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Mastodon - Crack The Skye CD (album) cover

CRACK THE SKYE

Mastodon

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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5 stars For my first Prog Archives review, I will tackle Crack the Skye. An unexpected masterpiece from a band that has never disappointed me, but has never blown me away either.

Crack the Skye is an album of nearly unparalleled beauty and power. It's not quite as hard-hitting as their prior works, but what it lacks in punch it makes up for in vision. This is a singular work that sticks out from the rest of their albums. It flows smoothly throughout its 50-minute runtime, building to a satisfying and almost heart-breaking conclusion. They hit all the right notes here, conjuring up some wild emotions while simultaneously rocking hard.

The most striking thing about this album is how much these guys have evolved. They keep elements of their old sound, but for the most part these guys are brand new. There has been a steady progression from their early days up to Crack the Skye, and I feel that Mastodon have hit a creative pinnacle with this masterstroke, one that is unlikely to be matched by any band this year, and one that is unlikely to be matched by the band themselves for years to come, if ever.

Even if you don't like Mastodon's older work, this is an album you need to listen to.

Report this review (#208496)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first Mastodon album I have heard in full, and I am very happy with it. I highly recommend this album even if you are just a fan of prog. This entire album is very different than any other songs I have heard by Mastodon. Gone are the harsh shouting vocals that Brent Hinds used to have. Most of the vocals are clean vocals, with Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor (not certain, I may be mixing him up with Troy Sanders) singing most of the time.

One important note, the drumming on this album is very superb. Brann Dailor is probably the best new drummer of our time. He always keeps on the beat and every dozen seconds or so includes small fills. His best shows of his drumming skills on this album are Quintessence and The Last Baron.

The guitar riffs/bass lines and guitar solos are not amazing but excellent. Brent Hinds definitely shows his skills though.

The theme for this album is ether and it definitely shows. The entire album has surreal eerie feeling to it. The track I recommend most are the first four and the seventh. If you are a fan of progressive metal, this album is for you.

Report this review (#208546)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Crack My Minde

Ah, another progressive masterpiece from Mastodon. I'd say this is possibly my favorite Mastodon album, although Blood Mountain and Leviathan and... hell, even Remission, are all brilliant. The songs on this album seem so fluid and befitting of the element of air. With a mystic story involving spirit journeys, space mind travel, and The Czar of Russia, it is a unique concept that is highly augmented positively by the songs.

The two singles are the first on the album, and are certain highlights. The Czar is an epic style song and is possibly my favorite song on the album, along with The Last Baron. Each song is filled with technical playing, shifting tempos and sections, and a very emotionally evocative feel. It is less death metal and more melodic technical metal, this time around. I absolutely love Mastodon, and this is another amazing album. Five stars.

Report this review (#208550)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another great album by Mastodon. This is what you like to see, a band with a defined identity yet an evolving band.

Crack the Skye is a magnificent effort by the Atlanta quartet. With less erratic song structures yet still filled with those dissonant riffs and melodies that just make Mastodon so unique.

I must also note how vocals are the best yet. For a band that says they had no choice but to sing and scribble lyrics, the mixed vocals of the different members are more melodious here than before, and again very primal.

I waited several months to rush today for this album and was not disappointed. 5 stars to the best American-metal and a great progressive band.

Highlights: Oblivion, Quintessence, Crack the Skye, The Last Baron.

Report this review (#208559)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, Mastodon. The big prog band. I think they've earned being called that. Because, this record, Crack The Skye, is absolutely unprecedented. It's brilliant, technical and musical all at the same time. It flows amazingly. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy (My hookups at Relapse) of it and I couldn't stop listening to it. This band really knocked it out of the park.

