Review of Mastodon's "The Hunter"*Deluxe Edition*
Recorded and released in 2011, "The Hunter" is sludge-metal band Mastodon's fifth album. It was met with highly positive views and the second single, Curl of the Burl , was nominated for a Grammy. While this is not Mastodon's first album to garner critical acclaim, it did reach #10 on the U.S. Billboard charts and features three singles. Compared to past masterpieces like "Leviathan" or "Blood Mountain," how does this record compare and fit into Mastodon's discography, as a whole? Let's take a look.
Starting off the record, Black Tongue impresses straight from the start with powerful riffs and intense vocals. One immediately thinks, "Wow! This is how the entire record will follow; with this kind of sound!" And while the lyrics of the song might be a bit nonsensical, you'd hope this is what will follow throughout the album; quality tunes that Mastodon always delivers! We see that this is incorrect, however, with a sudden shift of style with Curl of the Burl . Easily the strangest single from the album, this details, apparently, druggies sifting through the woods, gathering burls for drug money... over and over again. The main riffs of the song is catchy, as is the moaning that accompanies it, the reason for the Grammy attention, and the vocals from this member are always welcome, but you'd still expect the following songs are being built up to.
Nope. What instead progresses is a song called Blasteroid . Quirky name, even quirkier music. This song shifts between an almost pleasant sounding tune and a faster and more aggressive riff. The lyrics detail strongly in contrast with the music, not something to complain about, of course, just something strange and unconventional to note. "I wanna drink some fucking blood!" ...Ok. The fourth song is the most melodic as of yet, and fits more on "Crack the Skye" than "The Hunter." Going by its name, Stargasm , there is no pun intended when one says this song is incredibly "spacey." Not to advocate criminal activities, but someone who isn't me would love to get a bit "altered" and listen to this song on repeat. Reverting from slow and powerful chants of "You're on fire!" in the chorus to Bill singing about some Bohemian Grove and space sex. Interesting, to say the least.
Black Tongue Music Video
Now, if you like Rush, but think they aren't metal and/or progressive enough, especially Geddy's vocals, then you will love Octopus Has No Friends. I already used "quirky" to describe a previous song, so at the risk of sounding repetitive, this song is damn quirky. A main criticism of this song, as is the case with many others, is that there really isn't a point to this song, lyrically speaking. While some pieces of the guitar parts seem potentially kick-ass, it just doesn't deliver. As for the next song, All the Heavy Lifting, if "I'm on my way back home!" from Octopus Has No Friends, wasn't generic enough, we can hear the lyric genius that is "Just close your eyes, and pretend that everything's fine!" as a cornerstone of the chorus. Even the interlude of the song, which Mastodon consistently nails, isn't really what a fan of "Leviathan" would call worthy of Mastodon's time.
At this point in the album, you wonder if it is too late to hope for it to suddenly become great. I mean really start filling the potential seen with the first two songs. While the next song, titled The Hunter, is as sorrowful as it is haunting, you'd wish that the other songs fell into this same niche. This song is easily the most beautiful of them all; the main riff, the vocals, even the prolonged guitar solos all combine to make one great freaking song. Check it out below. The third and final single released, Dry Bone Valley, is sung mostly by the drummer and is quite fast-paced, though lacking a sense of heaviness. Why have we been waiting for metal sense the damn Burl song, eh?
The Drummer's Explanation
Thickening, one of the strangest songs on this already weird album, has a bit darker feel to it and the chorus, to its credit, reaches a minimal of an intense feeling of desperation. Creature Lives, however, is a whole other monster... or creature. It starts with mechanical woops and beeps with a whirring sort of computer like sound combined with laughter. Then we see a gentle bassline and a building drum part that introduces the vocals. The music isn't fast, or aggressive, or heavy, so you'd think the lyrics would redeem the song a bit; make it worthwhile to listen to, if for nothing else than an interesting story. Instead we have what I would nominate as the album's worst song. Pushing personal boundaries, exploring alternatives... yeah that's all great. But rarely can any of these songs be taken for more than face value.
Now, if you know much about Mastodon, then you know there should be a track with Neurosis' singer Scott Kelly featured on vocals. That track, thankfully, is Spectrelight! This song almost redeems the past three. It has a few notable and important qualities here that the other songs should have possessed: 1. Speed- This song is fast. It is like one of the only songs that would logically belong on the same album as Black Tongue. And 2. Heaviness- This song is damn heavy, from the vocals to the drums,I bang my head to shit like this! What I don't bang my head to is a song like the next one, Bedazzled Fingernails. Yes, that is the title. Musically speaking, it comes close to glam; at least as close as Mastodon has come. Too much melody, too much like a lullaby. It works for "Crack the Skye," but doesn't here.
The last song of the standard release is called The Sparrow. Like The Hunter, it is creepy, haunting, and beautiful. It does feature better guitar wok than the former, but lacks the same sort of emotional connection. The last two songs are bonus from the Deluxe release, and, strangely enough, rank on the better half of the album. The Ruiner may initiate headbanging and air drums and is really what this whole album should have sounded like; very reminiscent of earlier material of such intensity. Lastly, we have Deathbound, which sounds similar to the previous song and Spectrelight. In spite of a certainly strong start, the song sort of disintegrates around 1:40 into a rather awkward section but quickly loops back to finish. Suffices for a bonus track, but could have used some tweaking.
Overall: 6/10 Standout tracks are Black Tongue, Curl of the Burl, The Hunter,and Spectrelight. Call it too progressive or soft, this isn't what Mastodon does best. To record sub-par songs with some decent songs and smack them on a disc with no discernible purpose is disappointing.
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