Mastodon - Crack the Skye (2009)Release ID: 303

Mastodon - Crack the Skye (2009) Cover
Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / September 17, 2023 / Comments 0 / 0

Once again, I'm surprised by how much interest I'm losing in the more popular progressive metal bands like Mastodon. It's just... I don't know, they just seem a bit overpraised with their huge expanding fanbase. But they do have these constant surprises that keep them unique and unpredictable. This progressive quartet from Atlanta, Georgia, has made sure none of their albums or songs are the same as one another. For this album, the band has firmly placed themselves in the atmospheric progressive realm they've always transcended through, discarding their earlier Crowbar-esque sludge roots. Checking this album out again after missing out on it for almost a couple years made me realized that while many songs are still awesome, only a couple of them I would rate lower.

As I've said, the band switched from a progressive sludge band to an atmospheric progressive metal/rock one in this release. Actually, maybe the "rock" part is too much of a face-slap, because it is mostly metal. For some reason, guitarist Brent Hinds once said Mastodon was more of an art rock band than metal, which is a band self-description as wrong as Lemmy insisting on deeming his band Motorhead just rock and roll. Anyway, sure there are some soft progressive rock moments in this Mastodon, but they still have a lot of heaviness. The f***ing big riffing of Hinds and Bill Kelliher, the talented drumming of Brann Dailor, and the distorted bass of Troy Sanders proves it all...

Vocals are performed by all members except Kelliher, albeit not altogether, with opener "Oblivion" being the only track with all 3 vocalists singing. The song shows ambitious elevation in emotion. Next track "Divinations" is a straight hard-hitter, as opposed to the rest of the album's atmospheric side. Great metal bliss in those riffs, though a bit uneasy at times. The amazing "Quintessence" has slower, less direct guitar that allows you to relax and explore further. Then when the heaviness comes, it's more balanced.

There's lots of progressive imagination in the Opeth-sized epic "The Czar". Throughout those 4 movements and 11 minutes, the band can control their emotional structure to allow a stable climax that can end the track shining greater than the end of their earlier 4-minute track. "Ghost of Karelia" has mighty bass thunder.

The title track has a bit of the sludgy doom of Neurosis, whose recently fired vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly appears here. The song and the album title tribute to Brann's one-year-younger sister Skye who took her own life at age 14. However, that song I struggle with nowadays. "The Last Baron" is another epic with the structural strength of Opeth, though slightly less focused with some steam lost halfway through. The steam is regained in time for a jazzy yet metal finale to make the song another highlight.

With all that I had to say about this album upon my recent revisit, Crack the Skye is a cohesive journey as Mastodon's progressive side takes the place of most of their earlier sludge. The different moods nicely test out their ambitious style when creating this fine album, though a couple songs should've had more concentration for higher quality. It's more thorough and later rounds of listening like this that has made me find some oddities more quickly. Despite that, I've regained a bit of interest in Mastodon. It just goes to show that greater different listens make you find a few things hard to enjoy, while everything else deserves great praise....

Favorites: "Oblivion", "Quintessence", "The Czar", "The Last Baron"

Saxy S Saxy S / November 14, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

I knew within the first two tracks of my first playthrough in 2009 that Crack the Skye was something special; even further beyond what the band had already achieved throughout the decade. But it was track four: "The Czar" that confirmed it. Something about the way that track in particular begins softly and comforting, grows into a sludge metal bridge and then comes back down to a reprise of the opening theme with elements of the sludgy bridge was spectacular.

Mastodon went to work on this album and it shows with how precise it all is. Each track on the album is very unique from one another, but not in a way that makes each song sound like it was written for a different artist. It makes the connectivity of the whole thing very fluent; you can tell you're listening to a Mastodon record while also knowing exactly where you are. The leit motifs that Mastodon uses throughout are impressionable, but surprisingly get stuck in your head quickly. In contrast to other Mastodon album's, Crack the Skye is not as direct with its hook driven formula, but is just as effective. Songs like the single "Oblivion", as well as the excellent title track and "Divinations". Hell, even the extended "The Czar" and "The Last Baron" hold together remarkably well.

The album sounds brilliant. The mixing of the vocals have a psychedelic flare, so it is easy to get lost in them, especially during the long songs. But the melodies are so simple, direct and recurrent that I almost feel like getting lost in a trance. Bass work is phenomenal; the low end of "The Last Baron" and "Ghost of Karelia" give the mix a punch that so many modern metal bands lack. The guitar leads are, like the vocals, impressionist in nature, but just as effective, while the rhythm is chunky, groovy and is not relegated to backup bass duty. I think that Brann's drums are some of the best in Mastodon's discography. They are technical, but they never feel like they are oppressing the rest of the mix.

The impressionist value of the melodies is symbolic since most of the lyrics of this album are shrouded in secrecy (minus "The Czar"), and Mastodon is able to carry the emotional weight of transcendence through the darkest of times and make them stronger. What I love about the album is how it manages to be progressive without the use of technical wankery and shredding; instead using minimalist textures and writing to tell a story, while still incorporating techniques that Mastodon have been known for over the last ten years.

In comparison to other prog albums around the same time, many of which I do like (Colors, Ghost Reveries, Axioma Ethica Odini etc.), it is Crack the Skye that stands out above the rest. Mastodon provided us with an opus that cannot be understated how fresh it feels, even today. While Dream Theater were spending their 2000s releasing the same album ad nauseum every two years, Mastodon were reaching for the stars. One of the my favourite progressive metal albums and the album that solidified Mastodon as household names in metal during the 2010s, and rightfully so. 


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 16 | Reviews: 2


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 8 | Reviews: 2


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 10


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 5

Crack the Skye
The Infinite

Progressive Metal (conventional)

Voted For: 1 | Against: 0

#11 in Saxy S Top 20 Releases