Mastodon
Crack the Skye


4.5
superb

Review

by IronGenesis USER (1 Reviews)
March 24th, 2009 | 33 replies | 9,162 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Crack the Skye is a musically polished output and arguably Mastodon's most technically focused release to date

3 of 7 thought this review was well written

Crack the Skye is a musically polished output and arguably the quartet’s most technically focused release to date. This is my first review and I will be targeting an audience of those who have knowledge of musical theory and knowledge of what music looks like, being able to only speak from this point of view. Please excuse the lack of common words like ‘heavy,’ or the lack of emphasis on brute force and more direction towards actual musical talent. With that bit of talking out of the way… ahem… While metal heads may have been impressed by Remission and Leviathan, trained musicians were probably more impressed with the ideas and harmonic theories explored in Blood Mountain. Crack the Skye adds more textures and experimental ideas for the band such as: incredible new vocal capabilities, inclusion of banjo, and some keyboard parts other than basic organic background. The spelling of Skye is an homage to Brann Dailor’s sister, who committed suicide as a teenager. For the very contemporary, bizarre concept of the ‘concept album’ go to wikipedia as I did not find it

The first two songs on the album are Oblivion and Divinations; I will review them together as they are rather similar in concept. Both contain some of the more up-tempo sections on the album. Where on previous albums verses would be filled with unchallenging, boring screams, Crack the Skye adds considerably more real singing and *gasp!* even vocal harmony. Mastodon seems to have developed even more in their effort to make angular arpeggios and fat groves for choruses, especially in the chorus to Oblivion. *Side note: Divinations was actually released as a single and has an extremely cheese factor cheese video involving a yeti with a guitar for all of you hardcore fans.

The Czar is the album’s next most obvious highlight, being the shorter of the release’s two epics. Beginning slowly with some atmospheric organic ideas, these lead to a bass-driven section clearly showing the band’s progressive rock influence and droning vocals. This leads eventually into a distorted guitar break with some stylistically tasteful drum fills. Brann, in my musical opinion, is a much more effective player when he simply keeps time and stays away from a drum fill every other measure. In this faster, distorted section, vocals make a noticeable change from droning to a classic rock vibe. More progressive yet are the vocal trade offs, showing more independence of vocal technique from the band. An acoustic passage follows this which is quickly altered to distorted guitar. Vocals and solo guitar make extremely rich and true trade offs here showing the obvious development from brainless fret board climbing that everyone knows appears on earlier Mastodon efforts. Overall a strong track; while not 2112 or Supper’s Ready, this is definitely a progressive nod and step in that direction.

Ghost of Karelia, along with Oblivion and Divinations, was premiered at Bonaroo and became bootlegged after the live appearance of these tracks on Youtube (another great side note for the hardcore fans anxiously awaiting album). Metallic percussion sounds open the track, afterwards complemented by atmospheric guitar in interesting meter changes. Afterwards the style changes to the more riff-oriented guitar style a common listener appreciates. Vocal lines are interesting, particularly the downward chromatic-esque triplet idea. Moods ranging from melancholy to tense and brutal are found through the piece.

Closing the album is the long epic, The Last Baron, and it is my personal favorite of the record. Acoustic guitar patterns, thick bass, and great vocal ideas line the down tempo beginning of the epic. Trade offs and harmonies as well as multiple part independence make the vocal effort on the album incredibly superior to its predecessors. While usually I am not an avid vocal critic, I had to be for this album because of the immense contrast of this effort to earlier Mastodon albums. Echoing guitar breaks the first section and begins what will ultimately become an up tempo segment. Great harmonic guitar ideas and even great ideas from critically acclaimed Brann Dailor. Maturity of the three guitar players is shown from the difference in their parts versus albums such as Remission. One of the best parts of the epic, especially for theorists who understand what is happening, is the angular unison between guitar and drums. Very dense, powerful sections follow; featuring mostly Brent on vocals for those sections, a very edgy, metal feel is achieved rather well. An interesting groove section makes an appearance eventually and has great potential ideas. This leads into a recapitulation of one of the previous up tempo thematic ideas. The last several minutes of the piece are based on the material of the beginning. The Last Baron ends with great guitar solo leads and firm rhythmic pulse from the rest of the group.

As a whole Crack the Skye was a great output of sound from the quartet and showed tremendous musicianship throughout. As for the generic ‘recommended tracks’ section, I would recommend Oblivion and Divinations for the casual listener, The Czar and Ghost of Karelia for the casual Mastodon fan, and The Last Baron for progressive rock or theory lovers. The album in its entirety is very cohesive and is a balanced record based on a few quality pieces instead of forty, two-minute radio songs. This is possibly the Mastodon album that will be the easiest to appreciate for those unfamiliar with the style of metal Mastodon typically plays in. Try to be lax or at least constructive with criticism as this is my first review.


user ratings (2988)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • crackerjack (5)
    A stone throw away from oblivion....

    Idioteque (5)
    An album to drown in...

    Hernan M. Campbell STAFF (4.7)
    The Mystical, the Heavy, and the Prog....

    Will Forest (4.5)
    This is the shooting star and the bright halo for all that Mastodon stands for....

  • Will C. (4.5)
    Mastodon makes a humongous change in their style and takes the listener into a void of unc...

    sulkenigma (4.5)
    This is an album that can be described as epic with or without any irony......

