You read that title correctly. By now, anyone with even a passing interesting in metal news knows Mastodon recently put out the first single from their upcoming fifth album, The Hunter. The song, entitled “Black Tongue,” is linked below if you somehow have avoided this piece of news all day.
Let me be frank: I do not like this at all. I’m a huge Mastodon fan; I truly enjoyed all four albums preceding this one and I was initially excited by the prospect of Mastodon (for lack of a better word) dumbing their music back down from the epic prog structures of Crack the Skye. I really would like to enjoy this song, but I just can’t. The obvious culprit of my disdain is of course Troy’s vocals, which have quickly bridged the gap between endearingly bad and outright horrible. Can you imagine him even attempting these live? People unfamiliar with Mastodon are going to think it’s a Saturday Night Live skit.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the vocals either. The music sounds like a much more restrained Mastodon where the things that created their massive fan base (energy, virtuoso ability, intensity) have been swapped out in favor of things that placate the tastes of the Warner Bros. elite. Anyone could be playing this music; there is nothing particularly unique (or Mastodonian, if you will) about it, and if this were any other band I would have stopped the song one minute in and never would have given it a second thought for the rest of my life. But this isn’t just another band. This is Mastodon, the band I expect great things from and have received great things from up until this point.
To receive something of this quality isn’t quite like watching Metallica go from …And Justice for All to The Black Album, but it is a bit like Megadeth going from Rust in Peace to Countdown to Extinction. Maybe the rest of the album will redeem this one song, but I fear the Mastodon I have come to love is no more.