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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