Over their first four albums, these Georgia sludgethrashers grew increasingly conceptual, centering lyrics around classical elements (fire, water, earth) while expanding toward classical-movement song lengths. But after 2009’s grandiose Crack the Skye – which had an 11-minute epic called “The Czar” – The Hunter reins things in: no tracks over six minutes, and a straightforward attack close to post-grunge commercial rock. Producer Mike Elizondo – whose résumé includes Switchfoot, Maroon 5 and lots of hip-hop – was presumably a catalyst. But he doesn’t stop Brent Hinds’ and Bill Kelliher’s guitars from sparking at odd angles or intertwining like kudzu, and there are moments of leftfield eccentricity: the swamp-beast psych of “Creature Lives,” or “Spectrelight,” an over-the-top blitzkrieg with guest roaring from Neurosis’ Scott Kelly. Mainly, though, The Hunter demonstrates how contemporary radio rock can still be made with imagination, precision and a majestic sense of force.
Listen to “Creature Lives”: