June 3, 2009

Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)

I have been following Mastodon since I bought their record, Remission on the cover art alone. I have been listening to their natural progression as a band for the last 4 albums and EPs. Their latest album, Crack The Skye is completely different than their other albums, and it took me a solid 5 listening sessions for my feeble head to grasp it, and form an opinion. Like most other Mastodon albums, Crack The Skye is a concept album. Leviathan was about Moby Dick, Blood Mountain was about an epic mythical journey, which paralleled the band signing to a major record label, and showing the label that they were worth every penny. As Brann Dailor puts it, Crack The Skye is a multi-dimensional journey starting in present day. Leaving a crippled body using astral travel, up into outer space, too close to the sun. Ripped into a wormhole and sent to the spirit realm. Convincing sprits that you're not one of them. Channeling you into a Russian Orthodox sect called the Khlysty in the early 20th century. Into Rasputin's body for his assassination. Out of his body and up through a crack in the sky and passing through the Devil's dominion without being dragged to hell and back into present day.


I have always felt like albums should be purchased, and enjoyed on vinyl. The invention of the 8-track, cassette, and cd have taken away from the aesthetic and overall flow of the album, because you could fast forward or skip through the songs that aren't your favorites. If you listen to old rock albums, there is a flow for each side of the LP, and the progression of the album allowed the listener to experience the album (emotionally) as the artist intended. If you doubt this, listen to Led Zeppelin III on vinyl, and you'll be a believer.

Another plus of an LP is that you get to see the album art on a 12"x12" canvas. The art of the album is so crucial on expressing the aesthetic of the content that you are listening to.

With all this said, Crack The Skye hits the nail on the head. Mastodon utilized their artist Paul Romano (WorkHardened) to create the album art for the record. Paul has created the amazing art that is showcased on Remission, Leviathan, and Blood Mountain. The album is pressed on 2 180g black vinyl records, each played at 45rpm for maximum fidelity. Each side of the records has its own feel and flow, and can be listened to on their own over and over.

Crack The Skye has such a different feel than their other albums, and I welcome it with open arms. Their early work was super sludgy, in your face metal that showcased a wall of noise, as well as insane riffs, and very complex drum work. At times their work was almost jazzy, but still held to their metal roots. Crack The Skye is so fucking progressive, that I didn't know what to think for quite some time. I feel like Blood Mountain failed as a record for me, because there was a lot of Prog, but a lot of Metal in it, and the two weren't woven together well. My favorite track from Blood Mountain was "Colony Of Birchmen", which had Josh Homme on guest vocals of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age Fame. It is a great song, but I felt like it wasn't fitting that my favorite track wasn't all Mastodon. It seemed to me like "Blood Mountain" was trying to be proggy, but instead it was a psychedelic mindfuck that didn't really deliver the continuity that I'd grown to love with Mastodon. With Crack The Skye, it sounds like Mastodon really honed in on what they wanted to do. They went full throttle into a proggy metal realm in Crack The Skye, that sounds fluid.

The album doesn't really have a "single", which I love. Most Prog albums fail with me, due to an aura of pretension that ruins the entire feel. Crack The Skye, however seems to ease you into the record with "Oblivion", and "Divinations". It proceeds to kick the living shit out of me on the second side of the first disc with a "The Czar", a 4 part epic sound assault that showcases the bands background of riff-driven metal bursts. "The Czar" could be its own album by itself as it tells the story of Rasputin with his influence on Russia during the great war, his murder, and the legend that he left behind. It does not touch on the fact that he had a 16" dong, which was my only disappointment on the album, HA. The 3rd side of the album is a pair of very psychedelic songs, that touch down on very emotional realms and spiritual passage. These two songs are not too long, not too short, but the lyrics on these songs are very touching. One of the songs is the title track which expresses the emotional turmoil of spiritual passing, as well as the real life passing of Dailor's 14-year old sister. The album ends with my favorite piece, "The Last Baron". The entire album showcases influences from all kinds of bands, but "The Last Baron" puts me through of roller coaster of influences that remind me of sludgy Matt Pike bands, Metallica, King Crimson, Mike Patton/Dillinger Escape Plan, My Bloody Valentine and Judas Priest battling guitar riffs. Make no mistake, the sound is defiantly theirs, and it works so fucking good.

In the past, I have felt like Mastodon's only downfall was its vocals. I felt as if Brann's drums carried the band to stardom, but the vocals on this album by Brann, Brent, and Troy are epic. Who's have thought a goddamn three part harmony would be making it onto Mastodon album. Like Blood Mountain, they invited a guest singer onto the album. He is none other than Neurosis' Scott Kelly, who sings on the title track, and shreds.

Crack The Skye is not an album that will captivate you on the first listen. As you listen to the album over and over you will pick up on different pieces, and it will take up real estate on your record player for a very long time. I cannot take it off of my player, and with each listen, I look forward to what else will blow me away.


Nightrain said...

This is epic and awesome!