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I... I don't know what happened here. I really don't. Blood Mountain was a testament to what modern metal could be (I still don't know what to call Mastodon's style, so "modern metal" is just gonna have to be the big catch-all until I think of an appropriate title), and while each successive Mastodon release got a little bit less heavy (nothing was going to top the sheer weight of Remission, as flawed as the album may be), they were inventive and interesting and, most importantly, fantastic songwriters. They could take all these elements I'd normally abhor and somehow craft very infectious and memorable tunes around them. I really admired that ability, and no amount of overexposure or radio play is going to make me enjoy Blood Mountain or Leviathan less.
But the truth is, when Crack the Skye first came out, it pissed me off so much that I didn't listen to Mastodon at all for nearly four years. From the release date of this fourth album until the day I started this series, I didn't intentionally listen to a single note from this band.
Yes, Crack the Skye is really that fucking bad. All the kind of eccentric proggy elements I wasn't fond of but could appreciate how they made them blend with everything else before have taken center stage, and instead of aggressive barnburners and strong, catchy melodies and choruses, we are now inundated with long, spacy prog jams, and endless slow tapping melodies and 100% Mudvayne vocals. It blows my mind how they could have spent their first three albums constantly refining their sound, perfecting the little details and carving out their own specific niche, just to reach this point and go "You know what? Fuck all that, we want a more intelligent audience, so let's just drop the heavy influences we have and instead focus on Genesis and Dream Theater and the light Opeth songs". I'm not crying because they changed (hell, every previous album was distinctly different from its predecessor), I'm crying because the change they made sucks like a turbocharged hoover.
This reminds me a lot of what happened with Norwegian black metal hellions, 1349, with their fourth album (released two months after this here), Revelations of the Black Flame. Both bands had started off pretty raw and unrefined and then nailed their particular sound on their third albums, and then for their fourth had apparently just decided that they needed a change and completely abandoned what they were good at. 1349 did not play to their strengths by abandoning the frantically brutal and straightforward black metal and instead focusing on ambient, and Mastodon did not play to their strengths by abandoning the punchy heaviness and strong, hardnosed aggression and melody by instead focusing on longwinded and melodic prog rock. Mastodon taking a huge influence from Pink Floyd and King Crimson seems interesting at first, but when you actually hear it in action it just ends up horrendously depressing. A band as frantic and energetic as this just doesn't translate well to this laid back style of songwriting. The band never lets loose like they're so good at doing, and even Durgha spends all of his time in the background just giving very simple backing beats as opposed to the nigh endless showboating he's so well known for.
So the flair is toned down and it's a lot less showy, that doesn't necessarily mean it's inherently bad, right? Most of the time, sure, but here it's proven pretty early on that when Mastodon wanders outside of their established home base, they just end up lost and confused and have no idea what in the hell they're doing. All seven tracks here just kind of meander about without much cohesion between the individual instruments or the vocals. And oh yeah, the vocals are at their all time worst at this point. Not only is the Mudvayne voice the only real vocal lead (I still don't know which member sounds like individually, sue me, they're all similar), but it's also more nasally than ever before. It's like he has a dastardly head cold that they couldn't wait to heal because they'd already booked the studio time. The perplexingly popular "Oblivion" is a perfect showcase for such an issue, as that damn chorus repeats itself seemingly dozens of times, and his voice just grates and grates and grates and oh god make him stop Jesus Christ it's making my liver hurt somehow. The vocals usually just drone over the top of whatever flittery psychedelic passages are noodling around in the background, and it just lacks any semblance of memorability throughout the runtime of the entire album. It's bewildering, one of the band's main strengths in the past was writing the catchiest songs they could while using abrasive and seemingly incompatible elements, and yet here they focused on one style and managed to cock it up all-encompassingly. Mastodon is not Pink Floyd, they can't write songs like this and make them work. They tried, I can say they really obviously put their hearts into this album and I can appreciate such a personal and heartfelt effort, the problem is that it's totally ineffectual and they just can't get this sound down correctly.
There are moments that are passable, like the "Let it gooo, LET IT GOOOO" chorus of "Quintessence", and the heavier part near the end of the same track that reminds me of "Capillarian Crest" from the previous album, and there are sections here and there in the way-too-fucking-long-because-we're-actually-a-real-life-prog-band-now-aren't-you-proud-of-us-yet-dad? "The Last Baron". There's also one woefully short heavy segment about halfway through "Ghosts of Karelia" that works pretty well (probably because it's the most Blood Mountain-y segment on the album), but that's it. Three or four short sections throughout a fifty minute psychedelic prog rock jam session, and that's an awful average. Far too much of the album is spent trying to be all spacey and trippy and smart and it just ends up sounding so goddamn phony. Yeah, I just said that they obviously tried very hard, but I still feel like this is insincere in a way. To me, there are two ways this album came about; either the band was tired of the Adult Swim crowd they'd garnered and wanted to attract more "intellectual" fans, or they'd just finally reached cosmic levels of drug intake and decided to pay homage to all the pretty colors they'd been tasting for the last few years. Either way, it was a shitty idea and no amount of genuineness can change that.
Funnily enough, I feel like the band understood the problems with the album, as there are instrumental versions of each song floating around out there somewhere and they've since released an EP which featured shortened versions of the two needlessly overlong tracks. Granted, the instrumental tracks were probably more to please the prog nerds/themselves and the abridged EP was probably the label's idea or their attempt to just cave in and please everybody, but either way they at least eliminate two of the bigger problems with the vocals and bad structuring. But even with those cut out, the album is still flawed on a conceptual level and falls flat on its face straight out of the gate. It's strange how when they take a bunch of different ideas and try mashing them up, they manage to craft some intense and hooky songs, but the instant they focus on one particular sound, they just completely bomb. Crack the Skye is a bad experiment, and a terrible progression that just went against everything the band had been building to and working towards. The laid back style doesn't at all work with the band's chemistry, and the album as a whole ends up sounding paradoxically unfocused and meandering despite being their first attempt to rein in their songwriting to one particular style. This is honestly offensively bad to the point where I abandoned the band entirely upon first listening to it, and to the shock of nobody, time has not sweetened it. They had been constantly improving up to this point, and then somehow managed to just wreck it in a fiery hodgepodge of shitty psychedelia and warbly nose-vocals.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
They say a band's third album is their defining record, pieces of music elegantly grafted together at its very best, but this is not the case for this record. Mastodon have showed that they are an experimental band and that they're not afraid to try outrageous new ideas, even if it means that they go against the underground where they most certainly emerged from. Crack The Skye is perhaps the bands most progressive record and also the first one on which deploy a lot of clean, melodic singing. Gone are the days when Troy growled into the microphone like a monomaniac and the days when Dailor lead the entire song. There is certainly a lot of growling and screeching, but it's far more refined and composed.