Oblivion, the beginning of the record. It sounded very promising the first time I heard it. The big build up at the beginning caught me off guard, because I was expecting some more of The Wolf is Loose. But what I got instead was just magnificent. Clean vocals! Mastodon would never do that! The chorus is just so eerie and glorious: Fallen from grace cause i been away too long Leaving you behind with my lonesome song Now i'm lost in oblivion. Then the guitar solo. Brilliant track. (10/10)

DIVINATIONS! Although it may be the single of the record, it still holds up and is very interesting. Again the chorus: NO ESCAAAPE BINDIING SPIRITS. It also has a very interesting ending, with some strange sounds and stuff. Top notch! (10/10)

Quintessence, a song named after the famous Raga rock band! This song is another psychedelic trip. (See the pre chorus) But it shows how Mastodon really is capable of melding their heavy side and prog side into one song. This song is an absolutely smashing example. The ending has a return of some of the weird fuzzy vocals from Blood Mountain. (10/10)

The Czar. What's this I hear? Organ? On a Mastodon record? You must be kidding. This track is THE best off the record. Bar none. The Last Baron comes close, but this track is the best. It may even be the best Mastodon track EVER. I'm not going to spoil anything by running through it, but I can tell you it has the absolute best guitar solo on the record. I have 134 plays of this track on my Last.fm profile. 134. That should give you a hint at how good this track is. And if you listen to it nearly as much as I do, you'll be humming Dont stay, run away all day long. (99999/10)

Ghost of Karelia starts off very interesting with the lone cymbal and bells. The verses have the oddest singing I've ever heard from Mastodon. This track doesn't even sound like them. It's very puzzling at first but it grows on you. Simply amazing. (10/10)

Crack the Skye! The obligatory Scott Kelly track! This one starts off VERY gloriously and keeps up with the overall strangeness of the vocals. It's really not that much of a change from Ghost of Karelia, as I tend to confuse the two because they have similar endings. It's an absolute solid track, albeit the weakest on the album. For me at least. (10/10)

The Last Baron! This is the track I anticipated constantly for weeks and weeks ever since I heard of the new album coming out. Any 13 minute Mastodon track has to be absolutely insane in every way or sense. You see, my advanced copy was missing this track. So I didn't get to hear it until I bought the full record yesterday. I was expecting some very technical, even Dream Theater-esque parts if you may. The build ups and the breakdowns and the prog-jazz part all boggled my mind. This track does not sink in at first. It takes about 10 listens. Then you get sucked into it like the main character! This is a perfect closer for a monster record. (10/10)

This record is seriously PERFECT. I couldn't find anything wrong with it. It's short length (Mastodon records normally push around 70+ minutes), it's beautiful music and clean vocals. But overall, it's proof that Mastodon is growing up. They've been literally, progressing musically since Leviathan came out. Blood Mountain was a step up, but this record just jumped the whole staircase! This record is definitely destined to go down in history. If you ever doubted Mastodon, go out this very instant and buy this record. It's cheap, I only payed 11.99 for it. If I could rate this 10 stars, I would. In fact I might make another account to review it again!

Report this review (#208863)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I guess it was generally expected that this latest Mastodon's release would be less aggresive and more melodic than Blood Mountain, the same way the latter was in comparison to Leviathan. Like Blood Mountain, this is a very musically powerful and adventurous album too, featuring more melodic and catchier choruses, some keyboards here and there, clever use of tambourine and other non-metal percussion and smoother singing (there are times that Brent Hinds' voice sounds like a cross between Ozzy and James Gang era Joe Walsh). Mastodon is a really charismatic group with a very distinctive sound and suburb ideas. Sometimes, they even make you forget all the great music you've heard from the hard and heavy rock giants whose heritage they are now expanding. On the other hand and regardin the sound, if Blood Mountain was to Mastodon what the crystal clear Machine Head was to Deep Purple, Crack The Skye is Mastodon's muddy In Rock. Also, drums are slightly weaker and not "in your face" as in Blood Mountain (or Leviathan). Despite this and the completely unnecessary grawiling vocals from Scott Kelly, who appears as a guest at the title track, this is another magnificent release and Mastodon's more classic progressive rock oriented album yet and I would highly recommend it to any heavy prog, hard rock, heavy metal or progressive metal lover. 4 stars from the progressive rock and 5 from the progressive metal point of view.
Report this review (#209169)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Now I am not by any means a metal fan, but I do enjoy a good prog-metal album here or there. But this one does not have enough prog to meet my tastes.

