Mastodon’s “The Hunter” is refined; spectacular.

Gotta give love to the Rochester boys gone big time! Brann Dailor and Bill Kelliher were in one of the finest bands in the history of the Upstate metal music scene, Lethargy. In the 90’s, that band along with their peers in Big Hair, Bughouse, Hate Machine, and Cheese, created quite a stir in Upstate and beyond. Most of these bands were prog-like in nature, heavy in sound, and as creative as anything being punched out on the national music scene. It is to no one’s surprise that someone would have to blow up on the national scene in this talented group of artists. Bill and Brann’s time in Lethargy ended in 1999. This was followed by relocation to Atlanta, and Mastodon was born! The rest is history as this sludgy prog rock juggernaut has been recognized as one of the best of it’s time. The accolades include a grammy nomination for Colony of Birchmen off their ridiculously sick album, Blood Mountain.

Fast forward to 2011! After the release of their four previous albums which had a flair for jammed out progressions and conceptualized themes, the band decided to focus their attention on a different plan of attack. Gone are the 13 minute epics that would jam out into the galaxy. As a matter of fact, nothing here goes over the 6 minute mark. It does not mean the band has lost it’s knack for intensely complicated and intense arrangement, it is just in a smaller package. It is not so much a new direction as it is a refining of the song writing process in general. Obviously being a skeptic as I am, I was afraid that this album would not be able to stand up to the best in their catalog. Silly me! This album has helped me refine my approach on passing judgement on something before it is even heard.

The tracks here are killer. Black Tongue starts off this album with a bang, and is followed by the melodic chorus of Curl of The Burl, which may just be the best rock track of the year, period! Other great tracks include Blasteroid, Spectrelight, and the The Hunter!

If you feel like the gruff edges have been shined off the sound of Mastodon, you are quite correct. The unusual grouping of Mike Elizondo with this band has resulted in a focus on overall musicianship and song structuring. For those not familiar with Elizondo, he has produced an awful lot of hip hop acts including Eminem and 50 Cent. You will get none of that here though! You get less sludge and more melodic blasts of heaviness. A quite spectacular result overall.

At the end of this year, you will see this album on many critic’s top 10 lists. Quite simply, it is that good!

Track listing:

Black Tongue
Curl Of The Burl
Octopus Has No Friends
All The Heavy Lifting
The Hunter
Dry BoneValley
Creature Lives
Bedazzled Fingernails
The Sparrow

This album is available on Itunes, as well as through the bands website.

-Erik Jensen

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