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Crack the Skye

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Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★½
(77 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • I just can’t stop listening to this album. Just meticulous, melodic and amazingly musical. Maybe its me just getting older, but while I love Mastodon’s older material, the death metal growl just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Crack the Skye is musical through and through.

    Each track is a multi layered story, which requires many listens to hear what they have put together. The influences come through… you can hear everything from classic metal, to thrash, to Holdsworth, to zillions of other small queues drawn from the greats of metal and progressive rock…they’re all in there. The guitar work is so perfect, there are very few thrash passages because the music they are playing is so sophisticated and interwoven, they don’t need much in the way of showboating to get the point across.

    The vocals are also totally on, with each song having a mood established by the lyrics and vocal tones. The drums are driving, pounding, grounding, and they never let up… I still can’t stop listening. The song Quintessence is a great example of how themes, ideas, and musical styles are woven together with amazing musicianship and original writing.

    All in all, I enjoy this album immensely. It is some kind of amazing event, that happens very seldom. Pagan’s Mind and Circus Maximus do this to me also, with hyper complex themes and virtuosic musicianship too. Bravo Mastodon….

    Posted on November 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I discovered Mastodon in an effort to find a heavy band like Tool, that didn’t scream all their lyrics or affect some doomy Halloween monster voice to get their point across. I love heavy riffing and chugging, but can’t stand the screaming, which is why I won’t give my money to Lamb of God.
    Enter, Mastodon. I got swept away with their amazing musicianship, and learned to dig the gritty vocals, and Leviathan seemed to be their masterwork, but Crack the Skye looks like the evolution and perfection of all the bands’ work before it, and the production, songwriting, and musicianship easily ranks this as a winner in Metal, Rock and Progressive, in one clean kill.
    If you’re looking to get into Mastodon, this is a great way to start, then get heavier and darker as you move backward. If you don’t like this album, there are plenty of other bands laying it down nasty and heavy that you can stick with.
    This album is a journey and a real gift to music at this time. So, what now with this band? Can’t wait to find out.

    Paully Walnuts-The Slackerprince

    Posted on November 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Mastodon is a rare band in the metal community; one that both enjoys and is cursed by a sort-of ongoing “sophomore album” syndrome. Every release is so punishing in it’s technical proficiency and expertly crafted songwriting methods that the inevitable question is asked on the dawn of each new release: “Can they top that?” Ye of little faith prepare to be destroyed. However much Leviathan reinvented metal for you or Blood Mountain took your preconceptions of extreme music and spun them upside-down into a product which seamlessly blended infectious hooks and world-class musicianship, Crack The Skye has Mastodon outdoing themselves once again.

    The sound quality has become significantly better than past Mastodon releases with A-list producer Brendan O’Brien behind the mixing board, utilizing cutting edge sound manipulation while maintaining the gritty, raw sound which captures the massive wingspan of the ferocious musical beast that is Mastodon. The instrumentation follows in suit and will be no surprise to longtime fans. Hinds and Kelliher’s guitars weave fluidly together like a pair of crushing pythons locked in a twisted yet beautiful discordant harmony, backed by Troy Sanders’ dependably thundering basslines and Brann Dailor’s jazzy and seemingly 8-armed drum style.

    As for the album itself, it’s structure lays waste to the modern music critic theory of the concept album being dead. With lyrics weaving together a violent plot of Czarist Russia and out-of-body terrestrial experiences which simultaneously convey deep meaning and utter ambiguity, the room for interpretation is limitless. In a world where music is cheaply stolen off the Internet with few consequences, this most cohesive of “was that just 1 song or 10?” recordings demands your hard-earned money and a spin on a good stereo. And no, your iPod doesn’t count. When buying, expect exactly what you got last time you bought a Mastodon album: positively shattered expectations and the deja vous-like conviction that they’ll never be able to top themselves this time. Of course, you were wrong then and will doubtlessly be again as long as the Mastodon breathes.