While Ghost of Karelia and The Last Baron are truly prog, the rest of the album, while infused with some very good guitar playing, slogs through in simple 4/4 time, with somewhat mundane composition.

And what's with this tendency for metal bands to use vocals that sound like someine throwing up into their mouth? It appears to me to be an easy way to not have to compose a melody. Thankfully, Mastodon has kept this singing confined to just a few annoying moments. I'll be relieved when prog-metal bands grow out of this style.

Report this review (#209216)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I listened to CRACK THE SKYE for the first time today. I must say that it is the best new metal (not nu metal) album I've heard since The Mars Volta's THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH last January. I had heard some Mastodon stuff previous to listening to CRACK THE SKYE but it was waayyyy to heavy for my tastes--I'm a fan of The Mars Volta, Tool, and Porcupine Tree. But CRACK THE SKYE is a very melodic album even though there is an abundance of growling on here (it's a metal album, after all). The vocals on CRACK THE SKYE remind of such diverse hard rock/metal vocalists as Ozzy Osbourne, David Draiman, James LeBrie, and Mikael Akerfeldt. Musically, it is mishmash of an abundance of genres such as psychedelic rock, sludge metal, and, naturally, prog metal. This is one of the best albums of 2009 I've heard, so far. I'm highly anticipating more prog rock/metal releases by The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree. But for fans of any type of progressive rock, CRACK THE SKYE is a great album to whet your appetite while waiting for more exciting 2009 releases. GRADE: A- (89%)
Report this review (#209221)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars An epic album by American tech metal band Mastodon. Very interesting concept of making music. Being the first album by Mastodon, I have listened to, I felt some Amorphis-like moments here. Amorphis is one of my favourite metal (not rock) bands, but regretfully here I feel some of the spirit of their less good albums. Some of the solos and the vocals are very similar to Amorphis. Crack the Skye is full of dynamic tunes, but not very catchy for non-metal prog fans. Moreover, at the middle of the album I've already felt a kind of boredom, which's not very good for me.

I don't want to say the album is bad. It's good, especially if you listen to it song by song, all of the songs are sooner positive than negative, but as an album it's sooner negative than positive. Good everyday album for metal fans, but it lacks of something really special and astonishing. My rating goes for something between 3 and 3.5 stars, more likely about 3.1 - 3.2 stars!

Report this review (#209289)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Unfortunately, I don't think this album is up to par with their past work..... They have not evolved..... this is not a masterpiece. half of it is boring. someone wrote that their time signatures are more basic and this is true. the music is less creative as their past stuff. the aggression that is mastodon is, not completely, but very much lost. Yes it is a prog album, and yes it is better than 99% of the music you will hear on a basic radio. But the production on this album is far from excellent. The change in the sound of the vocals is annoying. The drumming is without a single doubt(from the ears of a drummer) less than exciting compared to previous albums. The album does flow, but the music is hardly what they are known for. The guitars sound muddy(and this may be due to bad mixing or producing, which is what I believe). bring back the badass-ness that is lost. If this is the first mastodon album you've ever heard, and arent thrilled with it, listen to the album leviathan. But this one is an album to keep in the collection and throw on once a year, that's about it. review here is about 2.5
Report this review (#209303)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Mastodon-Crack the Skye (Reprise)

Have you grown, evolved, and matured with your favorite metal bands? Are you less angry and more articulate than you were five years ago? If so, you will probably enjoy this album. While you won't find another "Crusher Destroyer" or "March of the Fire Ants" on Crack the Skye, it is not Mastodon lite or Metallica's Black Album. But it does feature the band shooting from its collective third eye like much like the esoteric figures adorning the album's cover. Drummer, Brann Dailor puts on a drum clinic throughout the disc's seven tracks, and co-guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher will have budding, young shredders holed up in the woodshed copping their impressive licks.