As previously mentioned, this record is very different from anything Mastodon have released before. First off, you have a single like "Oblivion", which will strike any avid Mastodon listener by surprise. However, the band manages to pull off this weird concoction of prog rock and pop-sounding vocals with a nice twist, making it an unbelievably energetic track and a fantastic introduction to the album. However, this is hardly the template for the record, which is actually very diverse and quite technical. What is most important, however, is to realize the song structures here are a lot less predictable and sometimes even extensive and demand a lot of from the listener. "The Last Baron", for example, is an indefatigable track with all kinds of lush surprises, is around 13 minutes in length, and most tracks go on past the five minute mark.
The drums on this record are also far less hectic than previous records and my intuition is that Dailor has had to reform his style for the sake of such a concept record (which is actually about the suicide of his sister), making this record a more conventional progressive record than the mysterious strain of heavy metal Mastodon endorsed on their previous records. Make no mistake, the drumming is extremely interesting, progressively- based, and Dailor is a master of his craft, keeping things spectacularly interesting throughout the duration of the album. Interestingly, the guitars really stand out on this record, making it one of Mastodon's most interesting. There is a ton of hybrid picking in this and on the track "Divinations"; you almost get a death metal, Necrophagist-like feeling to the main riff, which is absolutely awesome.
Finally, this in a sense bares a lot of new ideas that worked fabulously well for Mastodon. They're unbelievable singers and musicians who can write a 10 minute-plus song with deep intricacies and melancholic tales of failure and isolation, but also a catchy four minute track. The band have truly matured with this record, with every instrument standing out and the songwriting is being taken to another level. Be prepared to indulge yourself in Mastodon's most despondent, yet articulate record, and by far their crowning masterpiece.
Sludge/prog metal masters returned in 2009 with their newest album, Crack the Skye. Three years prior, they released Blood Mountain, which is a totally different cup of tea than this album. In fact, this album is a step in a completely different direction than Mastodon's other albums. Each of Mastodon's albums contains a different theme, musically and lyrically. Remission is fire, Leviathan is water, Blood Mountain is earth, and Crack the Skye is aether (which is actually not a real element, but a 'classical' element that was used a long time ago to represent the matter that fills space). For Mastodon to capture this feeling of space and vast emptiness and astral travel, they needed to change it up a bit musically. I've read a handful of reviews on this album and the thing people seem to be disappointed with (among other things) is the direction they took with this album. Trying to write a concept album on the themes listed above with the same feeling and techniques used in something like Leviathan or Remission simply just will not work, and that is why Mastodon took a way more proggy approach to this album than any others.
Taking influences from Pink Floyd, Crack the Skye is a very deep album on all accounts. The title of the album is a homage to drummer Brann Dailor's sister Skye who committed suicide at age 14. He said the amount of feelings he experienced at the time was enough to crack the sky. That's some heavy stuff, and paying homage to her with an album such as this is very cool as it can make her memory eternal.
Something I noticed on this album immediately is that there is a constant feeling that something is really not right at all, coupled with a spacey, psychedelic vibe. This doesn't go away even after years of listening to this album (I got this album when it came out in March of '09 because I thought the cover looked cool), and even now as I listen to it again for the thousandth time I notice little things that I haven't before. Whether it be a bass line from Troy, a particular drum pattern from Brann, or certain riffs from guitarists Brent or Bill, it's very cool and there are lots of nice little touches on this album.
My favourite thing on this album is definitely Brann Dailor's drumming. He is an excellent drummer and one of my favourites. His drumming feels very natural, whether it be lightning fast and thrashy or slow and atmospheric, which is showcased on Crack the Skye. One thing that I would like to mention to newcomers to Mastodon is that you should try to listen to each of Mastodon's records with an open mind. I found it hard to get past Brent Hind's howling vocals, but it eventually grew on me and I really enjoy them now.
In short, Mastodon's fourth album, Crack the Skye, is an excellent trip through space and time. With a wonderful concept, lyrics, and instrumentation, it's something everybody should listen to at least once.
Ghost of Karelia
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, "Crack the Skye" is plainly a masterpiece. It's both progressive AND heavy at the same time, making EVERY self-proclaimed "prog" Dream Theater-worshipping band, as well as Dream Theater themselves sound unnecessary, pointless and pretentious.
What Mastodon has managed to do is what no one else but Metallica had previously done in the metal world: create an album that can be intellectual without going soft, like all "prog" metal bands, and still sound metal-as-fuck without being extreme. Practically, the only well-known band that has achieved something remotely similar is Neurosis, but Neurosis has a lot of hardcore influences and thus does not count. And, yes, I know Mastodon is influenced by Neurosis, but fuck you, of course they are, Neurosis is a band that has huge artistic potential, as they have displayed multiple times. And the Mastodon guys definitely don't rip off anything, since whereas Neurosis is more oriental and atmospheric, Mastodon frequently go for "happier" parts, such as in "Divinations".
So, what comprises the sound? Four guys that simply love what they do. The riffs vary from mountain-heavy or melodic mid paced parts, to arpeggios, to fast progressive riffs that might resemble Yes or Rush, to licks that fill your soul with thousands of different emotions, to peculiar dissonant chords... Brent Hinds and Bill Keliher deliver a playing that retains the listener's interest with its plethora of styles, without any parts that don't fit well with each other. This is especially evident on closing track "The Last Baron", which is according to the band "a collection of riffs", and depicts a continuity which is rare for compositions of this kind. And there's also the solos, that -thank Satan- have no shredding parts at all. The bass parts have a key role, as they often play the main melody while the guitars enrich the songs with more elaborate musical phrashing. Except for those occasions, there are bone-crusher parts that you can feel in your stomach if you listen to the album via speakers of high fidelity. And there are also parts when the bass just follows the guitars, or vice-versa, I couldn't know... Finally, I find the drumming to be extremely appealing as there are tons of creative fillers and tom-tom parts that give a sense of direction to the songs. Personally, Brann Dailor is one of my three favourite modern drummers, alongside Gavin Harisson of Porcupine Tree and Jamie Saint Merat of Ulcerate. His fillers also resemble Bill Ward, due to their overall creativity and the fact that there is not a pair of identical fillers through the whole album. The production is crystal clear yet not sterile, and as a consequence all the instruments are perfectly audible.
I would elaborate on the concept of the album but I don't want to since there are plenty different interpretations and it would take hours. Of course, the fact that it's up to everyone to interprete it however they mean to makes the existence of the concept interesting.
All in all, "Crack the Skye" is a virtually flawless opus from a band that always pushed boundaries. You should definitely listen to it if you like anything from King Crimson to Kylesa... damn, even if you don't, Mastodon's magnificent fourth album might blow you away!
Look guys, this album is extremely love/hate for each person that gives it a listen. You're going to listen to it the first time and one of two things will happen. Either you will experience a weird, psychedelic, euphoric music-gasm like most of the reviewers on here apparently had. Or, you'll be like me, and say "what the hell?! This isn't Mastodon. At least not even close to the way I remember them."
