Mastodon Acheive Prog Rock Glory With “Crack The Skye”

Posted: March 30, 2009 by Liam in BLARE -- music, POP - pop culture
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They fought fire with fire on 2002’s Remission, captured the white whale on 2004’s Leviathan, and traversed Blood Mountain in 2006. With Crack The Skye, Mastodon has completed its elemental quest for progressive rock glory.

crack-the-skye-cover

Combining all of the Atlanta quartet’s best qualities for a profoundly psychedelic 50 minutes, the seven-track disc showcases the intensity of Remission, the depth of Leviathan, and the songwriting of Blood Mountain. Skye still maintains a distinctive voice, however, generally favoring clean vocals as opposed to growls or screams.

The Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC) produced album’s theme concerns astral travel and out of body experiences, but is also a tribute to drummer Brann Dailor’s sister Skye, who committed suicide at 14. Much of its riffage came from guitarist Brent Hinds, who suffered a skull fracture in 2008 when he was involved in a fight with System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian at the MTV VMAs. Thus, Skye’s lyrical content is much deeper than Mastodon’s past offerings.

The listener is immediately cast into “Oblivion” with the ominous, yet inviting first track, which is also Dailor’s vocal debut. Lead single “Divinations” begins with a chicken pickin’ banjo riff before giving way to one of the most captivating choruses the band has ever recorded: “No escape/Binding spirits/No escape/Trapped in time space.”

Skye gets spacier with “Quintessence,” featuring riffs similar to those in songs like “Aqua Dementia” from Leviathan and a hauntingly quiet pre-chorus.

“The Czar” starts off with what could easily be a sample from the E.T. Soundtrack, setting the mood for this four-part epic. The tempo is slowed here until the four-minute mark, when chugging guitars lock up with a steady, albeit funky backbeat.

The intro riff to “Ghost of Karelia” is the kind of sound you hear while setting foot on a new planet. Although it’s the most forgettable track, it is a fitting bridge to the title cut, “Crack The Skye.” Featuring Neurosis front man Scott Kelly, the snarl and bark of the verses are offset by bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders expansive howls at the heavens.

Past Mastodon records have all had acoustic endings, and Skye is no different. “The Last Baron” begins as the album’s most laid-back offering, but does not hesitate to throw a little Maiden in when it can, at points sounding triumphant and hopeful-the perfect soundtrack on your trip through the crack in the sky.

It’s no surprise that Mastodon will be playing Crack The Skye in its entirety on their upcoming tour, as it is a record that completely surrounds you, and doesn’t let you from its grip until the very last note.

Track Picks: “Divinations,” “The Czar,” “The Last Baron”

Score: 9/10

~ Bill McMillan

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