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Mastodon
The Hunter

Reprise

What makes Mastodon better than so many other heavy metal acts? Let me count the ways.

The members play music like they truly mean it rather than just playing a role. That scowl seen in photos doesn’t give the impression of musicians trying too hard to conform to the genre’s hardass image. All of them give the vibe that a beat down could be imminent. And unlike numerous peers, the material is never lazy. The songs actually feature hooks and singing rather than riffs for riffs sake and the patented acid-washed heavy metal growl. And finally, because Mastodon puts out albums like The Hunter.

The group’s fifth album supplies the elements we’re accustomed to by the band’s recordings — aggressive rhythms, soaring melodies, precise playing, but, most importantly, progress. Opening track, “Black Tongue,” races ahead with an equal amount of blunt force and unrelenting hooks. “All the Heavy Lifting” offers the seamless complex musical shifts that we expect from the Atlanta quartet yet shares that sonic space with harmonic elements before wrapping up with the song’s dark chorus (“Just close your eyes/And pretend that everything’s fine…”). The spacey opening of “Creature Lives” mashes Rush’s “2112,” Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” and Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner” before combining prog rock elements with the band’s patented roar. And similar to Nirvana cloaking its pop tendencies with the tandem of fuzztone guitars, bass and drums, Mastodon does the same on “Curl of the Burl” as well portions of “Blasteroid.”

The Hunter finishes on an uplifting note with “The Sparrow,” a mostly instrumental eulogy to a friend that features another nod to Pink Floyd. The acoustic/electric track is unashamedly beautiful and emotional as it supplies a light at the end of the tunnel following all the terror, confusion and sadness that preceded it.

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