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Mastodon - Crack The Skye CD (album) cover

CRACK THE SKYE

Mastodon

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.08 | 579 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer
5 stars My familiarity with Mastodon began in 2012 when I knew they were a big thing in heavy metal at the time but wasn't familiar with their body of work. Flash forward 6 years, and I've grown more well-versed in their work. Enough to figure out kind of a pattern. Every one of their albums seems to slip at some point with a mediocre or forgettable riff that tends to ruin the flow of the album. I don't know quite what it is, but every time I listen to a Mastodon album, some part of it tends to daydream and dips in quality making the album lesser than what it could be given the power and talent of the band.

Every album except this one. This is an all-killer, no-filler album and their magnum opus.

If you want to know why Mastodon is considered a progressive metal band, Crack the Skye is the definitive argument. They've made epics before, experimented with time signatures and toyed with lofty concepts before, but not in the grand scale like this before or since. By far, it is one of the most cinematically epic sounding ablums the genre has given the world, and it matches the ridiculous concept.

To give you an idea of the storyline behind the album, the first track along describes an Icarus situation (winged man flies too close to the sun which melts his wings, but with a umbilical cord in this case) crossed with astral projection that ends up falling into a black hole. Later on in the story, the title character ends up in Imperialist Russia possessing Rasputin. It is mammothly absurd, and if the music didn't hold up the pretense of the story, this would have been a disaster.

That's where the majore success of Crack the Skye lies. It's hard to describe the riffs on the album as anything other than cinematic. The lower-end riffs that stay true to the band's sludge metal roots are as delightfully mucky as ever, always melodious even with the distortion well up. Still, there are plenty of higher pitched guitar lines that balance perfectly with the swampy bottom. Special mention goes to drummer Brann Dailor for being the most obviously virtuoso musician on the album as barely a song goes by without a crazy fill, yet he always seems to find a way to keep the rhythm in check so the drumming performances stay clear of over-indulgence. There are your traditional guitar solos speckled throughout the album, but the songs are pieced together so well that the solos are merely icing on the cake as opposed to the main course. The command of tempo is worth mentioning as (the secret word of the review is "balanced") the band is able to balance out slower, shuffling songs with more breakneck metal songs. The epics can either have excellent, smooth tempo changes or chug the riffs faster to fool the listener.

Prog fans will find more solace in the two longer epics ("The Czar" and "The Last Baron"), but every song is a gem. There's a great contrast of shorter, to-the-point statements you can listen to repeatedly in one sitting mixing in with the larger scale epics to feel like a full listening experience. It's what makes "The Last Baron" far more enjoyable. As a stand-alone song, it's still great, but there's something about listening to it after going through the rest of the album that magnifies the piece. Great albums can make their closing statement that much better when the journey to get to it is equally captivating. It feels so fulfilling to go through the whole album and to hear the swinging tempo at the end.

Without question, this is one of the greatest progressive metal albums to hit the mainstream market. If you want a full 45-minute epic metal gorgefest or need a solid riff or five to headbang to, get Crack the Skye. This is way above the pedestal of sameness that modern metal often gets chided for. If you love progressive metal, this should not be missed. A masterpiece without question.

Sinusoid | 5/5 |

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