Lives", "Stargasm" and even the undeniably catchy "Blasteroid" more than makes up for anyone's visit. With this said, if one were to stranglehold me into an emotional judgment, I would be forced to admit _The Hunter_ lacks the masculine tenacity of the first two records and even the heady intellectualism of the next two. If done by a timid mid-level rock band, _The Hunter_ is a triumph. For a band like Mastodon, this album is of course up for debate.


(article published 1/11/2011)

8/31/2004 P Schwarz Mastodon: Where Swims the Leviathan?
12/26/2003 J Smit Mastodon: An Out of Body Experience
4/15/2009 D Cairns 9.5 Mastodon - Crack the Skye
9/12/2006 J Smit 8.5 Mastodon - Blood Mountain
8/11/2004 J Smit 8.5 Mastodon - Leviathan
6/17/2003 J Smit 9.5 Mastodon - Remission
10/19/2001 B Meloon 6 Mastodon - Lifesblood
10/31/2004 A Lineker Slipknot / Slayer / Hatebreed / Mastodon Slipknot vs Slayer 2: Mandatory Maggotcide
7/13/2003 J Smit Mastodon / Labrat Marching on to Greatness
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