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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.