Mastodon - Crack the Skye (Reprise Records) 2009
DISC ONE (CD)
1. Oblivion (5:46)
2. Divinations (3:40)
3. Quintessence (5:27)
4. The Czar: I. Usurper, II. Escape, III. Martyr, IV. Spiral (10:54)
5. Ghost Of Karelia (5:25)
6. Crack The Skye (5:54)
7. The Last Baron (13:00)
DISC TWO (DVD)
The Making of Crack the Skye
Song by Song Commentary by the Band
I've heard bits and pieces of Mastodon over the years. I've driven across the country with my own band and our bassist is enamored with these guys, so I've even heard complete albums by them. They sounded good enough, yet after walking away I never really pursued purchasing anything from their catalog. Mastodon are also one of these bands that I get persistent emails about with people wondering why they are not on my site. As such, it was just a matter of time before I secured one of their CDs and "Crack the Skye" just happened to be that first CD.
"Crack The Skye" is a full-fledged throwback in terms of style, hearkening back to several 1970s influences. At times I was reminded of bands like Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Uriah Heep and even stuff like Pink Floyd and Yes at times. However, as a whole, Mastodon don't sound like any of those bands. The overall atmosphere is dense, mostly dark, and the guitar riffs often move from groove drones to progressive rhythms. "Crack The Skye" was produced by Brendan O'Brien, who has worked with Aerosmith, among others. However, I don't see this as a very commercial album. It's actually fairly heavy, though more-so in a 70's style heavy than in the modern sense of the word. The overall production, which again is quite thick and dark, brings out the bass and some stellar drum work. I had read several reviews of past Mastodon albums where drummer Brann Dailor is accused of overplaying in every song. If that is the case, I certainly don't hear it here. While he does let lose on some nice fills, he pretty much keeps to the simple beat of the songs.
"The Czar" is an 11-minute epic track with layers of keyboards, and guitars that are sometimes funky, other times becoming quite technical though never overly so. The song weaves its way through various textures and vibes as it progresses without being repetitive or boring. The far shorter "Divinations" starts with a brief banjo intro before kicking into an up-beat, hard driving song. While I'd describe the overall album as sludgy and doomy, this particular song seems to break that mold. The vocals on this song, and throughout, are mostly melodic singing that work well with the song. The album ends with another epic-length track titled "The Last Baron". I found the song to be quite captivating.
I didn't really dig deep into the lyrics on this album as they really didn't pop out at me. However, from what I have read, "Crack the Skye" is supposedly a concept record about the Tsardom of Russia.
This is one of those albums that would be great to kick back to late at night with the headphones on while chilling out. While Mastodon seem to be a flavor-of-the-month favorite and a band that many metal fans seem to detest, for whatever reason, I found their mix of heavy classic rock and progressive elements on "Crack the Skye" to be quite enjoyable. In short, I like it.
There is a bonus DVD discs with this release that has "The Making of Crack the Skye" as well as a song by song commentary by the band. As of writing this I have yet to see that DVD. Frankly, I just don't get much time to watch music DVDs, but I spend a considerable amount of time listening to music.