Mastodon have more than earned the position they’re in; being a band that are seemingly revered across the board. With a slew of near-faultless records that reached a staggering zenith on 2009’s heavily prog-inflected Crack the Skye album, it’s hard to formulate any kind of argument that is otherwise. And as a result of that, Mastodon has to follow up that career highlight record, which was surely a daunting task.
One thing that must be made clear is that The Hunter is vastly different from Crack the Skye, but it’s still Mastodon, it’s just a different room in the same house. While Crack the Skye was characterised by large, unfurling epics that saw the band’s always-present prog sensibilities blossom into a beautiful record, The Hunterfeverishly pulls the reins in with shorter, more hook oriented bursts of riff worshipping adrenaline.
‘Curl of the Burl’ attests to this with aplomb. The lead riff and monolithic chorus together make for a gigantic tune that will be lodged in your head for weeks, and you’ll find yourself unknowingly humming it loudly some day on the bus as fellow commuters look on bemused. ‘Blasteroid’ meanwhile accomplishes a very similar feat with cascading angular riffs that are utterly jarring and infectious.
‘Octopus Has No Friends’ whittles away with multifarious riffing and another oversized chorus while ‘All The Heavy Lifting’ sees some powerful vocals harmonies between Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders. Frankly, there’s zero filler on this record.
‘Creature Lives’ then hurls a curveball with its ceremonial vibe, and somewhat downcast aura. ‘Spectrelight’ returns to a more manic maelstrom, joined by Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, unsurprisingly, as he has guested on all Mastodon records since Leviathan.
Crack the Skye pushed one shade of Mastodon’s palette to its very limits and hats are off to the band for eschewing that path for The Hunter. They could have easily endeavoured to make Crack The Skye Pt. 2 or attempted to recapture the fury of their Remission days. Instead, they trekked to pastures new for them and still retained their identity. The end result? Another glistening Mastodon gem.