Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Album Review: The Hunter by Mastodon

Well, it's been a long time coming, but here it is at last.

The Hunter is Mastodon's fifth full length album, and after experiencing major stylistic growth with their previous album, Crack the Skye, it seems like the band chose to pause for a moment with The Hunter and consolidate their gains.  The first thing I noticed with this album is that it is much more straight forward and accessible than it's predecessor.  For one, every song is much shorter and less complex that past Mastodon songs. It seems like there was an effort being made to have this album have an almost pop-music feel to it in the sense that each song is short, melodic and has a hook.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not a pop album, Mastodon is still as metal as ever, but it seems to me that the band took a page out of pop music's book by making the songs so short and catchy.  Make no mistake, these songs will get stuck in your head.

Another thing that is different here, and unique to this album, is that the band strays away from the concept album.  As a guy who rarely listens to just one song at a time, and prefers to hear an entire album from start to finish, I'm a huge fan of the concept album.  So it should come as no surprise that I was a little sad to hear that Mastodon wouldn't be delivering their usual concept album greatness.  I personally feel that the album suffers from this lack of cohesion, and to me, sounds like a collection of Mastodon songs that are good, but lack that epic quality I've come to love.

The songs are still great, and have the ability to stand on their own without being a part of a greater tapestry. These aren't their heaviest songs, or their most instrumentally amazing, and certainly not their most complex, but damn it, they are really fun to listen to.  Bassist Troy Sanders seems to take the lion's share of the vocal duties here, and I couldn't be much happier for that fact.  Sanders is definitely my favorite of the Mastodon vocalists, so it was great to hear his voice all over this album.

It's kinda strange, I wouldn't say that The Hunter stands out in comparison to their past efforts, but it is an incredibly listenable and infectious album.  It usually takes me a few listens to fully appreciate a new Mastodon album, but with The Hunter, it was pretty much love at first listen...and now I can't stop listening to it.  All in all, another great effort, and I think a lot of these songs would sound great live.  Hopefully I'll be able to catch them next time they roll through town.

Grade: B

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