Review Summary: Mastodon create another great album with few flaws that appeals to both old and new fans.
Crack The Skye
Troy Sanders: Vocals, bass
Brent Hinds: Guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher: Guitar
Brann Dailor: Drums, vocals
Scott Kelly: Vocals on 'Crack The Skye'
In 2004, I was surprised to come across a little album that bore the name of 'Leviathan'. It had a super cool cover, and some great metal tunes. Full of Moby Dick references, the album kept me interested for the rest of the year. Two years later, I happened to stumble upon another little CD named 'Blood Mountain', which, while not being as solid as 'Leviathan', was still a decent album...
And now it is 2009, and I have stumbled across another little album. This one bearing the name of 'Crack The Skye'. Before popping this one into my CD player, I wondered if this album would live up to the epic 'Leviathan'. It did.
If there is one thing that I can say Mastodon has improved on with this album, it is the vocals. They are no longer the harsh growls and screams found on previous records, with aggressiveness and power surrendering to great vocal harmonies. Much of the band, at some point on this album, sings, and it sounds great. The album opener 'Oblivion' really showcases the vocal talents here. The choruses on every song are extremely catchy and infectuous, and will likely remain in your head for days. On the title track, Scott Kelly of Neurosis adds his own voice to the mix, which also ends successfully.
Just like the vocals, the instruments have also been toned down. Although many will miss the more harsh, powerful approach found on previous albums, I believe that this change in styles is all for the better. Unlike the past, more metal releases, 'Crack The Skye' also has a progressive side to it, with much changing of tempos and speeds, especially on the two epics 'The Czar' and 'The Last Baron'.
Two things that really stand out on the album, aside from the vocals, are the drums and guitar, which are truly brilliant. Bill Kelliher, the lead guitarist here, can spew out some great solos, while Brent Hinds can lay down some crazy riffs and melodies. 'The Czar' contains a truly awesome solo at the 8:50 mark, and makes the album worth downloading by itself. Brann Dailor is also a top notch drummer, adding in great fills while also contributing to the vocal section. The bass, while not being especially note worthy, still plays its part properly, especially on 'The Last Baron', where the lines correspond very well with the rest of the music.
The album is still not perfect, however. 'Ghost of Karelia' is not very exciting and will most likely pass by unnoticed. Some songs also seem to drag on for a bit too long or grow slightly tiring, although this problem does start to vanish after several listens. The lyrical content is also strange, dealing with time-space travel and Czarist Russia. The lyrical themes are very interesting and consistent, but the lyrics themselves are sometimes rather weak, often detracting from the epic feel of some of the songs.
'Crack The Skye' will appeal to both old and new fans alike, with some great, catchy vocal harmonies and some brilliant instrumentation. Despite a few flaws, it is still quite excellent, and a contender for my favorite metal album this year.
-Drums and guitar
-Great replay value
-'Ghost of Karelia'
-Can get repetitive
Recommended Tracks <Download Or Die>
-The Last Baron