While I may not be the most austere Mastodon fan, I really tried to listen to their new album, The Hunter with an open mind. After seeing them live countless times and trying to make it through each of their albums, It’s fair to say that they would really have to put out some profound work to get me psyched on a release. Not that every album has to be some perpetually polarizing experience but I have standards, especially when it comes to that “other” genre of doom/sludge metal.
I’ll openly group The Hunter with Opeth’s newest album, Heritage, under the label of “I don’t give a shit.” While that may be harsh, I’ve tried to like both bands and the genre they helped form many times and while the rest of the world seems to be sucking off The Hunter like it’s the best shit since medicinal marijuana, I am not convinced. Not in the least. Even though Crack the Skye formed a distinct schism in Mastodon’s fanbase, I will say that I erred on the side of liking their earlier work. It was absent of, oh, what’s that word? Oh yeah, pretension.
Ironic huh? So here we are, sitting in front of The Hunter, with it’s killer album art and 13 tracks hiding behind a package so finely produced in under an hour. Where do we begin? Each of the tracks come in around 3 minutes, typical of any sort of radio friendly music. They’re precise and undoubtedly predictable, almost formulaic. With names like “Curl of the Burl,” you know what to expect: heavy rock sure to get your redneck uncle stoked on rock again.
And maybe that’s why I dislike their new direction. They are no longer the sludge/stoner rock act they used to be. The Hunter is a rock and roll production and there’s no other way to describe it. Mastodon used to be synonymous with bands like Cathedral and Sleep or Sabbath. Their fans used to be the type that appreciated their old and more aggro days. Gone are the heavy and crushing sounds and the gnarly vocals packed their bags long ago. Mastodon is gone. They’re washed up. They’ve left for greener fields (read: money) and more radio friendly music. Like the album art implies, this cow has three mouths to feed and the old sound ain’t raking in the grass so to speak.