Since forming in 1999, Mastodon have made some of the most challenging and exciting mainstream metal albums, fusing classically-informed riffs with heavy-ass pummeling and twisted storylines loosely inspired by Moby Dick and fantasy fiction. The Atlanta, Georgia, quartet are the undisputed kings of the genre, able to appeal to a broader audience than devil-horn-throwing biker bros. But with their latest record, they’re comfortable to rest on their laurels — and it suits them.
Unlike breakthrough albums Leviathan or Blood Mountain, The Hunter doesn’t have any overarching storyline or concept — a welcome relief — and Mastodon dial back the prog-rock tendencies to deliver a fairly straightforward hard rock record. Credit goes to producer Mike Elizondo — who also happens to be an A&R exec at the band’s label, so it makes sense that he’d try and clean up their sound in the interest of SoundScan numbers. To wit: The hot, skull-crushing “Curl of the Burl” might be the group’s most straightforward single ever.
But Mastodon aren’t major-label droids — they actually sound like they’re having a genuine blast and frontman Brent Hinds has said in interviews that he hasn’t been this excited about a Mastodon record in years. The major-key anthem “Blasteroid,” for instance, is an uplifting, hard-charging blast — even if, in it, Hinds threatens to “rearrange your face for you.”