"WE JUST LIVE HERE in Atlanta, Georgia, eatin' cheeseburgers, drinkin' beer, and playin' heavy metal."
With an exaggerated Southern drawl, it's obvious that Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor is kidding about the day-to-day existence of the band. Maybe it's not far from the truth, but what Dailor didn't mention is that over the course of only five albums, the Atlanta quartet is already being uttered in the same breath as American metal bands like Slayer and '80s-era Metallica.
Is it deserved? Well, I can't think of another metal band that appeals to hipsters without completely alienating devoted black-clad heshers. And Mastodon continues to expand its audience without compromising its sound. 2009's Crack the Skye saw the band at its proggiest—a sprawling and twisted thicket of riffs whose concept was even more tangled and heavy (the title track was a tribute to Dailor's sister Skye, who committed suicide at the age of 14).
The mood of their latest LP—The Hunter—is far lighter. Lyrically, the record veers away from heavy concepts. Instead of songs like "The Last Baron" and "Divinations," you get "Stargasm" and "Bedazzled Finger Nails." In other words, The Hunter is actually fun. It's still a heavy beast, brought to a glossy sheen by Mike Elizondo, a hiphop producer whose forays into rock have included the likes of Maroon 5 and God-fearing alt-rockers Switchfoot.
"We knew it was going to be big and bad and slick," Dailor explains. "But we're not going to let anyone alter what we do—we're too old and set in our ways."
Dailor offers his own "Creature Lives," which features the drummer handling the song's minute-plus Moog intro as well as taking his first stab at lead vocals. Perhaps it's no coincidence that he cites Phil Collins and, in particular, Genesis' 1980 record Duke as influences on the album.
The loosey-goosey feel of The Hunter only makes Mastodon's unpredictability even more compelling. Like it or not, this is a band that can do whatever they want... and get away with it every time. And Dailor has no problem taking you along with them. "The more, the merrier," he says.