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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.