Review Summary: Mastodon makes a humongous change in their style and takes the listener into a void of unchartered land where metal can prosper melodically, and musically.
When metal comes to many people of today's society, almost as naturally as the sun sets, people automatically think 'noise'. A lot of rumors go about desensitizing the true art that can take place in any metal band's spotlight. The industry for people who don't appreciate metal grows all the time and makes metal seem like it’s the same thing over, and over again. The award for 'group who couldn't disagree more' goes to Mastodon's Crack the Skye. A fork came in the road for Mastodon. Should they continue going about the harsh and heavy style that got them their fans? Or should they switch things up and create a NEW style that influenced a not-quite-as-harsh sound? Crack the Skye answers that question easily.
Mastodon's style expressed in Crack the Skye offers the listener an entire album of switch-ups that fit like gloves in every spot in the album. Brent's vocals are much less harsh. The twin guitars heavily influence the style that the cleaner vocals have. Brann seems to; for the most part quit his rapid bullet snare style that consumed the previous three albums. But his drumming is still quite extraordinary. The bass in Crack the Skye is unlike that of any other Mastodon album I’ve ever heard. The bass in this album is most notable in that in some songs like "Quintessence" and "The Czar" it actually stands in front of the guitars. The guitars get very rhythmic in intros to almost all of these tracks, and the bass is used as a back-up for when the guitars go melodic. There are changes for every instrument in this album that piece together each track almost perfectly. Basically, whenever a guitar is down, or in melody, it is an opportunity for any instrument to come in and take over. Due to this, we see the bass in this album as much more melodic, instead of past albums especially "Remission" where bass is just for thunderous effect.
This album really has no 'specific' tone. It has a basic concept to it, but the sounds change for each song. Each track is special. "Oblivion" starts the album off with instrumentals that guide most of the track into the chorus, where Brent's clean vocals are first really recognized. The melody set for "Oblivion" expresses a high-pitch low-pitch innovation throughout the song. "Oblivion" sets the tone at the end for "Divinations", one of the less impressive tracks on this album. The intro maintains the main style of Crack the Skye, but the best part of this song starts with the verse. A three part vocal transition that blows up into the chorus very quickly is about the only beautiful part of this track. Everything else takes up sounds of screaming and loud noises. "Quintessence" however changes that mistake very quickly with a beautiful guitar riff for the intro, and some leftover rapid snare section in Brann. The verse of this song is very melodic and the guitars take a place of rhythm while bass regulates the volume. This song is all about pure control. The bridge of this song starts very melodic, and then chugging guitar riffs take the last place as the chorus comes in and knocks the listener of his feet. The bass in this song really takes a huge part in this song by keeping the instrumentals in control. The next track takes everything we've heard so far in this album and combines aspects from each, and throws it all into a three part masterpiece cauldron called "The Czar". This song is set beautifully from the start. The second part is a bit heavier giving way to part three which is more of the same, but with a settling tone that lets you know that it is ending. "The Ghost of Karelia" makes a sound just what the title says, 'ghost'. The intro starts heavy, but the actual track quiets itself pretty quickly in the verse, but the latter of the song is filled with echoing riffs and an unfathomable bass to match vocals. "Crack the Skye" starts pretty slow, but picks up, and actually sound for a little while like something from "Blood Mountain". The vocals definitely mean something in this track. Some are the new clean trend that Brent is trying. Some are of Brent screaming and grinding with his throat. The guitars take on the part of heavy riffs and quiet steady rhythms. Mastodon does it again with a fantastic solo in this track as well. "The Last Baron" starts off instantly with a dark acoustic sound to the guitar. This is the longest track on the album clocking in at 13 minutes on the dot. Brent’s clean lyrics and amazing guitars, again regulated by the bass are expressed longer in essence than any other track on this album. Many different parts of exchanging instrumentals take this song seriously all throughout this masterpiece until the scene ends with soft and sweet silence.
Mastodon has without a doubt, fantastically developed in their career, and though they took a big risk by changing their style completely, they managed to keep their fans, and continue going strong. All albums by Mastodon are endearing to the listener in that they take you on a trip. Crack the Skye takes you not only on a trip, but into a void. A void that as long as people continue to assume that metal is just noise, they will never be able to experience for themselves. I feel pity for anyone who cannot appreciate the mechanical genius that is Mastodon's Crack the Skye.