The album's opening track, "Oblivion", begins with an arpegiated guitar line that morphs into a jackhammer-picked riff, before a blazing solo demands the listener's attention. The sung, not growled, vocals are surprisingly well done. "Divinations" follows, commencing with an atonal banjo lick, yes banjo, before the growl returns and Mastodon displays their adeptness at weaving melody into the headbanging stomp of their tunes. "Quintessence" is one of the Crack the Skye's standout tracks, replete with Kelliher and Hinds' trademark harmonized guitar leads and dizzying hammer-ons and pull-offs that build into progressive rock passages with modulating chord shifts and a kind of silly and unnecessary chorus. The Floydian synth intro of the "The Czar", is an admirable foray away from the usual riffage, but does not do much to serve the song. Notable Robert Fripp inspired guitar work occurs at ten and a half minutes into the tune. "Ghost of Karelia" is another mid-tempo crusher with what sounds like slide guitar in the mix, and the title track begins ballad-like before unexpected chord changes keep the listener guessing as the crunch thickens.

Overall, things seem a bit pulled back until the album's final track, "The Last Baron". The piano and acoustic guitar intro is further evidence of the album's mega-budget. Then, six minutes into the thirteen-minute tune, the jaw-dropping shredfest begins and does not let up. Crack the Skye's refined sound does sacrifice a smidge of brutality in order to take metal to a new place that they have created. However, the band's musicianship is staggering and I only anticipate growing fonder of this batch of tunes with repeated listens. New and longtime fans will certainly agree.

Report this review (#210009)
Posted Friday, April 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Fio
5 stars YES! This is the Mastodon album that all prog fans should have been waiting for. On this album Mastodon shows us why they are one of the best bands playing today. As a long time fan of the band, I'm not ashamed to say that I love every step that they've taken with their music; however, like Blood Mountain, it took me a few listens to catch everything that is going on here, though the process here was a lot faster due to these songs being so well writing. That's the great thing about Mastodon?they progress with every album; they don't stagnate and they don't stick to the same old formula. They're always pushing themselves. This album is as close to flawless as you can get. The songwriting on this album is so catchy and awe-inspiring; it hits you in the heart and at the same time they give you the complexities that we all crave in prog.

The concept is an abstract one, and I won't get into it's details, but I will say that it is based on some of the members' lives so it isn't completely abstract. I group this album into sections: the first three, "Oblivion," "Divinations," and "Quintessence," are shorter numbers with catchy choruses and a bit of a lighter feel. Don't get me wrong?they all have their heavy moments?but this is a lighter side of Mastodon that is I think is a great move for them. They have really stepped up the song writing on this album, and it's evident on these songs right from the beginning. One of the guitar players, Brent Hinds, was knocked into a coma a few months before this album was written, and that experience is evident in these songs. It's metaphoric and symbolic, but keeping his experience in mind it brings a whole new meaning to the words.

"Ghost of Karelia" and "Crack the Skye" are the heavier numbers albeit with great songwriting as well. "Crack the Skye" is about Brann Dailor's sister who committed suicide, and the narrative in this song involves him trying to save her from this doom. It's a heart wrenching and it's extremely powerful, and thought the instrumentation is heavy, it retains that sense of longing to help his sister. Then there are the two epics, "The Czar" and "The Last Baron." Each is a true epic by itself, but Mastodon has elevated their standard for epics so much on this album. Don't get me wrong, "Hearts Alive" from Leviathan is a great longer length song for Mastodon, but these two just blow it out of the water. They are so complex and they have a keen sense of juxtaposition with the lighter parts and the heavier parts. "The Last Baron" is a true showcase of what this band can do?great songwriting, incredible verses and choruses that you remember, and an amazing YYZ-like instrumental?and they do it with such ease and grace.

I think that the fact that these songs stick in your head is such a breath of fresh air for metal. It's what sets this album apart?these are actually GREAT songs, it's not just a bunch of guys wanking off their instruments and putting on a fireworks display of musicianship. I kept this album in my car's cd player all summer and throughout that time I gained a great familiarity with it. If you really want to explore everything that this incredible album has to offer, I suggest that you do the same. I find something new every time I listen, like a new sound or a little extra vocal part in the back. It's a masterpiece, and an essential piece of progressive music for sure?there is no doubt in my mind about that. Well done Mastodon, well done.

