"Kids are going to get in trouble to this album," Mastodon guitarist-vocalist Brent Hinds says of the Atlanta metal band's fifth LP, The Hunter (due later this year). "They're going to break speakers, pop springs on their beds and get drunk and nude in public."
Hinds had just wrapped the album's final guitar solo when he sat down with bassist-vocalist Troy Sanders, drummer-vocalist Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher in a lounge at Atlanta's Doppler Studios. Before convening here in early May, the band joined producer Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre, Gwen Stefani) in Southern California to track drums in the same room where Nirvana's Nevermind and Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes were recorded. "To be in a room where all that stuff went down is a big deal to us," says Dailor. "We're nerds like that."
Elizondo’s extensive work with rappers (Dr. Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent) and pop stars (Pink, Gwen Stefani) made him a less-than-obvious choice to produce, but he’d been anxious to work with Mastodon for years. "Long before I had done any stuff with Dr. Dre, most of my early band experiences were in metal bands," Elizondo says. "It just became one of those things where I put it out there that I was interested and waited to see if anyone took me seriously."
After 2009's Crack the Skye – a harrowing epic inspired by the suicide of Dailor's sister and the near-fatal brain hemorrhage Hinds suffered after a drunken fistfight – the band was ready to cut loose. Case in point: "Blasteroids," a punk-metal sprint that includes repeated howls of "I wanna drink some fucking blood!"
The band expect as many as 14 songs on the final album. Already, they've also got "Curl of the Burl," a swaggering, deep-grooved rocker in the Queens of the Stone Age mold, and "The Octopus," whose cascades of dizzying guitar licks work toward a massive, anthemic chorus. Then there's "Stargasm," which lays galloping riffs over stadium-size drums. "It's about fucking in space," says Dailor, who devised a sci-fi story line for The Hunter — but the concept was ultimately scrapped.
Adds Dailor, "Brent was like, 'Fuck all that! Let's just have fun."
• Mastodon Unleash the Beast Within: Read Rolling Stone's 2009 Feature
• Heavy Metal Stalwarts Mastodon Prep New Album of Different Material
• Video: 'The Hunter' Album Trailer
• Video: Mastodon Talk LSD, Iron Maiden, Singing in Dave Grohl's Bathroom
This story is from the August 4, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.