Understand this: I'm just a casual metalhead who listens to shit on pandora, downloads the whole album that a particular good song is on, listen to the rest of the songs on it once or twice, and if I don't love a certain song, I delete it without hesitation before transferring everything to my MP3 player. Music is awesome but I don't obsess over deep lyrical meanings and tiny nuances in supposedly legendary riffs that require an esoteric sense of music comprehension to fully appreciate. Perhaps this makes me somewhat of a "common" man, if you will, but so be it.
That said, if you are the kind of person that derives extreme pleasure from listening to cryptic, mystical music pieces, you're going to love this album. It's got plenty of rich, floaty psychedelic riffage and shit to launch your brain into the throes of ecstasy with every listen. Honestly, even I slightly enjoy a few choice parts from the album, maybe a section or two from songs like The Czar, Crack the Skye, and Divinations.
BUT. IF you are like me at all. You're going to be like WTF man. IMO, Remission was great, a delicious, raw new prog metal album. Leviathan was even better, with more unique riffs and overall generally better. Blood Mountain was a step down, but still pretty darn good because it's Mastodon dude!! And then Crack The Skye came along, and messed up the whole thing. Yeah some people are going to be like "whoa, the change is great man, they're experimenting and it totally worked, it's so cool to see their music 'evolving'" but this is a very drastic change, and you know what? I liked Mastodon just the way they were when Brann was blasting out ridiculous, unpredictable jazz drumming and Brent was shredding out beautiful, heavy riffs on such songs as Capillarian Crest and Bladecatcher. I miss that. Where is it on this album? Nowhere. Just spacey, soft, slow, pussified music that I would probably rather use as a lullaby than something I'd actually take time out of my day to listen to for pleasure.
As unforgiving as Empyreal's review may be, I have to say that he pretty much hit the nail on the head. And he has a right to be pissed off. What the hell happened to the awesome Mastodon we used to know? I sincerely hope they just don't get big heads from all the positive reviews they're getting, and play all the songs from this stupid album at a future concert that I might potentially go to, performing only a few songs from their GOOD albums.
Like I said boys and girls, you're going to absolutely love it or absolutely hate it. Give it a listen on grooveshark and see which side you take before you buy it.
Mastodon is a band that I have long loathed and have written off as a trailblazing predecessor to that of The Sword, both of which have been putting out sub-par versions of traditional doom and sludge respectively and have amassed a legion of religiously devoted fans, comprised primarily of pseudo-metal hipster types. Mastodon’s transgressions against the gods of steel guising as albums are noted for excess showboating by the drummer, meshed against songwriting that is either garbled and lacking organization, or so woefully steeped in cliché and outwardly formulaic that they were largely unbearable to any ear trained in the interpreting the sonic nuances outside the pop or jam band paradigm. Nevertheless, while The Sword has continued to sully the good name of Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath mercilessly, these Georgians have managed to make the rounds a bit and have put together an album that is actually reasonable to listen to.
“Crack The Skye” is all but a full fledged throwback in terms of style, hearkening to various 70s influences to augment an otherwise mud drenched sound, as can be guessed by the similarity that the album title shares with a somewhat obscure American rock band from said era. Bits of mid-70s Black Sabbath, most particularly that of “Sabotage” intermingle with some pieces of Manilla Road and Rainbow. The atmosphere is quite dense, as the riff work ventures frequently from Groove drones to more Progressive rhythmic devices, while a dense bass production and a thick haze of cymbal crashes and drum work covers the 4 corners of the outworking sound like oil over loud pumping engine pistons. But while all of this is only a moderate departure from the band’s sound as heard on “Leviathan”, the ears of all who love coherence will be pleased to hear that Brann Dailor has finally decided to settle down and keep the beat rather than drown out everyone else with pretentious fills every 4 seconds.
In spite of all the noteworthy improvements going on here, this is pretty far removed from a perfect album. The clean vocals have still retained a rather unpleasantly excessive nasal quality to them, often being akin to Ozzy Osbourne meets Mark Shelton with a really bad fit of the common cold. It’s not quite as offensive as was the case on “Blood Mountain”, but on a lot of the more vocally oriented songs like “The Last Baron” and “Divinations” it is pretty damned pervasive and draws the ears away from some otherwise intricate music. There is also an occasional tendencies towards over-ambitiousness, particularly on “The Last Baron”, which suffers from having a few too many ideas for its own good. Picture a really contorted mixture of Kyuss, Dream Theater, Trouble, and a host of 70s Progressive outfits and you’ll get the idea. It’s not outwardly terrible like some other overlong songs that are in this band’s back catalog, but it gets pretty awkward after the first 6 minutes.
If someone wanted to give this band a first time listen, this would be the album to start with, and in my opinion the only one really worth getting. It is definitely geared towards an audience comprised of psychedelic stoner rockers and progressive rock nuts, ergo a lot of people with beards, ponytails, and tucked-in t-shirts. It’s not the earth-shattering masterpiece that many are hyping it as, but for what it is, it gets the job done. For what it’s worth, this album has turned one of this band’s most hardened skeptics into one that sees a bit of potential looming for future releases, provided that they maintain this stylistic direction of course.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 9, 2010.
This is it? This is the Mastodon album everyone is tossing as the new masterpiece, this revolutionary modern classic? This is what everyone is excited about? Holy fuck, this sucks. Fuck, I can barely even listen to this tripe. How is everyone else so enamored with it? I honestly rarely hate albums as much as I do this one, because I actually went out of my way to praise Mastodon’s last album Blood Mountain, which I still think is pretty good. But for them to put out this…it’s nothing less than completely inexcusable.
This is Crack the Skye, and it sucks so hard that I am inclined to believe it was made by a completely different band and accidentally released under the Mastodon name. I bet the record executives just forgot to check the tape; that must be it. This was a project by some no-name group of mountain-men from the Rockies; probably incestuous child-rapists without any kind of formal musical training. Heinous devil-men with blunt head trauma from falling down rocks and genitals swollen from having to pull out cactus spikes too often.
But alas. I cannot rest in realms of fantasy forever. Mastodon made this album, and it is my duty to verbally castrate them for it. Let the festivities begin:
Alternative rock choruses, obnoxiously bland guitarwork and unnaturally nasal vocals, oh my! Mastodon have conjured up something here that is so far away from metal that it’s hard to believe so many people are fooled into thinking this is some kind of a progression. Frankly, anyone who thinks this is any kind of a metal masterpiece or a progressive one is high. I do not want any of what these people are smoking, nor do I ever want to meet any of them in person.
The album kicks off with a song that nobody will ever remember after its end, one that is perhaps the most unmemorable song I have ever heard in my entire life. It is titled “Oblivion,” and I have to wonder here, how is it possible to make this kind of progressive rock so god-awfully painful? It’s some of the most wretchedly unpleasant music ever. The rumbling guitars and whiddly leads should be inoffensive, but they’re played in such a condescending, self-conscious manner that they become…vile, uneasy and despicable. The vocals don’t help. They’re whiny and obnoxious, and it’s probably the worst clean vocal performance I’ve ever heard in my life from a major band like this. Good god, he makes Ozzy sound like Dio! It’s absolutely atrocious. Everything he sings is specifically tailored to be as painful as possible. Listen to that chorus on “Divinations” – have you ever in your life heard something that disgustingly snobbish? It is sung with this horrible self-righteousness, this terrible “ironic” sort of arrogance; you can hear it in that sleazy sheen to his whiny rambling. It’s like they’re talking down to the listener for buying their album, for falling for it!
