You can never accuse Mastodon of taking the easy route. Their 2009 release Crack The Skye – an album that dealt with astral travel, wormhole theory, Rasputin and the suicide of drummer Brann Dailor’s sister – drew plaudits for its sprawling inventiveness.
It would have been easy to repeat themselves, to out-prog their finest hour, but instead they’ve returned with an album that refines their sound to its essence.
That’s not to say The Hunter is stripped back. Starting with the kind of huge, loping riff they’re synonymous with on Black Tongue, their mix of vicious vocals, chiming guitars, thrashing verses and disorienting time shifts is as intense as ever. But there’s a QOTSA groove at play in Curl Of The Burl, while the title track’s paranoid, downbeat mood marks it out as a sort of metal Hotel California, while The Creature Lives – starting with B-movie sci-fi bleeps and demonic laughing before turning into and oddly tender anthem – is as close as they’ll ever come to a pop chorus.
Happily, it’s still completely barking, each sublime melody in Blasteroid married to the eye-popping screams of the utterly deranged. Run for cover, because the world’s most interesting metal band have hit it out of the park again.