Mastodon’s new album steps back

By John Sosnowski in Arts & Entertainment

October 6, 2011

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

In Mastodon’s 5th studio sludge metal album The Hunter, the band gradually moved deeper and deeper down the progressive metal rabbit hole, feeling something like a step backward from its previous recordings.

However, the band makes a convincing case in this album that regression isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many fans, including myself, are likely to agree.

Overall, the album has a much more rough and disjointed feel to it. But the clean vocals and melodramatic soundscapes haven’t disappeared completely, as they appeared on Blood Mountain and peaked on Crack the Skye.

Free of a grand cinematic concept like past releases, the music seems to follow. Each track has a somewhat distinct flavor and comfortably stand on its own, rather than amalgamating with the rest.

Ironically, The Hunter seems to betray its sludgy preoccupation periodically with a few turns into pop territory, with varying results.

The general sound of “Blasteroid” seems to touch upon a scenester aesthetic, although the technical and abrasive instrumentalism makes the hint of a glossy emo-pop vibe bearable.

The unquestionable low point of the album is the abomination “Creature Lives,” which despite having Swamp Thing lyrical content, sounds like it’d be more at home on a My Chemical Romance release.

This ugliness is easy to ignore however, what with the album’s magnum opus, “Spectrelight,” which features a guest spot from Scott Kelly of Neurosis.

Brief poppy moments notwithstanding, The Hunter recaptures everything great about older Mastodon: the perfect balance of aggressiveness, musical complexity, and atmosphere in a, dare I say, fun package.

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