“Quintessence” has a chorus that goes “Let it go, let it go!” Fitting, in the sense that the song is pretty much a six-minute extraction of the band’s collective bowels. Completely disgusting. “The Czar” is like Black Sabbath or Pink Floyd played by morons who don’t understand the first thing about atmosphere and flow, and “Ghost of Karelia” incorporates Thrash riffing as bland and out of place as it can possibly be. The title track is stupidly heavy, sounding the most like the Mastodon I know and love, but also not being anywhere near as compelling or interesting. “The Last Baron” finishes with a whopping thirteen minutes of ridiculously boring, tepid droning and psychedelic vomit that would make Jimi Hendrix cry. It’s a dreadful song without any kind of entertainment value. Dragging, overwrought and annoying, this is a surefire way to show people how NOT to end a music album.
This is just bad all around; there’s nothing good about it. Sure, a few of the leads are pretty good, but they’re not very memorable, and they don’t rise above the sea of splooge that are the songs they’re submerged in. I just don’t get the entire idea behind this. The progressions are aimless; they do not seem to have any direction at all. The songs are ear-bleeding awful, being unbelievably pretentious in their delivery and also doubly not sounding any good. The music is just unpleasant all around, sounding dishonest, mean-spirited and just all around puerile, in both instrumentation and feel.
Frankly, I’ve figured out why everyone thinks this is so revolutionary. It’s very clear to me now. Obviously those people who praised it for that reason were praising it because there was never before anything so universally fucking annoying! That must be it! Truly, Crack the Skye is a masterclass in horrendous songwriting and aimless attempts at progression. I’ve never heard anything so wretched in tone and irritating in mood, so unbelievably boring and excruciating. It’s as if it was a dream – nothing in reality could be so senselessly offensive to my common morality!
…yeah, Mastodon suck now. Too bad, I guess.
Oh My God...those were the only words I had when I first finished listening to this incredible album. I had never heard such a well recorded, well produced, and well performed album before this one. From the opening octaves in Oblivion, to the final breaths of The Last Baron, this ingenious Prog. Metal album has combined the best of 60's Prog. Rock and Metal into one killer album. It never once loses its intensity, never loses its beat and feel that each song presents, and each song actually seems to be able to lead into one another. Unlike Blood Mountain with its groove metal beats and playing style, each song is put in the perfect order based on the sounds it ends with, and that is part of the reason why this is so damn good of an album.
This isn't the Mastodon that made Blood Mountain, this is the new Mastodon. This is what Mastodon is made to do, this is their style and they have revolutionized both the style and the sound of Prog. It sounds richer, more complete in a way, especially with the amazing performance by Brann. All the great build ups he does that lead into the beats he performs are absolutely astounding, hes not just doing fill after fill, hes actually building the beats on top of the riffs the Brent and Bill are laying down. Along with all the auxiliary percussion pieces that he uses throughout the album (easiest to tell is of course the gong on Ghost of Karelia) it adds those little sounds that enhance the power of the sound on this album. You can hardly sometimes even notice they are there, but after listening a few times you begin to hear these things. All those little things really enhanced the sounds that they were producing.
The solos performed by Brent throughout the album are some of the best solos I've heard out of him. Each one fits so perfectly to both the chord progression and the overall feel of each song and in some cases the entire album itself. Especially how he is able to combine that 60’s sound of his guitar with his metal style of playing, the result is a sound like no other. He is able to make excellent use of his great guitar playing and really making some great solos and also great riffs.
The lyrics are also a huge improvement compared to other albums. The story that they tell and the passages from certain texts the band cites, and just the overall story of the lyrics are very captivating.
Prog. Metal and Rock have never interested me as much but after listening to this album at least 4 or 5 times, I have come to enjoy it even more each time I listen. Each time you are able to find something that you didn't know was there before or a different way to hear each song. This album will be a classic amongst many metalheads for a long time to come.
(Oblivion, Divinations, The Czar, Crack The Skye, The Last Baron)
This is one of my favorites already, really. After I saw the video for Oblivion, which may be my favorite on here, I knew I was in store for something special, never listening to Mastodon because I passed them off as a simple death metal band in the past. I already had high expectations when I tracked Skye down, and it not only met those expectations with a full fist to the face, it bullied past them with such energy, balance and intensity that once the fifty minutes were done, my mind was thoroughly melted. Never before has there been such a perfectly performed progressive, groove metal album, defying Mastodon's previous heavier standpoint and replacing it with an even sturdier and just as penetrating sound as before, a change rarely pulled off well. In fact, I would dare say that there's no way to put this album to words truly.
The first, most obvious change (and at this point, over iterated) is the complete absence of death vocals, which is a welcome change in my opinion. The second is that Crack the Skye is much more progressive than their previous efforts, two songs reaching at least ten minutes and all of the rest but one reaching five. I believe the progressive styling of this album is very appropriate Mastodon's sound, more so than their more straightforward anthems of old. The writing of the album is extremely inspired, never feeling repetitive or familiar. There won't be a lot of "that sounds like-" moments, because Crack the Skye doesn't really sound like many other projects out there. One comparison that can be made is the occasional similarity to the music of Opeth, particularly the first 30 seconds of the title track, something tolerable because of the great talent of that group as well. CTS is largely it's own beast, though, being unique more often than not.
Fear not metal minions, as Crack the Skye still retains a certain level of heaviness, sometimes in great amounts, especially on the song Crack the Skye. The guitar and the drums on the album will be the heaviest elements on it, which are always rocking, and I don't need to mention how good of a drummer (and vocalist, as it turns out) Brann Dailor is, who felt especially inspired on this release since it dedicated to his sister who committed suicide at age 14. There is no ballad on here, so no need to worry about that. The entire album uses this kind of classic distorted tone, and even the musical direction can be described as 70's style, particularly Quintessence and The Last Baron. These are probably the softest, yet super-progressive, tracks on the album. Every song destroys on this record, and it might be the first time I've heard all of the songs nearly achieve the on the same level, and what a great level it is.
Oblivion is one of the best openers I've ever heard, an atmospheric journey without a misgiving. The catchiness of the whole song is surprising considering the dark and gloomy tone that dominates Crack the Skye in entirety. Divinations is overrated, and the worst on the album, but it's still great, of course. I guess what gets to me is it's simplistic nature and short duration. Quintessence is one of two songs on here that I believe to be underrated masterpieces, with a classic composition of old-school rock. The Czar is absolutely incredible, the best of the two lengthy ones on here. Split up into four awesome parts, The first is my favorite, with the most memorable rhythm of the album ("don't stay, run away"- stuck in my head every time.)
