Atlanta metal band Mastodon made its name on sprawling thematic albums that take on subjects that are literary (2004's breakthrough, Leviathan, retold Moby-Dick with 13-minute prog epics), spacious (wormholes, souls and suicide were all covered in 2009's Crack the Skye) and perplexing (what was Blood Mountain about again?). Their terrific fifth album, The Hunter, scales back a bit, with most tracks clocking in at three and four minutes; only album closer "The Sparrow" makes it past five. Frontman Brent Hinds can still be cryptic with his lyrics (try wrapping your head around "Curl of the Burl"), but the relatively straightforward attack of songs like "Black Tongue" make this Mastodon's most economical effort. The Hunter isn't as epic as Mastodon's past couple of albums, but it's just as brutally awesome. —Michael Gallucci
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