I didn't care for Mastodon until Crack the Skye. But that album was just so deep and epic and brilliant it quickly became my all-time favourite album, a title And Justice for All held for 20 years, so no easy feat. I won't say my expectations were high for this album, because I'd seen the interviews where they'd talked about the shorter, catchier songs. But still...
Remember what Metallica did after Justice? The Black Album. Shorter, catchier songs. Taking it easier on themselves. Not pushing themselves as hard. A lot of people liked it better, but a lot of the people who loved them before were disappointed. I feel this is a valid comparison here.
Mastodon, like Metallica at their peak, are/were expert songwriters, who stood above their contemporaries. Whether their tastes simply changed, or they were burned out, or simply lazy is for them to know, but the result is The Hunter. Shorter, frankly easier songs from a songwriting perspective. Hooks that are designed to stick in your head and maybe even gather radio play, at the expense of a better song. The bits and pieces are here to suggest they had another epic album in them, but just didn't bother for one reason or another.
The songs aren't bad, and by a lesser band I might even give this album another star(though still wouldn't enjoy it much). But like I said above, they just sound "easy" from a songwriting point of view. Simple 3-4 minute, verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/done songs, and on to the next one. I've had the album a year and I don't find myself ever putting it in anymore at all. I bought the version with the dvd and never even put in the dvd, so I think that says that I truly never got into the album at all.
Also, as much as I love live music, I don't think these new songs came across very well live.