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~]