It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything so here I go. I’ll try not to be too biased with this one.
Mastodon are back again from near destruction with their latest ‘Crack the Skye’. I was in anticipation for this for many months dating back even to last year, this band had grown on me considerably since I first discovered them a few years ago, back when all I had of theirs was Leviathan.
The album comes on the heels of co-lead guitarist and vocalist Brent Hinds battle with a serious head-trauma injury sustained after an inebriated post-award show beatdown by Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down (allegedely). This caused Hinds to suffer from a serious case of vertigo and amnesia of the incident for about 8 months, forcing him to sit at home for the most part, only to compose with his guitar while he waited to get back to full health. This exile however, seems to have been of great assistance to the quality and creativity of this album.
I wont go into every track on the record but I will describe some significant ones.
Crack the Skye opens with the track Oblivion which is a solid-opener by their standards. It is somewhat taken-aback from previous offerings, reigning in the Thrash elements a bit and allowing for a more melodic and progressive nature, this is a recurring motif throughout the album. Brent said it best when he described the record as being their “Led Zeppelin 4”, as the bands seems to have taken quite a bit of an influence from the 70’s British Rock superstars, with lots more bluesy guitar solos and melodies.
Track 2 is the single “Divinations”. Another solid track which continues with what Oblivion started. This song has a great video too, with Hinds as the Abomonibal snow/cave man who kills and devours his band mates (who are the search crew for Hinds in the snowy mountains.) There’s nothing quite like Death by guitar.
The album continues with a constant momentum, progressive, melodic and heavy, with signature Mastodon riffs and chord progressions throughout. Although they take a few steps out of their usual realm, with the addition of keyboardist Rich Morris on several tracks who adds an interesting dynamic to their sound.
The lyrics on the album are said to be of concept, (which can be said of the music as well, most of the tracks seemlessly flow together.) They are supposedly primarily about Dailor’s sister Skye who tragically took her own life in her teen years, despite previous rumours that the album was a Rasputin concept. However I think they are isolated in certain songs, for instance ‘Crack the Skye’ obviously being about Dailor’s sister and ‘The Last Baron’ likely the to be referencing the Russian. The former track features guest vocals by Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly, returning again, previously appearing on their last album ‘Blood Mountain’. Along with Sanders & Hinds, drummer Brann Dailor is a large contributor to the lyrics of most, if not all of Mastodon’s albums and this one is no different. In viewing their ‘making of’ documentary he is seen working with both singers in the studio.
Mastodon have never had great vocal techniques on any of their albums, but ‘Crack the Skye’ is definitely their best yet in that regard. The same cannot be said of the instrumentals, which are masterful from all members.
With Brendan O’Brien behind the boards for the first time, he doesn’t seem to have tampered much with the band’s signature sound, and has done a good job maintaining the integrity of the songs.
Overall this is a great record start to finish, and the best Mastodon has ever done in my opinion. I can’t wait to check them out on tour this spring.