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.