Report this review (#210143)
Posted Saturday, April 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think the sum of the other reviews is a fair overview of this album....it is shorter and less complex than other albums, the singing is cleaner (which I prefer) and it is a progression from their earlier albums, whilst retaining many of their signature sounds....One of highlights of their sound is the phenomenal drumming...there isn't quite as much spark on this album (for my taste)... the production is awful, i hope they remix/remaster and re-release this at some point...(i think i could do better with my home studio)....one of the guitar solos jars (out of time)...but apart from the few negatives this is a very enjoyable album with some great highlights, moments of beauty, lush soundscapes and great arrangements....I think the final track reminds be most of their earlier sound and is the drumming highlight of album.... I have rated this as 4 stars...on the basis that I think it would be great addition to anyones collection....but it is not quite a masterpiece (for me).....However, if I was rating this on how much I enjoy this album it would be 5 stars.
Report this review (#210670)
Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars As usual, the review section for the latest mastodon album is full of musings and doubts about the progressivness of the album. A just question as this is a progressive rock website, but one that is most often given a disappointing verdict. The songs aren't long enough, the tempo shifts and time signatures changes aren't enough (or random and pointless from the perspective of this reviewer). But I'll skip that typical and tiresome argument with the simple conclusion that progressive is an approach and attitude, not a sound or structure.

With that out of the way, Mastodon has produced their finest ALBUM yet. Whereas Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Remission have all produced quality songs and listens, only Leviathan was a consistent record, and at that point the bands sound was repetitive, albeit fresh. With Crack the Skye, the band has reached a new height in creativity and songwriting. Finally they have produced an album that never steps outside of itself, yet manages to surpass the sum of the whole. There are some songs on here that are not as strong as the others. The first song, Oblivion, is a pleasant mid tempo dirge that establishes the ethereal mood of the album, but reveals most of itself on the first listen. The first single, Divinations, plays out much like something on Blood Mountain (i.e. Crystal skull). But instead of simply finding a riff and chugging away, the band has replaced hardness with heaviness and novelty with emotion. But in spite of their short commings, these two songs don't drag the album down.

One of several things is clear: the individual members of the band have easily improved their musicianship since in the last several years. Drummer Brann Dailor has toned down the whirlwind drumming in favor of groove, and it pays huge dividends on tracks like Ghost of Karelia and Crack the Skye. The former in particular is the finest rhythmic achievement of the band thus far. Lead guitarist Brent Hinds continues to write even better melodies and solos. The third track, Quintessence shows of his penchant for atmosphere. We saw hints of this melodic and more emotional side on tracks like Sleeping Giant, this Mortal Soil, and even as far back as Hearts Alive. But it had never been a focal point on an album. And it's not that the lyrics have become corny love ballads. The subject matter remains as wacky as ever. The singing however has become better. And I mean better in a Peter Gabriel kind of way. Lets face it, the guy didn't have the best voice in the world, but he could make even the most stone faced prog lover weep with the way he could evoke feelings and images.

This brings me to my final point. The song The Last Baron is the band's greatest achievement yet. it epitomizes everything the band was going for on this album. It's technically challenging, melodic, tasteful, and most of all gut wrenchingly emotional. I feel tired after every listen, but in the good I've just completed an incredible task kind of way.

In short, a fantastic album in which Mastodon has refused to be pigeonholed into a genre and have challenged themselves and their listeners to change. Instead of only rocking out full time they have decided to appeal to a more human side and have succeeded in moving at least this reviewer.

Who's it for: A fan of spacey metal and/or heavy prog. Who's it not for: the metal head who's just looking to get a few chugs and grunts out.

4.5/5

Report this review (#211199)
Posted Monday, April 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm absolutely blown away by this release! I just play if over and over! Some previous reviewers have said they were disappointed with the "softer" Crak the Skye for various reasons, but I guess they are part of the original fan base that liked mastodon for the Tech-Metal-Aggression, Growling-Vocals side of the Band, that defines Leviathan and Blood Mountain. Well, sorry for those guys. But even the band members themselves have stated they are incredibly proud of this new material and the way the music is written, arranged and structured, and the change in sound; and I agree with them. What a progression!

