Crack The Skye


Reprise, 2009

REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove


Don’t expect Crack The Skye to win you over on the first listen. I was very fond of Mastodon’s 2006 release, Blood Mountain, but I was unprepared for this evolution. (I strongly recommend making Blood Mountain your introduction to Mastodon if you aren’t familiar with them.)

No, it isn’t surprising that this new release is a concept album. So were Leviathan and Blood Mountain. But whereas many of the tracks on those albums didn’t reach four minutes, this is only the case for one track on Crack The Skye, a 50-minute, seven-song beast.

Moreover, the songs on Leviathan and Blood Mountain stand by themselves. I know this might seem like a weird comparison, but think about Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) by The Kinks. All of its tracks add to the concept, but it’s not inappropriate to treat them as individual pop songs. Leviathan and Blood Mountain my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 worked the same way in a metal context. Crack The Skye doesn’t. It’s a journey. It’s like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. You miss something when you don’t listen all the way through.

The vocals of Mastodon are changing, too. Vocalist/lead guitarist Brent Hinds and vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders emulate Ozzy Osbourne quite a bit this time around (just check out the single, “Divinations”). True, Blood Mountain had cleaner vocals than Leviathan, but the signature Mastodon growling has faded even more. The disc’s opening track, Oblivion,” even features a lead vocal by drummer Brann Dailor during the verses, with howling harmonies reminiscent of Alice in Chains for the chorus.

Other things haven’t changed. Dailor remains the Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience) of metal. The country and Middle Eastern influences are still there. Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly lends his voice to the band again on the title track – and steals the song. Finally, many critics and fans continue to label the band as a progressive band, notwithstanding that Mastodon doesn’t seem to care about wanking off instruments during overlong passages or sonic theatrics (e.g., the clocks in Pink Floyd’s “Time”). Plus, I can’t remember a moment when they have reminded me of Yes or Dream Theater; instead, Crack The Skye definitely brings Black Sabbath to mind.  

The story of this album involves Rasputin, the Devil, and a bunch of other dark weird stuff. But there is a more important narrative. “Skye” is the name of Dailor’s dead sister, who committed suicide in her early teens. Quite simply, the album is about dealing with death (the vocals on “The Last Baron” do a great job of evoking this grief). Pitchfork writer Tom Breihan supported this idea well when he cited lyrics from the title track: “Momma, don't let them drag her down / Please tell Lucifer he can't have this one.” Coincidentally, I had to attend a funeral about a week after purchasing this album, which solidified the connection even more for me.

I can’t think of another modern metal band that lives up to its name as much as Mastodon. They are trampling other efforts, and all we can do is watch and listen. To hell with Metallica’s Death Magnetic. Mastodon is tasting death and pushing the envelope, and we have no reason to doubt them.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Jedediah Pressgrove and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.