By Ellen Eldridge
Admittedly, the name Mastodon sounds like one of those maniacal, hard-hitting bands with a growling singer; the type of band that turns off chicks, and attracts angry, sweaty men. The opening line to The Hunter calls, “I burned out my eyes,” while a melodious guitar riff cushions the blow from the onslaught of drum fills. Mastodon most definitely fits in a metal genre, but those who assumed Mastodon was a death metal band that just screamed incomprehensible lyrics need to check out the artistic and powerful release, The Hunter.
The first two tracks have been released with videos as singles, and these songs, “Black Tongue” and “Curl of the Burl,” take listeners deep into the world of Mastodon. The “Black Tongue” video revolves around the making of the album artwork from the beginning stages throughout the woodworking, and painting process. The intricacy of the creation adds a level of respect from fans for Mastodon because this obviously is not just a band of boys having a wild time; these guys delve into art and music.
In addition to art and music, Mastodon’s decision to write its name in runes speaks to the nature of historical influences. Runes existed as one of the steps in written language. The M, mannaz, often symbolizes man, mankind, or the self. This may have something to do with the themes on The Hunter, but the symbol in the place of the N in Mastodon most closely represents a runic H more than an N. The band, more likely than not, has no desire to say anything about its music or the artistic album themes with the use of the runes. A better guess would indicate the band’s inspiration and drive to explore other worlds.
“Curl of the Burl” extends the art theme, but adds a bit more of a message. According to Blabbermouth (http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=163740), the “burl” is a knot in a tree that drug addicts will cut out and sell to wood-makers and sculptures. The video’s surrealistic direction does a wonderful job taking the viewer on a journey through the woods, which could easily also represent the world itself. The thematic elements, musical, and artistic direction make this Mastodon’s best release yet.
“Blasteroid” contains the first real screaming on the album, and at track three that is not a late introduction, but Mastodon does manage to present the anger-filled vocals with a good amount of melody from the guitar riffs.
The rest of The Hunter stays strong, powerful, and addictive. Melodies like those found in the title track will attract fans from varying genres. Lines like “and the love I take is equal to the love I make” shows the band off as creative and in-tune with the blurry lines between art, music, and poetry.
Mastodon plays The Tabernacle, December 2.