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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.