Ghost of Karelia is the perfect encore, with an awe-inspiring opening rhythm and overall dark feel. Good vocals on this one, too. Crack the Skye is fully inspired by Brann's sister, and the anger and pain there is represented perfectly as the heaviest song on the record. Very memorable verses. The Last Baron finally finishes this (literally) perfect album, and the singing comes fast into the song, which is kind of ironic considering that it is the longest at thirteen minutes. Sometimes I think it might be a bit overlong, but that certainly doesn't take away from this fine closer.
Guitar solos are performed very adequately, the best of which I believe grace Oblivion and Divinations, but the leads and rhythms are the highlight in my opinion. They are always perfectly written and fit the other instruments well, a large piece in the overall puzzle of Crack the Skye’s perfect sound. The production is the glue that keeps all the varying parts together and conformed, infusing every last element into a seamless quality that knows no planetary bounds. In the end, it all comes off as an intelligent deep-space sound with a substantial meaning underneath the layers of heaviness; nothing less than epic through and through.
Two words for this album are “mature” and “inspired“. The staggering atmospheric volume of the record is elevated with keyboard touches and occasional vintage synth rhythms in the background of a few songs, being especially effective on Crack the Skye and The Last Baron, adding yet another dimension to the infinite sound of the album. However, this won’t be one of those albums that impairs your ability to enjoy it due to sheer technicality and complexity (see Twisted Into Form.) The songs never feel like there is too much going on at one time, but there is enough to raise it past a simplistic nature.
This will be an album that is listened to religiously, several times every day, unlike those all-too-many CDs collecting dust after just a couple of listens. And yet it is also not for everyone. With the sudden complete change of direction, it is likely that some people will hate Crack the Skye. My advice to all fans of the previous Mastodon albums is to precede with caution but also with an open mind, because it would be a shame to miss such an overall achievement due to pre-conceived doubts of the melodic progressivism performed here, which has taken place of the fast and screaming pace that held the majority over previous works. Just dim the lights and feel the flow of musicianship coming off in waves. Those who do won’t be disappointed!
Crack the Skye exploded out of the starting gate early upon it's release, backed by a couple of the greatest singles ever (Oblivion, Divinations), and it finished first by a mile. Crack the Skye will stand forever among my hierarchy of favorites, as I hope it will rank for you if you hear it. Any questions?
Mastodon have always been strange territory for me. Their mythical lyrical subject matter is deeply appealing to me, however I’ve always found something not to like about their music. Their early releases usually had a few songs that were pounding enough to get my head moving, but those moments weren’t frequent enough to hold my interest. Unfortunately, their sound has gone from bad to worse since the groove-laden wankfest that was Blood Mountain. Crack The Skye shows a brand spanking new Mastodon, one that has abandoned nearly all traces of their metal past. Doesn’t that sound interesting and ambitious? Read on.
I am always willing to welcome changes and reinventions within bands, but only when it is well planned out. It surprises me how widely accepted this massive shift in Mastodon’s music has been among fans, because it really doesn’t grasp me. That said, I commend them for not making Blood Mountain Part Two, because that certainly wouldn’t be interesting. The first big change one would likely note upon listening to Crack The Skye is that this is definitely more melodic than previous Mastodon albums. Then again, I don’t feel ‘melodic’ is the right word, because what’s melodic music without catchy melodies? I would say that words such as ‘softer’ or ‘pussier’ would be more accurate.
Oblivion kicks things off with a slow, gloomy intro, only to make way for the most irritating vocals in recent memory. These are a plague throughout the album, and even get worse on songs such as Quintessence. Despite the lousy vocal performance, the chorus of Oblivion manages to be the catchiest moment on the album, making it a highlight, despite the half assed, afterthought of a guitar solo. I don’t know why this wasn’t the lead single because I would definitely say it’s better than Divinations. The Czar is the second longest song on the album, clocking in at just under eleven minutes, but mostly sounds like a song your mother used to play quietly at the side of your bed to help you fall asleep. The title track is the only other song worth mentioning, because it’s the closest thing you’ll find here that resembles extreme metal (a genre of music that didn’t used to be so foreign to Mastodon). The heaviness in this track is courtesy of Scott Kelly (Neurosis) who does a fine job of injecting some variety into the mundane field of vocals.
As far as instrumentation goes, I found a lot to be desired. The guitar work, as a whole, is what I would call sub-par for a Mastodon release. None of the riffs ingrained themselves in my mind, like the way March of the Fire Ants did the first time I heard it, and the solos mostly seem awkward. I think I’ve talked enough about vocals for you to get an idea of my opinion on them. I’ll just add that I miss the harsh screaming of Remission, combined with the old, ultra heavy/sludgy riffs.
I think it’s a shame that Mastodon chose to tread this safe path of unheavy mediocrity, because I always saw potential in this band. I think I’ll stop checking out new releases from Mastodon because I seem to just get more and more disappointed with them.
Much like how Stratovarius made me rethink my take on them this year with the release of "Polaris," Mastodon's most recent studio effort has given me a new level of appreciation for the once sludgy prog group. I had originally tried getting into them by means of 2004's "Leviathan" but I was put off by inconsistent songwriting that ultimately didn't live up to the album's extrme level of hype (though I really enjoyed "Blood And Thunder") and never had much interest in checking out the next few efforts that soon followed. Ironically enough, the hype that came with this album was what got me interested and I soon bought a copy after hearing one of the songs online before the big release. I can safely that there was a good degree of truth in the hype this time around...
Musically, this may be the band's most ambitious effort to date. For the most part, the heavier aspects and harsher vocals of the band's past have been discarded in favor of more melodic guitar playing and a cleaner vocal performance. I'm still really surprised by how unified the vocals sound on this album in comparison to past albums and can agree with the reviewer who described the singing as like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Ozzy Osbourne. It really helps in defining the band's individual sound and may be helpful in getting the band a wider fanbase. However, there are still a few harsher moments to be found and Neurosis vocalist Scott Kelly lends some particularly angry vocals on the title track. Seriously, this guy has appeared on three albums in a row, why the hell isn't he credited as a band member yet?
Although there are only seven songs, this may also be the band's most complex effort in terms of the songwriting and overall structure. A good variety is present and the songs range from longer epics ("The Czar," "The Last Baron"), heavy rockers ("Quintessence," "Crack the Skye"), and even a few more accessible upbeat tracks ("Oblivion," "Divinations"). I think "The Czar" may be my favorite song on the album and is made interesting by its spacy Pink Floydesque beginning, infectiously echoing vocals, and a cool faster sequence in the middle of the song. The title track is also memorable for its strong heavy/melodic contrasts and I must also give props to "Oblivion" and "Divinations" for getting me into this album in the first place...
Like "Leviathan" and "Blood Mountain" before it, this release is a concept album and has a trippy overall theme. I can't make much out of the story on a line-to-line basis but it has some references relating to wormholes, soul transfers, Rasputin, and the Devil himself. The title track was also apparently inspired by the suicide of a band member's sister and features a few powerful lines ("Please tell Lucifer he can't have this one/Her spirit's too strong/It's written all over your face/I can see the pain/You can make it all go away").