    Darkvoid67 (3.5)
    Mastodon venture further into the land of prog, and discover their softer side...

    therayder (4.5)
    A mysterious, haunting, and fantastic journey across the cosmos, courtesy of Mastodon...

  • Professor (4)
    Unlike many progressive metal bands, Mastodon just can't stop progressing....

    potsos (4.5)
    Crack the Skye finds Mastodon continuing to tip the scales toward prog-metal vision, clean...

    Edmund Blackadder (4)
    Mastodon create another great album with few flaws that appeals to both old and new fans....

    quinny1989 (4.5)
    Simply Fantastic....

  • Jorn van Schaïk (4)
    If the evolution found on this record is the destiny of Mastodon, then metal's collective ...

    Sean (4.5)
    An amazing successor to the critically acclaimed "Blood Mountain". Mastodon continue their...

    Nick Greer EMERITUS (2)
    A strange journey into the occult that leaves the listener with an earful of amazing riffs...

    mutatedfreek (4)
    Crack the Skye is Mastodon's proggiest album to date, showing a vast maturity in the band ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
rotterdog
March 25th 2009



486 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review for a first. The whole "only trained musicians with a background in music theory will get this review" section was strange and off-putting though -- especially since your review doesn't get into anything especially technical. I don't think many here will have a hard time understanding any of the terms you used.

Anthracks
March 25th 2009



3639 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Try to be lax or at least constructive with criticism as this is my first review.


shouldnt be in the review itself

Digging: Tobacco - Ultima II Massage

Nauseum
March 28th 2009



160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Rotterdog is right, and by saying it, you just seem to be coming across as a failure elitist. Try not to say things like that in your review, just leave a comment after you've completed it.

"incredible new vocal capabilities" - vocals still suck, it's always been a let down for Mastodon, just now they are noticably worse with the change of music.

Also, telling the reader to refer to wikipedia about the album's concept is just dumb, look it up, it's not that hard.

SwallowARazor
March 30th 2009



77 Comments


Man, what a snob. As if technicality is the only relevant thing about music; focus on what makes a song appealing, not that "the guitars and drums triangulate together to reveal the meaning of the concept".

If it's a progression of Blood Mountain, it's probably even more boring and pretentious. Right up your alley, I guess.

fireaboveicebelow
March 30th 2009



6837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

your first paragraph bothered me, and I'm a musician so it's not like I don't "get it" but you sound like because of who you are you're higher up than most people here, and based on this rather vague and personalized review you're far from that. I won't neg but I hope other people do

Wizard
March 30th 2009



18792 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

'Pretentious' really isn't your thing Mr. Reviewer.

Digging: Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Phantom
March 30th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Plus we have a much better version of that kind of review for this album anyway, albeit with a completely different rating.

jrowa001
April 15th 2009



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album grew on me a lot. at first i found parts of it kind of boring and overwhelming but now that ive listened to it quite a few times i can appreciate every aspect of it. the guitars and the drumming on this is amazing

Waior
April 15th 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album grew on me a lot. at first i found parts of it kind of boring and overwhelming but now that ive listened to it quite a few times i can appreciate every aspect of it. the guitars and the drumming on this is amazing


Thank you thank you thank you (for saying that).

And why is this review negged twice? For a first, it's pretty solid review.

jrowa001
April 15th 2009



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

and after seeing the making of the album (from the dvd) i can appreciate it even more. i really am in love the the guitars on this.

potsos
April 28th 2009



27 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

My honest opinion here is that the entire first paragraph should have been left out. It isn't necessary to point out that it's your first review, as people can clearly see that as they review the page header. Starting out your review by insinuating a superior music knowledge doesn't seem like the best move for a first review, especially when they review that follows does not match the expectation.

Things like ...

downward chromatic-esque triplet idea, multiple part independence, atmospheric organic ideas, firm rhythmic pulse and up tempo thematic ideas


... do not deliver the goods.

Beyond that, it's obvious that you have the potential to write a compelling review, but you've tried too hard here to hit the bar you initially set.

Waior
April 28th 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I still don't think this deserves a 25% approval rating.

taylormemer
April 28th 2009



4887 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Because he said he was better then us all = neg

Waior
April 28th 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, sure, but that doesn't make the review badly written. It's way better than my, or probably yours for that matter, first review. If I got 1/4 ratio on my first review, I would've quit Sputnik altogether and gone back to having a life.

Jim
April 28th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is pretty great. quintessence and the czar are highlights for me.

i'll have to watch the dvd when i get the time

Phantom
April 28th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The album has grown on me but still drags as others have said. I definitely have respect for the concept that Dailor went for with the content dealing with his sister's suicide.

gaslightanthem
April 28th 2009



5209 Comments


shame then that they emerged this time around with their weakest effort yet

XDivineFireX
July 16th 2009



23 Comments


I keep hearing mixed reviews about this album, but I think I'm still going to check it out...

xNintendoCorex
July 16th 2009



1272 Comments


just do it, this isnt twitter
no one cares if youre 'thinking about checking this out' or not.

xNintendoCorex
July 16th 2009



1272 Comments



I still don't think this deserves a 25% approval rating.

looks like its 20% now



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