Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Record Review: Mastodon - 'The Hunter'

‘The Hunter’
[Roadrunner Records]

This record needs to be listened to under the night sky; my eyes are drawn to finding the Hunter that has stood poised for a millennia or two. A sword raised and a bow drawn. An image drawn with stars captures rather elegantly the scope of Mastodon’s latest release The Hunter. Mastodon had explored flight and wide expanses of the sky with Crack The Skye, now on The Hunter they’ve strapped themselves on to a rocket and are falling through space with style.

I have always felt Mastodon to be a rhythm band with guitars way out front with their quirkiness glued atop. Their patented huge striding riffs that won over on Remission are there as always, yet they now share equal space with intricate pocketwatch riffs that tick and chime and shimmer and glow like embers. The quirkiness isn’t glued atop anymore, it’s fastened to the nose of the rocket. I think it tells that this was a more collaborative effort, the cuts are more vibrant and sporadic, the compact lengths dwarf in comparison to Crack The Skye, and points to a leaner approach on song writing. It lends well to The Hunter’s more hard rock leanings.

There is a melancholic edge to The Hunter. As the proggy riffs sparkle and the vocals are twisted with Cynic’s vocoder and sung emphatically, the lyrics have a sombre gilt. 'All The Heavy Lifting' requires you to ‘Just close your eyes/And pretend everything is fine’ while Dry Bone Valley curses that ‘I don’t know if I’m alive or dead’. Perhaps most sinisterly on the title track the aching vocals of Brann Dailor utters ‘Free from it all/ Breathe in the darkest fall’. There is this dark edge to the record and it contrasts with the vivacious music and the amusing titles of the songs.

For a record full of surprises ‘Thickening’ caught me the most off guard. It has this casual ruthlessness of hushed vocals ghostly floating above a meteor shower of a riff, all while Brann Dailor shuffles his drums like they’re a pack of cards. Fantastic. I suppose my only problem with the record is the lack of cohesion in places, especially irking me is where Creature Lives is followed by 'Spectrelight'. It’s like watching a rocket surge through the sky from Cape Canaveral only to have your view blocked by a bulldozer. And man, I wanted to see the rocket.


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