I really hate to make this kind of comparison, but this is the album that Trivium should've made with "The Crusade." It shows a band naturally moving to a more mature songwriting and executing a new sound with class and honesty. I can see a few idiotic fans thinking of this transition as Mastodon "selling out" or "going soft," but that is hardly the case. Definitely worth checking out and possibly one of the top records of 2009. Hell, it's made me think about giving the band's older albums another chance...
1) A successful new sound
2) Excellently focused vocals and cool riffs
3) Great songwriting and varied songs
4) Interesting lyrical themes
1) Some fans may not like the more melodic sound
2) The drums don't stand out as much as on "Leviathan"
My Current Favorites:
"Oblivion," "Divinations," "Quintessence," "The Czar," and "Crack the Skye"
Mastodon – a name that when uttered, either makes you think of Power Rangers, a dinosaur or a heavy as hell metal band. They were always known for their balls-to-the-wall metal, as shown in past releases like Remission and Leviathan. Here, they continue what they began on Blood Mountain, which was a great experimentation period. I fully believe that with this release, they have reinvented and out-done their selves on an amazing scale. Never fear, the crunching riffs and drum rolls are still here – just in a slightly different way. This album is different, though, in the sense that it’s meant to be a ‘grower’, not a ‘holy shit’ at first glance album, like Mastodon’s previous releases.
Beginning the album is Oblivion – which at first glance shows you the album will not be like the past two releases. There is not a fast and quick drum intro, nor is there a riff repeated over and over. It’s the simple strumming of a guitar, down all the strings and into a very beefy riff. Then, the song kicks into the more traditional Mastodon style, with some crazy drums here and there and some great riffing going on and a tremendous solo in the middle. The vocalists are a pair here, and they each show off their talents greatly with clean and harsh vocals. This trend is continued on the next track, Divinations. This song is more reminiscent of Blood Mountain/Leviathan: hardcore, packed with a fast tempo and a galloping riff and harsh vocals to boot. A great rocker and definitely one to headbang to.
Now, things start to get a tad strange for Mastodon. They jump into Quintessence, which feels like a strange track. It’s got the riff, it’s got the drums, yet they’re not at an extreme tempo. They’re more relaxed. The chorus of the song is fast, yet that’s about the only part of the song that is. The rest is a relaxed, mellow feeling song. It’s a great middle track. The Czar just continues to the madness of this release. A ten minute song? The first of two? In MY Mastodon? Fret not, folks, it’s done well. It opens with an organ playing some haunting tune. It then continues with a slow bass line followed by some very clean singing and the guitar chimes in and you’re off. Cue complex time changes and amazing riffs and an amazing ending solo to definitely write home about. The song sounds very much like classic progressive rock and Mastodon do it very well. The finale is just a soft piano, which is very strange for a Mastodon song. The next two songs are similar, but that does not make them bad in the least. Ghost of Karelia and Crack the Skye are two straight-forward rockers. The drumming from Blood Mountain is back and in full force in Ghost of Karelia and the experimentation of The Czar is in Crack the Skye. Ghost is a song that is centered around vocals, and the vocals are done very well. It’s one of Mastodon’s better vocal-centered songs, with the guitars and drums matching the vocal parts very well. Crack the Skye is also done very well with harsh and clean vocals, but the keyboards return there and a fancy guitar solo is thrown into boot.
Finally, we come to the finale of the album, and (in my personal opinion), the greatest Mastodon song ever recorded: The Last Baron. Beginning with a faced paced acoustic guitar and clean vocals which send shivers down the spine, you know you’re in for a treat. The first few minutes are classic Mastodon – layered guitars, beasty riffs and vocals. After about the three minute mark, the song goes silent – and slowly fades in a guitar. Once it fades in, you know the ride has just begun. The crazy and amazing instrumental sets in (with vocals coming in here and there), which is not unlike Dream Theater (good DT, not bad). Towards the six minute part of the song, there is a breakdown which sounds vaguely like the one featured in Leviathan’s Megalodon. The end of the breakdown gives a nod to Rush’s YYZ, which is always a great tidbit. The song then ends with a repetition of the beginning and fades into silence.
I fully believe Mastodon have outdone themselves with this release. They have fully matured from a band who simply tried to play as fast as possible and tried to make great songs (which they did) into a band with structure, with purpose, and feeling. At first glance, people may think that Mastodon have lost all of their past metal-ness, however this is not true. If you are willing to let this album grow on you (which I said you should, stated above), then you will find a rewarding experience and in my personal opinion, the greatest Mastodon album yet.
What is this? No sludgy harsh vocals to be found? More progression? Extreme consistency? I tip my hat to Mastodon for once again for being the only band that I can expect absolute perfection and originality from that didn't form in the 60's, 70's, 80's, or early 90's. In a time where metal is dominated by shit core and/or bands showing off 'technical skill' without any real interesting ideas at all, Mastodon prevails. From the jaw-dropping cover artwork of Crack the Skye to Dallor's mind-blowing lyrics and drumming skills, this album will leave any human being with a soul moved by the pure emotion and beauty (as well as intensity) that the band has unleashed on us with their most recent release.
Crack the Sky flows so well without being one song it is almost unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, every track has it's own feel; like the brutal darkness of "Crack the Skye," the majestic feel of "Quintessence," and the sheer epic mastery of "The Last Baron." What I mean is, absolutely no song feels out of place on the album, and each track flows perfectly into the next. It seems that this band is evolving much more into a classic/progressive metal band than a groove/sludge metal band. The song structures are much more complex (especially on The Czar), their music is a lot less in your face and more interested in rewarding you with patience, guitar solos/keyboarding is much more present, and there is an obvious change in vocal styles.
Speaking of their change in vocal styles, diehard fans of Leviathan and Remission who were disappointed with Blood Mountain toning down the brutality will most likely despise this album. There are almost no harsh vocals to be found, and it is instead replaced with a style not unlike a combination of Ozzy Osbourne and Peter Gabriel. Sound strange? Well, truth be told it threw me off at first, as well. But they don't take long to get used to and once you let this new style sink in, it is addicting to listen to.
As mentioned before, it is frightening how amazing Dallor is at drumming. Just compare his drumming in Blood Mountain to this. He has perfected two completely different styles within the time span of three years in between these releases. It would just be unjust to not recognize Dallor as one of the best new drummers in metal today. Comparing Leviathan to Crack the Sky, I was also very impressed with the spectacular improvement of Hinds and Kellihers guitar work, which is especially apparent in the middle section of "The Last Baron," my personal favorite song. That is another thing: every song on this album seems to get better. "Oblivion" is the worst and "The Last Baron" is the best. And "Oblivion" is a fucking awesome song! It just keeps your intrigue because you know that the next song is going to be even better than the last. How many albums can you say that about?
If you don't like musical originality or talent in your metal and just want brutality, than I don't suggest this album. If you do enjoy musical originality and talent in your metal, then need I say more? This is fucking Mastodon and they refuse to let you down! Now do yourself a favor and get a copy of Crack the Skye as soon as possible.
