Published Sep 27, 2011With their last studio release, Atlanta prog-metal boundary-pushers Mastodon were dropping their sprawling extreme metal tunes to create something much more relaxed: the soundtrack to Jonah Hex. And it looks as if the recording process of that 2010 EP has influenced the band's newfound relaxed approach to writing and recording, at least for their new album, The Hunter, which drops today (September 27) through Reprise Records/Warner Bros.
"Some of the parts [on The Hunter] we came up with on the spot," drummer Brann Dailor tells Exclaim! "I think that definitely added to the recording, that it hadn't really been played yet. There were a few songs like that, where we added bridges right at that moment, on the spot. That kind of spontaneity is something we've never really done before. We did do that when we did the soundtrack to Jonah Hex. That might have had something to do with giving us a little more confidence with trusting our knee-jerk moments."
Considering this is the band's fifth album, and with each getting more involved, elaborate and progressive, it comes as no surprise that at some point the band had to step back, shorten the songs and, really, focus on having a good time playing music. The playing is still intricate and head-shaking, but this time around, heads will be shaking out of enjoyment, as well as out of musical puzzlement. Really, Dailor admits that the band were just getting tired of being so technical all the time.
"I guess it's a backlash on ourselves, almost," he explains. "We'd been playing the Crack the Skye  material for the better part of two years, playing it every night. We wanted to let loose a little bit, I guess... I think it speaks for itself; that's where our heads were at."
The seed was sown for the band's newfound love for 4/4 time on "The Czar" off Crack the Skye. That album was filled with the band's usual musical insanity, but said song featured a moment -- a fleeting moment -- of pure rocking glory. The band, after playing it enough live, realized that it was the most fun moment of the album.
"That was the exact pinpoint moment that we talked about as being one of the most fun moments that we had playing that record start to finish," says Dailor. "We'd get to that part and it was so much fun. We'd look around and just be like, 'Yeah, this is awesome.' It's like a funk groove or something. So when it came time to write new music we sort of pinpointed on that exact part."
As previously reported, Mastodon will be taking The Hunter out on a North American tour, which includes a few Canadian tour dates. You can see the schedule here.