Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mastodon: Crack the Skye

Artist: Mastodon
Album: Crack the Skye
Date Released: March 24, 2009
Genre: metal, progressive metal, progressive sludge metal
Rating: 8.7

Review: Crack the Skye marks Mastodon's fourth studio album, and with it, the band can now lay claim to being one of the great metal acts of all time. Following the crushing footsteps of Blood Mountain and Leviathan, it's hard to imagine this band getting more experimental and ambitious. But with Crack the Skye, Mastodon has taken their power and creativity to another level; this album will in all likelihood go down as a metal classic.

Topically, the album is an hallucinatory journey to Czarist Russia, involving bizarre themes like astral travel, out of body experiences and wormholes. More literally, Crack the Skye is meant as an homage to drummer Brann Dailor's sister, Skye Dailor, who committed suicide at age 14. But no matter how you look at it, this album's a trip.

Crack the Skye is more polished and focused than Mastodon's previous work (but don't hold that against them -- this is a necessary step after the frenzied fury of Blood Mountain). Part of this can be attributed to producer/engineer Brendan O'Brien who has worked with such bands as Rage Against the Machine and Stone Temple Pilots. The tracks on Crack the Skye flow beautifully into one another in the same way its extended tracks flow and weave in and out of themselves (the album features 2 songs that are 10+ minutes). It's hard to pull tracks away from the body of the whole -- it's the kind of album you listen to from start to finish.

And if that sounds somewhat Floydian, you're not too far off the mark. Crack the Skye brings to mind some of the greats: Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Abbey Road Beatles and Black Sabbath (just to name a few). The album is also hooky as hell and it has its fair share of memorable moments. Take for example the goose-bumped finale to "The Czar":
Spiraling up through the crack in the sky
Leaving material world behind
I see your face in constellations
The martyr is ending his life for mine
But what really stands out are the guitars. Despite the trippy lyrics, innovative vocal harmonies, shockingly good melodies and mind-bending drumming, this is first and foremost a guitar album (as evidenced by the placements of the guitars in the mix). The riffs may not be as memorable or catchy as in the past, but the phrasings, arrangements and performances are simply fantastic.

Crack the Skye is a stunner -- one that will become an essential part of any metal lover's collection.

Track highlights: "Oblivion," "Divinations" "The Czar" and "The Last Baron."

1 comment:

  1. I loved this album! (I reviewed it as well some months ago!)
    Great review amigos. Keep up the good work.