Highlights: Everything is great, but "The Last Baron" and "The Czar"
My first Mastodon review was for their first demo with Eric Saner on vocals. Aggressive, young and crushing, the demo showed little of what Mastodon would be creating 9 years later. It was an example of a group of young men getting together and deciding to destroy everything in their path. Nary a clean vocal styling was found on it and for the most part, it seemed they screamed random things out of pure anger. Remission was not that different from the demo with it's pulverizing riffs and hoarse growling. Leviathan mixed it up a little bit and showed a small glimpse of the future with the epic length "Hearts Alive." Blood Mountain arrives and the clean singing is much more apparent. I don't know if it had to do with Warner Bros. signing them or if it was an example of Mastodon growing as musicians. 3 years later, we arrive at Crack the Skye. What we have here is something that resembles little of their first two and shares not that much with the prior.
With only seven songs on the record, you might be lead to think it's short. At 48 minutes, it's long enough to be musically filling and short enough so you don't get bored with an hour+ long concept. Singing has improved leaps and bounds compared to their past efforts. Singing almost entirely cleanly, the only growls appear in the title track, handled by frequent Mastodon guest Scott Kelly, and somewhat in the previously mentioned "Divinations." Drummer Brann Dailor shares lead vocals in "Oblivion" and he actually seems to outshine Sanders and Hinds. Hopefully the guy stands behind the mic more often because the vocals fit the music wonderfully.
Some may be disappointed by the fact that only one song, "Divinations," resembles Mastodon of years past with it's more aggressive approach. Not to say the album is light, it's plenty heavy, but not in the way "Blood and Thunder" was. Mastodon was never big on solos so they don't populate the songs as much as other prog bands, but ones that do serve the songs well. Mentioned earlier, "Hearts Alive" was a 13 minute long journey that stood out next to the shorter songs on Leviathan. Here we come across two songs that break the 10 minute mark. "The Czar" and "The Last Baron" are two awesome songs that need to be listened to. My favorite on here has to be the title track. Shared vocals between Kelly and Sanders, it has a heavy Neurosis tinge to it during the verses. The other songs on here are just as strong and deserve your full attention.
With this album, Mastodon has hit their zenith. Different and challenging, this album is a masterpiece that needs to be heard by any fan of good music,never mind good metal. Wearing their influences on their sleeve, Mastodon have released the album of their career and hopefully they can keep up it up. They've said they plan on continuing in this direction so hopefully it pays off for them. Buy, don't download, this album, put it in the best stereo you can find, find a chair, sit back and open your ears for 48 minutes of some of the best music to come along this decade.
Mastodon has always been a band who offers something different each time they release an album. They began with a heavy angry sounding album, than slowly became less edgy while they increased their technical ability. This has been received as a mixed bag. Mastodon has lost a lot of fans because of the fact that they have traded edginess for more complex material. While others, myself included embrace this new sound and wonder what Mastodon will do next.
I just purchased “Crack the Skye” today and I asked a friend to put it on in the car on the ride home. I asked what he thought of it and he gave me this response “It’s like Pink Floyd, but metal!” I find this to be a great way to explain Mastodon to someone who has never heard them because they take elements from psychedelic rock, stoner rock, and heavy metal to create an awe inspiring listening experience that becomes more complex as each album is released.
Now that I’m finished my little blurb it’s onto the album itself. It opens exactly the way I was hoping with a memorable riff, course that stays in your head for days, and some great vocal variation. This continues throughout the album from one song to the next. Even though one song is technically four parts they seem to flow together beautifully and the transition is so smooth that you hardly notice a change at all. Normally, I wouldn’t like it when songs appear to run together, but this one of the few times in which this works and works effectively.
The use of varied instrumentation, technical riffing, varied drum tempos, and variations on the same clean vocal style make this album a true gem of 2009. Even though some fans may think Mastodon has lost their edge they still put out excellent music and I would sure trade edge for technical ability any day. Also, as my album review suggests the best way to describe this album is that it is truly thinking man’s metal.
Some people I know were sort of surprised (and some other very disappointed) by Mastodon's choice of leaving their old prog-metal sound behind in favor of a more unconventional ambient-prog-psychedelic hard-rock sound. Some of 'em were either expecting a new "Blood Mountain" or a "Leviathan Pt.II", thinking perhaps that Mastodon couldn't get any better than that. Wrong.
The highest point a musician can reach, in my opinion, is being able to keep your art alive and make amazing music every time while not being bound to genre restrictions of any sort. For a good musician, being tied to one genre is like refusing to evolve and denying your skills to evolve. It's like living your life in fear of what's outside your own house and never going out for a walk. In many interviews that came out prior to the release of "Crack The Skye", the Mastodon's guys had been talking about their new album being much more 70's-prog-rock-oriented than its predecessors and how they wanted it to sound like something off the old Canterbury scene. Well, either you were prepared or not for the result, I think they fully achieved their goal. "Crack The Skye" sounds exactly like something that Genesis, or King Crimson, or Pink Floyd would have pulled off if they decided to make a metal album. It's like a Mastodon album played by one of those bands. Or the other way around.
Even though the album starts with a slightly down-tuned guitar arpeggio that could have easily introduced a Machine Head song, as soon as the first sung verse from the first song, "Oblivion", kicks in you notice how mature these guys have become and how much further they dared to push their art. Brann Dailor (the drummer) sings the verses, and it stupefied me how cool his voice sounds and how good a singer he really is. Then Troy Sanders hops in with the bridge and Brent Hinds follows singing the chorus. Now, this song is the perfect example of where this album goes, of what Mastodon wants to convey, lyrically and vocally speaking. A new, uncharted territory unfolds before your eyes, the greatness of the sounds of the guitars and drums, the somehow AliceInChain-esque feel that permeates the entire composition give you the chance to forget about what you were expecting this album to be, letting you immediately recognize that this is Mastodon, but at the same time giving you a clear, undeniable warning that this might take you where you weren't expecting to be taken.
So, fasten your seatbelts, the first and last real rocker of the album, the single "Divinations" (with the silly video related to it) speeds things up for about 4 minutes only to give way to the "real" album. From track 3, "Quintessence", the band stops being the Mastodon you used to know and does it for good. Here the experimentation begins. This song, the haunting 4-part suite "The Czar", the Metallica-influenced "Ghost Of Karelia", the awe-inspiring, ground-cracking title track (growled in almost its entirety and with the usual fiery force by Neurosis' Scott Kelly) are all absolutely great, overwhelming. They all stick in your mind leaving you asking for more, without necessarily having any hooks or anything. Actually, the lack of hooks and catchy stuff in this album is its strongest point in favour, since this makes its musical and lyrical concept flow much better than in their previous albums and, in the end, after a couple of listens, it will stick in your head (that is, if your head is prepared to receive it) as a whole great piece of amazing music, and not merely a collection of good songs. Every song flows into the next like a canoe trip on an angry river going through rapids all the time.
