Crack The Skye
23 March 2009
by Hugh Platt
The only thing higher than the fan expectations for Crack The Skye, Mastodon’s fourth full-length studio album, was the state of mind possessed by the four crazed musicians when they came up with the idea of it. If you’ve been tracking the rumours surrounding this heady…beast of an album, you’ll have heard that its a concept album touching on a paraplegic, astral projection, and Rasputin, an idea so batshit crazy that only the proggiest of prog-metallers could pull it off.
But no matter what brand of weirdness you’ve steeled yourself for, no matter how steeped in the lore of Mastodon you think you are, you’re not ready for Crack The Skye. This is an album that will snake into your skull similar to the all-pervasive intoxification you’d get from as breathing in the air of an opium parlour; even if you never intended to take a hit, this record will render you addicted.
While the first track, ‘Oblivion’, might not have the immediate, muscular power of the openers of either Blood Mountain or Leviathan, the ominous build-up of chords sets out the ground rules – insofar as Mastodon ever follow rules – that Crack The Skye will follow. It rightly feels like a re-adjustment of the band’s innate force to something altogether more calculated. The movements from portentous chug to the lush, sweeping riffs of the chorus, which are almost reminiscent of Deftones at their most White Pony, before the first of the albums many solos kicks in.
The development of Hinds’ voice (and to a lesser extent, Sanders’) across the album will put a lot of Mastodon fans off-balance. The band’s shift in guitar sound from a bulldozer crunch to soaring, tidal waves of riffs has precipitated Hinds appropriating – gulp – melody into his vocals. But like so much of Crack The Skye, what at first seems alien and distracting later makes perfect sense – Hinds’ old way of singing wouldn’t have just sounded worse when used on the songs of Crack The Skye, it wouldn’t have worked at all.
Brann Dailor’s drumming is once again of the stuff that leaves other sticksmiths sore from wanking over in appreciation. While many bands might relegate their drummers to a supporting role, Dailor’s tubthumping is so much more an intricate part of the Mastodon sound. The rumbling, rolling drum lines of ‘Ghost of Karelia’ make it sound like a war in heaven between two particularly vengeful thunder deities.
Watch the video to ‘Divinations’ from Crack The Skye by Mastodon
It’s when Mastodon think big that they truly show what they can deliver. With‘The Czar’ and ‘The Last Baron’ clocking in at over nine and thirteen minutes respectively, they stand astride the record like impossible and terrifying msuical monoliths. Even broken down into it’s four component parts, ‘The Czar’ resists all attempts to grapple and grasp with it.
Crack The Skye has a scope and sense of itself that sets it apart from the works of other bands that lay claim to – and in reality can only dream of – being Mastodon’s peers. The Atlanta foursome have managed to deliver on their promise, have managed to exceed the monumental hype that surrounded this album, and have once again added another classic record to their impressive discography. Regardless of what you know about Mastodon, whatever you think you know about Mastodon, this record disputes it. Right now there’s no record on Earth you need to hear more than this.
Sounds like: Tool, Neurosis, your brain imploding
Top tracks: Divinations, The Czar, The Last Baron
Mastodon – Crack The Skye tracklisting
Ghost of Karelia
Crack The Skye
The Last Baron