Mastodon
Crack the Skye


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jorn van Schaïk USER (172 Reviews)
March 25th, 2009 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If the evolution found on this record is the destiny of Mastodon, then metal's collective future is bright indeed.

The opening notes of a record sometimes form the decisive clincher of whether a record may be good or bad. Sometimes, when you have an opening song that totally kicks ass, you get straight into record, like you're in a rollercoaster getting ready for that super exciting loop-de-loop. On the other hand, that stuff could also really turn you off if it happens to be something that is so ear-splitting you are left running or reaching for the remote (depending on your disposition towards critical situations).

Mastodon's opening, serpentine, slithering riff, complete with Brann's cascading drum patterns, is a very good representation of what this album sounds like. On this record, you will find many of these moments. Hinds and Kelliher seem to have diverted a bit from the stomp of their earlier records (there is no instantly recognisable riff here like the one that opened Leviathan on the amazing Blood and Thunder), but they have replaced it with sneaky melodies, like snakes twisting along their stoner-psych-metal freakout that constitutes the rest of the album. It seems like Mastodon has finally found their niche: they're not just playing the great brute apes (or whales, or cyclops, or fire ants), but they seem to have finally found their groove in interweaving that metal punch with music that makes the album relatable to an external demographic.

It's amazing that they keep it together so well though, as some of the songs here are spiraling helixes of music. Two songs clock in over ten minutes; they feature long moody passages; there is noodling of grand proportions to be found; and through it all, everything seems to flow perfectly, not just thanks to good songwriting, but also to Brann Dailor's terrific drumming, whose signature fills and impeccable timing keep the gigantic melting pot of music Mastodon have concocted from boiling over. His fills are powerful and tasteful, and he seems superbly in his element here. Brann's performance is even heightened by the introduction of him singing: the first few lines of "Oblivion" display the talents of this newfound vocalist in Mastodon's midst.

Vocals are pretty much one of the few drawbacks Mastodon still has. Hinds and Sanders are capable yowlers, but this record is heavier on the clean vocals; and their drawling combo of bear-trap roars and clean monotony seems to have shifted unfavourably towards the lesser end of their skills. Whereas Leviathan or Blood Mountain had that uncanny characteristic where the vocals sounded awkward, but fit well over the pounding and thrashing music, the transition of Mastodon from full-out blasters to a more soft-spoken band has also seen them highlight the vocal limitations of any of the band members, which seem to be unable to deliver vocals that are more than "fitting". Even when luminary Scott Kelly of the mighty Neurosis drops by for a cameo in Crack the Skye's title track, his moment of fame seems to overshadow any of the vocals provided by the rest of the band. It's almost like the grandiose nature of the music demands a grandiose over-the-top vocalist; these men's utterings almost leave you hunkering for something less mundane. It's not that they're bad; just that they seem tame in comparison to what's swirling about them. Grand music almost demands more.

It doesn't help that what they're singing is a hackneyed concept at worst and an amusing laugh at best. The message is a hotchpotch of various mythological, weird, and strange things: something about a guy being paraplegic, doing a cosmic astral travel jump back in time, ***ing around with the body of Rasputin, and then joining some weird sect or whatever and killing stuff. Mastodon have always been a band of extremes this way (Leviathan was about Moby Dick, and Blood Mountain was about this guy questing to the top of a mountain), and they are not yet DragonForce, but it almost seems so kitschy to tack it onto this. However, Mastodon seem to not take the lyrics that seriously, and neither should a fan, because apart from Crack The Skye (which is a metaphor for the suicide of Brann's sister), Mastodon have realised that they are not a serious band that way, and are completely capable of understanding what is there to be serious about. Another positive is that they realise that the grand scope of the music demanded a grand concept; sure, it's not the most interesting thing ever witnessed, but when you're inspired, you come up with stuff like this, I guess.

This album isn't for the purist Mastodon fans who hated everything after the stodgy slap in the face that constituted their first two records. Mastodon are not that band anymore, that generic metal band where everything is about chugging out those heavy riffs (though the hydra-headed multitudes of power and crunch still appear frequently). Instead, they've done the thing every self-respecting band should do, and slowly evolved towards a more unique and definitive sound, even if they are now drawing in equal measures from bands such as Pink Floyd and Genesis as they are from The Melvins and Neurosis, or even Slayer. And though their road to the top is still fraught with a few small hitches, and succumbs to a few cliches, musically they have found a niche where they can reside and explore; they have found a good stable starting point for future endeavours. They've become the art-metallers they did not set out to be; but that is a good thing, in Mastodon's case, as their newfound influences seem to suit the band like a glove. If this evolution is the destiny of Mastodon, metal's collective future is bright indeed.



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user ratings (3227)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • ryallen (4)
    More prog than metal, but will be easily appreciated by fans of either....

    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....

    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...

    IronGenesis (4.5)
    Crack the Skye is a musically polished output and arguably Mastodon's most technically foc...

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


Comments:Add a Comment 
BallsToTheWall
March 25th 2009


44640 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review, good record. Plan on buying it tonight.

Digging: Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2009


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ya 123 i'm goin to hot topic right now

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 25th 2009


7363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thats 4 reviews for this in 1 day. good review though.

BallsToTheWall
March 25th 2009


44640 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm dipping right now to get. Unfortunately, I dont have a hot topic in my town which makes me a sad panda. Closest one is 45 minutes.

Poet
March 25th 2009


5935 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album's pretty cool.

Altmer
March 25th 2009


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I wouldn't have done one but I just had to post a reply to Nick (and not do it the lazy way so I sound totally retarded saying it).

cam
March 25th 2009


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

albums awesome. but what makes hot topic so great?

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2009


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

they sell good music

Altmer
March 25th 2009


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i want more feedback on the actual review not hot topic come on guys

Ahrimanic Trance
March 25th 2009


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

review is good, but obv not as good as hot topic

KYZAR
March 25th 2009


513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

can we go for 5 reviews in one day? anyone?

itchyandscratchy
March 25th 2009


314 Comments


One time I was gonna buy a Dragonforce shirt there because it was 5 bucks but I decided not to. Good decision because the very next day Ultra Beatdown came out and I was like "this sucks".


All Dragonforce sux.

Good review Altmer.


Cesar
March 25th 2009


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think the summary goes a bit over the top. Great review, great album.

Waior
March 25th 2009


11460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Okay, finally a review that is awesome.

Spiraling helixes? Hell, yes. This Message Edited On 03.25.09

Fugue
March 25th 2009


7353 Comments


Best review for this album so far IMO.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2009


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

god dammit

you got the 30,000 review

i wanted it :[

Altmer
March 25th 2009


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is the 30,000th review? glad it's a good one

willfellmarsy
March 25th 2009


3849 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review, good-great album...quintessence is pretty mediocre but otherwise very good...the epics are the epics...already think this will be my favorite mastodon recordThis Message Edited On 03.25.09

Phantom
March 25th 2009


8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Edited due to retardismThis Message Edited On 03.25.09

Chewie
March 25th 2009


4532 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this review wipes the floor with Greers, really nicely written. (Y)



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