And still, the best has yet to come! Because, I think, Mastodon were smart enough to leave their best song as the last track on the album. "The Last Baron" has everything you can ask to a progressive metal song: an eerie atmosphere that never lets go of you, crafted masterfully by the whole band through echoes of psychedelia-evoking arpeggios and beautiful singing opposed to more intricated and tangled-up proggy parts, until the song's climax explodes, in a Rush-y kind of way, in a frantic flurry of notes and blows that chase each other with no breaks or breath-catching pauses.
A real masterpiece, in my opinion, this song is destined to become a standard, something to look up to in progressive music. Whenever you're wondering what real progressive music should sound like, you should listen to this. Just like this whole album is a complete fucking monster, something that will remind us all, for years to come, that in the years 2000's metal bands can still write real music, real songs and give their audiences real emotions like Metallica used to do back when they were good. So I can say here, now, subjectively and with the utmost confidence that this album is destined to be the best metal album for a looooong time to come, and it will have deserve it because it's a MASTERPIECE from start to finish. It's that simple.
I've been listening to Mastodon since I heard they toured with High on Fire. It started off as an ok-band. While their first material didn't came off as something that'd blow your mind, something was to be noted. The quality of their releases seemed better each time. With each published song, Mastodon's space in the rock n roll world seemed more and more undeniable.
With this album they have consolidated themselves. Their incredible rhythm section only continues to develop from their previous releases and set up the pace for the melodies to take hold in a strong and decisive fashion. Their progressive intention is also to be noted, as they are able to produce songs that not only are technical, but not tough on the old eardrums. Both the leading and rythm guitars are more in harmony, with riffs that don't deviate outside their still in development style. The soloing also is worked to a level that fits much, much better to a band that receives influences from sludge, groove, stoner metal, among others. It sounds coherent, intelligent and powerful.
This band is to be carefully listened and considered to be among the new standarts of contemporary metal. I admire the effort to make progressive metal and yet not fall in the "mathemathical" category. The evolution and experience adquired since Blood Mountain is significant if not more. It does slow the tempo just a bit, but it does contribute to form them much more, and gives them a voice that's coming to be more and more unique.
It is incredibly satisfying to listen (in the record, of course) that a band that promises so much to be fulfulling themselves, taking their time and carefully thinking before taking a single step into the recording studio. An album not to be missed.
I was expecting so much this Mastodon's effort that being disappointed would be a scenario to consider. Thanks to Odin, that didn't happen.
'Crack the Skye' proves that Mastodon is not a band committed to a single metal style, not at all. 'Blood Mountain' took a more experimental road when compared to 'Leviathan', for example, and this record keeps that innovative path. We can find influences from thrash to Genesis' prog rock. Is it difficult to harmonize so much variety? Yes. But for Mastodon that's piece of cake.
Although the innovation that Mastodon always pretend to create in their records, that doesn't mean that their particular sound is lost. No, Bill and Brent deliver one more time awesome riffs and solos with their singular guitar tune. Brann, of course, shows that he's one of the best drummer nowadays, with his accurate, fast and 'clean' playing style. Simple astonishing. Brann is the band's heart, without him they could not do their time variation, like 'The Czar' shows. In one word: talent.
'Crack the Skye', also, is an album that gets better and better due to the tracklist order. 'Oblivion' is the weakest song with the final three 'Ghost of Karelia', 'Crack the Skye' and 'The Last Baron' being the best. There is some kind of progressive geniality towards the end that keep the listener focused and stick to the record till the last minute. That's a great positive point, making the album everything but boring, although the duration of some tracks. And progressive is perhaps the word that defines best this effort.
Some will complain about the mid-paced tempo of CTS, which is probably their slowest record. Only 'Divinations' and some parts of 'Quintessence' come close to high speed tracks like 'Blood and Thunder' or 'Megalodon'. But that doesn't mean that the intensity is minor. Completely wrong in my point of view. The lack of speed in some moments is very well filled by a complex structure/composition, where the 3 B's talent is shown, like I said previously. We can find solos which can makes us think about Opeth ('The Czar') and riffs that create a glacial background capable of throwing us to scenarios like the old Russia or to some kind of stratospheric landscapes. The most suitable example is 'The Last Baron', one of the 'Crack the Skye' highlights, with some Cynic and King Crimson reminiscence, with an excellent work of Troy here too.
Other change in comparison to other Mastodon's works is the vocals. I don't pay much attention to this factor. They are not so harsh like before, the cleaning registry appears more frequently. In this area, I only have to mention Scott Kelly. Fuck, he delivers a powerful contribution with his growling vocals on the self titled track...! The lyrical themes, like they said, are full of metaphors for their own personal shit, so that doesn't deserve attention either.
One final tip: This record deserves to be listened a thousand times because there is so much to find out.
Mastodon is and has always been a very progressive band. They've never sounded like anyone else (exept Baroness, who ripped them the fuck off), and with 2009's "Crack The Skye" they prove that they have no intention of changing this trend.
This album is somewhat similar to 2006's "Blood Mountain", which was a mixture of sludge, hardcore, thrash, and progressive metal. However, the sound here is a mixture of experimental rock music (in the vein of say, The Mars Volta) with progressive metal. Imagine "Colors" by Between The Buried & Me, exept with less solos and no growled vocals whatsoever playing at the same time as The Mars Volta's "Frances The Mute". There is very little sludge to be heard here, while it has not been abondoned. The best example of this could be seen in one of the album's finest tracks, "The Czar", which somehow manages to mix the band's older, very heavy sound, with extreme experimentalism, dabbling in genre's like ambient and jazz. We also have "Quintessance", which sounds very psychadelic in some places.
The band never abandons their trademark progressive metal sound, however. All the songs on the album get heavy at some point, proving that the band has not forgotten who they previously were. "Divinations" is the only song on the album that is entirly metal, without any softer moments (exept the somewhat humerous banjo intro).
Another difference to be noted is the vocals. There is almost NO screaming on this cd. The only songs to have screaming are "Divinations" and "Crack The Skye", the latter of which features vocals by Scott Kelly (Neurosis), who takes up literally 80% of the song. Instead of screaming, Brent Hinds and Troy Saunders have both adopted a more calm and emotional vocal style. Brent Hind's vocals don't sound southern at any point on this album (as they did in all of the band's previous material) and Troy's voice sounds less like a caveman. Brent's voice hasn't changed much however, and you'll still always be able to tell his trademark "nasal"-style vocals from Troy's shout/croon-style vocals. Troy's vocals are the real noticable change, to be honest. For one, tracks like "Oblivion" will leave you wondering if the band got a new singer. He still shouts in the heavy parts, and still does his trademark death growl-type singing in one song ("Quintessance").
Mastodon has matured with each record, and it's always shown. Most people would have thought that Mastodon would have been satisfied with all the hype "Blood Mountain" got, but no, they seem to have realized what it's all about. Mastodon must have realized that it's about putting emotion and true feeling, like a piece of you was put into each song. It's this simple fact that will most likely make this the band's career defining album, and will also make this one of the most essential albums of the year, if not the decade.