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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!