Thursday, 13 October 2011
There has been a lot of buzz around The Hunter, the latest album from American sludge metal band Mastodon, from a variety of intriguingly different sources. The usual metal media has, of course, been posting the latest news and views, but it's also been heavily talked about in prog rock circles. It's been billed as the "other" prog album of the year, alongside Opeth's Heritage.
If The Hunter is prog, it's a very different kind of prog to Heritage indeed. The songs clock in between 2:36 for the wonderfully titled Blasteroid and 5:31 for The Sparrow. None of your usual 15 minute, multi-part prog noodling here.
In truth, while previous Mastodon albums have been conceptual masterpieces, painting a huge canvas across the whole album, The Hunter feels more like a collection of singles. And yet, at the same time, it doesn't. While the songs are distinct and stand alone, they also work together. There is a definite common theme of "wood" running through the album, from the obvious forestry in Curl of the Burl to the wooden figurehead on the cover.
The songs veer wildly from style to style, from the psychedelic twiddling of Stargasm, the heavy metal of Spectrelight, the straight up pop/rock of Curl of the Burl and the melodic, emotional strains of the title track. The sound is dense and consuming, with great drum work underpinning the guitar riffs and multitude of vocal styles.
The vocals have caused some controversy in the press for the use of autotune, amongst other effects. To be honest, if I hadn't been told, I wouldn't have known, so it's not like the obnoxious roboto-vocals so popular in the pop world right now. The band all seem to have a crack at it, with vocal harmonies coming in to play.
Having bought the special edition version, there are some extra goodies. A full set of music videos that can be watched in track order to provide a great immersive experience, and a somewhat gimmicky "augmented reality" bit. With the use of a webcam, you can replace your head with the … um … creature from the album cover art. I haven't tried it yet.
There is a great variety on this album, and it's both easy to listen to as background, catchy enough to get your attention, as well as providing a wonderful experience if you want to get caught up in the music. I think the fact that in little over a week I have racked up 125 scrobbles says it all.