Every track brings something different to the table

With album number five, Mastodon’s ascendency into the echelons of the truly great is assured. If there was any doubt remaining after the superb and superlative Crack the Skye then The Hunter should wipe them away completely.
There aren’t any sprawling ten-minute-plus epics on The Hunter – indeed the songwriting has a much tighter focus than the band has displayed in the past – and there’s no over-riding concept weaving through the album, but none of that makes any difference to the quality and power of the thirteen tracks that comprise it. The opening trio of songs are so sweeping in their catchiness that once the hooks are set, there’s no escaping The Hunter until the final chords of “The Sparrow” almost an hour later. “Black Tongue” rides in on a surging melodic riff and Brann Dailor’s huge drumming that opens the way forward into one of the best and most diverse albums of heavy rock to surface in 2011. The Kyuss-flavoured “Curl of the Burl” is one of the catchiest rock songs of this – or any other – year , with a hook so huge, yet so simple, it stays in the mind for days. That’s followed by the stoner/grunge blitz “Blasteroid” that could have come from the Melvins. Then “Stargasm” saunters in with massive desert-rock riffing and a sprinkling of trippy keys and synths, and by now it’s very apparent that Mastodon aren’t playing with a straight bat. They’re going for anything and smashing them out of the park. Every track brings something different to the table and wins every time.

From the epic “All the Heavy Lifting” – dominated by Dailor’s gigantic drums – to the haunting title track, Brett Hinds’ tribute to his lost brother Brad, from the sludge of “Spectrelight” with Scott Kelly from Neurosis adding his distinctive touch, to the psychedelic close of “The Sparrow”, The Hunter never fails to surprise and delight. The delicious riff-mongering of Hinds and Bill Kelliher and the three (sometimes four) way vocal attack is underpinned by Troy Sanders’ thunderously rumbling and lurching basslines and Dailor’s spectacular drumming.

There are vanishingly few artists that can ply through an album this long and make every single track so diverse that it’s like listening to a dozen bands, and possibly fewer still that can achieve such a thing successfully. Mastodon can do it, and this ability is what could well make The Hunter the album of the year.

1. Black Tongue
2. Curl of the Burl
3. Blasteroid
4. Stargasm
5. Octopus Has No Friends
6. All the Heavy Lifting
7. The Hunter
8. Dry Bone Valley
9. Thickening
10. Creature Lives
11. Spectrelight
12. Bedazzled Fingernails
13. The Sparrow