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Mastodon - Crack The Skye (10/10) - USA - 2009

Genre: Sludge Metal / Melodic Metal / Progressive Metal
Label: Reprise Records
Playing time: 50:00
Band homepage: Mastodon

Tracklist:

  1. Oblivion
  2. Divinations
  3. Quintessence
  4. The Czar                                                                                                                   I. Usurper
    II. Escape
    III. Martyr
    IV. Spiral
  5. Ghost Of Karelia
  6. Crack The Skye
  7. The Last Baron
Mastodon - Crack The Skye

If you want to hear the sound of a band at the peak of their art form, maturing as they play, and showing just how diverse and complex Metal can be, then you need look no further than the latest effort from Atlanta’s MASTODON. I know by now a lot of gushing praise has been heaped on “Crack The Skye” from all corners of the music world, some even dipping in to fan boy territory. Well, I’m here to tell you most of it doesn’t go far enough; this is flat out the best album of 2009 by a mile and easily one of the best of the decade. It is truly hard to put into words how stunningly brilliant this record is, from its seamless incorporation of many styles of rock and metal, the flawless recording and musicianship to the engaging and expansive lyrical world it creates. It truly is a musical journey that should be experience by oneself to see just how dazzling this album is.

 

I remember vividly how impressive MASTODON were when I first saw them about seven years ago at the small Knitting Factory in Hollywood. Blown away doesn’t do justice to how sensational they were that night. I am being completely sincere when I say my roommate and I looked at each other at the end of their set with mouths agape, not just unable to express how good it was but wanting to quietly digest its magnificence on our own before putting the experience in to words. This was on the “Remission” tour, another of the finest albums of the decade. Since then the band has released other solid records, although I wasn’t as taken with their last stab into the world of Prog Rock/Metal “Blood Mountain” as most others were. It seemed a bit lost in its attempts to bring disparate sounds into the fold and fell down doing so I thought. There isn’t a moment or even a chord in that vein on “Crack The Skye”, everything fits perfectly and pushes the band into the musical stratosphere that few could even hope to reach for. Fan boy? Too bloody right for this work of art!

 

Opening with a discordant guitar that creeps on you and sets you on edge, “Oblivion” is perhaps the finest melodic song in the metal realm this year, mixing a good dose of the crunch that MASTODON are known for with lighter moments, though still edgy, through the verses. This is the first song drummer Brann Dailor has been out in front with lead vocals on, with bassist Troy Sanders then taking over his usual vocal duties for part of the verse. This culminates in such an exceptional chorus that is so perfectly melodic it would hard not to be swayed by its sweet grip; guitarist Brent Hinds’ unique voice being the glue that seals this warm yet still rocking crest of the track. To flush out all of the songs on “Crack The Skye” and describe their multifaceted attack would take far more space than would be welcome on this page. Suffice to say that the band weaves and threads their customary metallic dissonance with parts melodic and caustic so evenly that it is the best example of a band writing and performing at a mature level beyond what would have been expected I can think of. For those who might discard such a progression and wax nostalgic for their “harder” days, you would be making a huge mistake. Throughout the album the band lays down some supremely heavy and crushing sections that are the equal to anything they’ve done in the past; it is just that they have melded more, many more, varieties of rock and metal and done it so engagingly it is unblemished.

 

Being a four part “epic”, the 4th track “The Czar” has been discussed all over the map, and deservedly so. In a certain respect, the track is a microcosm of the entire album: complex, melodic, thrashy at times, a sludgefest and progressive as fuck. Alone this song would put any album up over the top, on “Crack The Skye” it simply solidifies how breathtaking the whole record is. Comparisons of PINK FLOYD on steroids have been bandied about in articles and reviews of this album, but they don’t do it justice again. First, it obviously might leave some thinking it is far mellower than it is, but beyond that it really does not describe how vast the songs on “Crack The Skye” really are. As great as some of their stuff may have been (I’m not a huge fan) PINK FLOYD have never recorded an album this diverse. Period! A better way to state it would be to say this would be FLOYD or NEUROSIS or a plethora of so many other bands all playing at the very peak of their creative capabilities. Yeah, it’s that good. Oh, and did I say it crushes also? Just listen to the riff on the title track and tell me that isn’t one of the heaviest Sluge riffs you’ve heard in ages.

 

Think I’m overselling this album? No god damn way. This has everything an open minded Metalhead could dream of and beyond. It has been a tremendous year for Metal, with even more to come. However, when I make my list of top albums of the year it will take me less than a nanosecond to write down the top spot. Why are you even still reading this and not out buying this masterpiece already?

(Online November 12, 2009)

Stephen Rafferty



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