Mastodon fans were getting itchy: the Georgia band put out its magnum opus, the progressive and heavy Crack the Skye in 2009 - a monolith of layered, experimental, progressive genius. How could the band possibly follow that up? Could they possibly do better?
The band's newest, The Hunter, isn't better. There are moments when it is great, moments when it is groundbreaking - but many, many moments when it feels like the band is stumbling, the weight of the last record too heavy for them to carry again.
If The Hunter proves one thing, it's that Mastodon is comfortable with their manhood. They aren't too metal to write pop music, talk about love or construct lyrics around cheesy rhyme schemes. Songs like "Curl of the Burl" and "Blasteroid" even show the band harmonizing between the usual guitar noodlery.
But Mastodon gets judged on a harsh scale - perhaps too harshly. This is a band that has released flawless records. They've been called one of the greatest hard-rock bands of all time for a reason. Mastodon is a band of visionaries who can make any song heavy, and make any heavy song emotional and beautiful. And they accomplish both of those things here: "Spectrelight" is as driving and complex as any of the band's classics, "Creature Lives" and "The Sparrow" show the band slow and trepidatious, morose and passive.
After a few listens, you start to get the sense that The Hunter isn't for us. It's not for fans or metalheads or music scholars. It's a piece that shows the growth of a band that is much like a human: a being that is maturing, experimenting, creating and, occasionally, failing. How can you criticize that? - Leah Sottile