Review Summary: This is an album that can be described as epic with or without any irony...
'Tis carved onto stone that here marks a new age for progressive-metal titans Mastodon wherein their latest evolutionary journey is as bold as you could possibly imagine. Take a look at that parchment of an album cover and raise your staff high as this is a piece of Jurassic proportions. For thousands of years, there has been a prophecy yadda-yadda-yadda.
But enough about centenarian vocabulary. This album marks another immense transition for this band. The production is shinier, the hooks are catchier, the music is more technical and the overall sound is just as dynamic and ambitious as you'd expect. Mastodon have flown head first through a portal and have cooked up a delicious brew consisting of their timeless harmonies and conceptions destined to evolve mixed in with all the technical jargon of the process along the way.
The first three tracks are prime examples of this. Both opener 'Oblivion' and third track 'Quintessence' contain Mastodon's trademark melody blends which click deeper and deeper with repeated listens. Singer Brent Hinds' voice has adapted into a deeper, more alcohol fueled version of Ozzy Osbourne's distinctive resonance and is surprisingly effective. Even when a cliché phrase such as "Summon the soul of the spectre" is screamed out by Brent on the song 'Divinations' it is cried out with such brute force and feral melody that it belongs perfectly; like two opposite jigsaw pieces welded together with colourful passion. Even at the first wedge of the closer 'The Last Baron' he screeches with such distinction and such intensity as if the bestowal of war is just around the corner.
There wasn't much for other singer Troy Sanders to improve upon but whatever there was, the box has indeed been ticked. His pitch on the chorus of 'Divinations' and 'Crack The Skye' are spot on. The use of time-signatures is also a definite marvel within this musical shell; especially during 'Ghost of Karelia'. Lyrically, this group are just as poetic and historically exploring as ever; covering topics during the concept such as Rasputin in the incredible centrepiece 'The Czar', ethereal and out-of-body experiences in the first three tracks and the devil in the explosive 13-minute finale 'The Last Baron'.
Clocking in at 50 minutes with just 7 tracks, it may prove uneasy for casual listeners, even if the two longer tracks are broken down into barely-digestible chunks. Make no mistake- this is an album that can be described as epic with or without any irony, and even if it might not live up to their previous albums for the dedicated fans and even though they may have tried a little too hard in trying to out-do themselves, what's stopping them from doing what they love? Crack The Skye is a very appropriate title for this aspiring piece as this album proves that the sky is most definitely not the limit for Mastodon as they take flight, spread their timeless wings, stare evolution dead in the face and say "Bite Me".