If there’s one thing about heavy metal that’s often overlooked, it’s that the music is as theatrically intense as it is sonically relentless. Take Mastodon, who returned this fall with “The Hunter” — a proper follow-up to the Atlanta metalheads’ critically acclaimed “Crack the Skye.” Not only does “The Hunter” include a download code for a nifty 3-D, interactive “Augmented Reality Experience” to play with, but the intricate cover also captures Mastodon’s rich, mythology-themed music.
“You have to make a good representation of what’s on the inside on the outside,” co-guitarist and singer Bill Kelliher says. “We’re all fans of mythology and dinosaurs and big creatures — the unknown and weird things. All the things that 14-year-old boys are interested in.”
Kelliher pauses, realizing that he just equated Mastodon with juveniles. He laughs: “We’re all still like kids in that way.”
As an actual kid growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Kelliher would browse record stores — and more often than not, it was an album cover that got him hooked before the music.
“I’d pick up the Agnostic Front records, or Iron Maiden’s, and think, ‘Wow, this must be awesome,’” he recalls. “You look at Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ and think, ‘Wow, this is sick!’”
Indeed, we do.
“That’s what drew me in to listening to Iron Maiden or Slayer. It piques your curiosity. If there’s a dumb photo of the band on the cover you think, ‘What is this crap?’ That’s not interesting to me.”
On the ‘Hunt’
Artwork aside, it’s the music that galvanized critics to high praise when “The Hunter” emerged.
“We’re doing the best we can,” says Kelliher. “We had a month before we left for a European tour. I didn’t think we were ready to go into the studio, but lo and behold, all of a sudden we had this amazing f—ing record. It was an outpouring of creativity.”