    Posted on November 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Mastodon’s last album (Blood Mountain) displayed their nastiest chops ever, but got a bit showoff-ish and self-indulgent. But now Mastodon is dead serious, and Crack the Skye is no laughing matter, lyrically or musically. A convoluted lyrical concept about space travel and czarist Russia is actually a cover for Mastodon’s most haunting thoughts ever, inspired by the childhood death of Brann Dailor’s sister and the recent severe head injury suffered by Brent Hinds. The band’s music is becoming less flashy and more dramatic, played with an epic grandeur that easily becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. The four players have surrendered to the sound, with less hot-dogging and more teamwork. Even the monstrously hyper Dailor on drums has slowed things down a bit, reminding the listener less of a speed demon and more of a coiled snake. The vocals are more in tune with the mood of the music, and this album’s lyrics are surprisingly deep and introspective. Mastodon have surely become big-thinking and forward-looking pure musicians.

    All of the above has given Mastodon the biggest and most compelling sound in modern metal, and this album is sonically imposing and unforgiving from the first note. They even make a banjo sound ominous at the beginning of “Divinations.” Epic grooves and jarring time shifts add to the success of the rifftastic “Quintessence” and the especially disturbing “Ghost of Karelia.” And after dozens of listens I’m still trying to comprehend the two 10+ minute epics “The Czar” and “The Last Baron” and I know that these tracks will unveil new musical surprises for months and even years to come. And that’s what makes this not just Mastodon’s best album yet but also one of the best metal albums in recent memory. It will surely reward repeated listens. Mastodon’s huge sounds and huge thoughts have come together in terrifying ways. [~doomsdayer520~]

    Posted on November 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Without getting into the debate as to whether Crack the Skye is Mastodon’s best album to date, one would be wise to just point out its differences, both strengths and shortcomings, and leave it to the fans to do the ranking.

    On first listen, Crack the Skye will immediately stand out for its easily noticeable absence of screamed vocals. Troy Sanders uses his clean voice on almost all the tunes, with very few exceptions. Without doubt, it will take some time to get used to his style, but repeat listens only serve to solidify one’s opinion that the songs on this disc have been composed in such a style to sound much better with this approach. Pain-ridden vocals pop up only to provide contrast to the more melodious direction taken in spots. The chorus on “Ghost of Karelia”, for instance, proves all the more powerful as the vocals shift from the mostly clean style to somewhat aggressive outbursts.

    The guitar tandem of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher lend the songs a solid, unbreakable facade, which elevates them to a whole new level. From the apocalyptic opening chords of “Oblivion”, chock full of despondent riffs and rock-based guitar solos; to the calculated riffery of “Divinations”, they implant dynamics to the compositions through and through. Rather than entirely focusing on heavy, punishing jackhammer riffery, this time around they also utilise progressive metal-like jam sessions and blues-inflected passages. As a result, the constant shifting of dynamics on “Quintessence” renders the tune more creative and interesting.

    The ten-minute epic “The Czar” is built upon flawless songwriting and mood construction. Broken down into four parts, it launches into an unadulterated groove from the mellow “Usurper” to “Escape”, though the vocal melody on this one is not among Mastodon’s best. With “Martyr,” things retreat back to clean acoustic lines before picking up the trademark Mastodon riffs and seguing into a wonderful blues-inflected solo.

    Scott Kelly from the amazing Neurosis continues the tradition to guest on Mastodon discs (he also sang on Leviathan and Blood Mountain) and appears on the title track, among the album’s most progressive pieces as it strangely recalls 90’s King Crimson in the way the guitars have been arranged. The guitar solo on this track is among the best ever!

    As stated above, how Crack the Skye will rank in Mastodon’s catalog remains to be seen. However, from a production standpoint, it is by far the band’s best-sounding album. It was produced by the great Brendan O’Brien whose resume includes all kinds of different artists, from Pearl Jam to Stone Temple Pilots to Bruce Springsteen to AC/DC to Aerosmith to name but a few. O’Brien has managed to create a dense album with many layers, thick guitar tapestries, and heavy, solid drum and bass battery. He was also unafraid to render sound effects on Sanders’ voice with great results.

    The album title is a homage to drummer Brann Dailor’s sister Skye Dailor who committed suicide at the age of 14, so this is obviously among the more personal musical statements of the band.

    Highly recommended.

    Posted on November 10, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now