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Crack The Skye
Released: 2009, Reprise Records
Reviewer: Bruce Sanchez
When Mastodon announced their new album would have a mellower vibe than previous albums following guitarist-vocalist Brent Hinds’ head injury, the concept seemed a bit unsettling. Could the band whose sound was so colossal pull that off? Sure, Mastodon proved they could write slower songs on BLOOD MOUNTAIN with “Sleeping Giant”, “Mortal Soil”, and the tranquil “Pendulous Skin”. But that was just a handful of tunes in an otherwise juggernaut sounding album. After listening to CRACK THE SKYE, pondering their fixed sound becomes irrelevant. Everything massive about the Mastodon sound is stripped away. Perhaps refined is more appropriate. More importantly, what it is, is genius.
CRACK THE SKYE isn’t meant to run you over like REMISSION or LEVIATHAN. Instead it continues where BLOOD MOUNTAIN traversed, and evolves from there. The songs are compelling and blanketing: a complete immersion experience even without the visual package. The tone is so ethereal that it becomes atmospheric even before any keyboards are introduced. There’s even a banjo or two. Undoubtedly, it’s the quartet’s most experimental album yet, but it’s still unquestionably Mastodon. The way Kelliher and Hinds phrase their guitar work, the juxtaposition of Sanders deep voice with Hinds’ tenor, and the intricate and rolling drumming style of Dailor is still there. Dailor also sings the main verse in the opening track, “Oblivion”, which marks another first.
CRACK THE SKYE is 7 tracks: all equally impressive and each a chapter in its own right. Not because of the story, but because when one song ends it silently flips its own page, exiting without much distraction, allowing the next track to begin its role in the overall purpose of the album. To pick one song as a standout above another dooms the entire album. It doesn’t even feel right pressing the skip button. A couple songs may be catchier than the others, but they all have moments of unmitigated brilliance and contribute just as much as the one that came before and the one that follows.
Much has been said about the role Mastodon plays in modern metal. Some say they are flag carriers, kings, and masters; others simply dismiss them as another over-hyped prog band. However, whatever one’s thoughts may be: their influence and pull on future metal is unavoidable. Thankfully.
4. The Czar
5. Ghost of Karelia
6. Crack The Skye
7. The Last Baron
Brent Hinds - Guitar/Vocals
Troy Sander - Bass/Vocals
Bill Kelliher - Guitar
Brann Dailor - Drums
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