Trust me, DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS CD!! It absolutely ROOAAWWWCCKKKSS!!!!!! I give it 4 stars because I don't care that much for tracks 3 and 6 but I tell you, the rest of this thing is Majestic! So thank you Mastodon for slowing down a bit, taking your time to discover new grounds and using clean vocals. Mastodon have stated they like this new direction and they'll keep going towards it. So behold progressive world, the birth of a Prog Monster!!!! Hail Mastodon!! Hail Crack the Skye!!! Do yourself a favour and buy this release, listen to it, re-listen to it, decode it, analyze it, listen to it some more, deconstruct it, build it back, play it again and again until the disc or your stereo breaks down, because this may arguably be the best CD in 2009.

Report this review (#211390)
Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Progressive Sludge? Stoner Prog? Or Just Great Headbanging Fun?

My introduction to Mastodon was a 3 hour ride in the tattoo chair under the hands of a fanboy who claimed he'd inked up a few of the boys in the same booth. He had numerous posters of their not so beautiful mugs for me to consider while he drug needles through my skin and we shot the breeze about music. I'm not exactly sure what impression that left but I subsequently tried to get into them a couple of times. Each individual song I sampled was fine enough, but never totally grabbed me. Then the explosion of praise for the new album erupted this spring so I thought I'd just dive in.

Crack the Skye is hard to categorize - it's not tech, it's not really extreme, it's not really all that prog, but lawdy lawdy is it good. It contains great riffage to crank in the car, music that makes you want to air guitar or go home and learn the tab. For those not into guitar, there's plenty to just yodel along with the now remarkably melodic music. The refrain "I'm lost in oblivion" in the very first song is as great as heavy hooks come, and actually the pre-chorus of that song is as good as some band's best refrains.

The music sounds more like sludge metal than any other specific genre, but there are certainly some prog elements. There's an infamous section in the middle of "The Last Baron" that is prog-improv craziness that sounds more like the beginning of the song "Close to the Edge" than anything traditionally metal. Two extended epics are both excellent. Several band members' multi-timbred vocals are the best of the band's career, spanning barks and growls to tasty harmonies to Ozzy-like whine. The guitars sound great, raw toned but precisely played. The band definitely has its own distinctive sound and just oozes rock-n-roll. Attitude, love of loud, attention to good riffs, mixing of aggression and love of fantasy topics, it's everything that attracted me to metal when I was the teenage male target audience 20 odd years ago. Listening to this album makes me think of the great concerts of my youth.

This is also the work of a clearly mature band. They've spent the time to get the compositions right, make the instruments sound great, nail the vocal takes. While the production is very modern, Crack the Skye doesn't sound micro-corrected to death at all. It maintains a live intensity and fire, a vibrant looseness that the best studio albums capture. Four of the seven tracks are truly great songs, and the remaining three are good. Not quite a masterpiece, but an excellent piece of work, one of the better offerings of the year.

Report this review (#213851)
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Bill Kelliher describes the concept of this album as: "It's basically the story of a quadriplegic boy who's in a wheelchair, who leaves his body, enters the spirit realm and flies too close to the sun. He's tied to his body by this golden umbilical cord that burns off, so he's just kind of floating aimlessly through space. He flies through a worm-hole and astral-travels back to Czarist Russia, where there's this cult performing a divination-they're like a secret sect out in the woods performing a seanace kind of thing-and they call his spirit into the body of Rasputin, who's part of this cult, right before he's murdered in order to warn him. And Rasputin sacrifices his life for this child's spirit through a crack in the sky, back through time and space, and brings the boy back into his body and he's completely healed". Drummer Brann Dailor came up with most of the ideas and lyrics. His sister Skye committed suicide at age 14 and that is why the "Skye" in the title of the album is spelled that way, a tribute to her.

"Oblivion" opens like a METALLICA song unfortunately. The vocals remind me of a cross between Ozzy and Layne Staley. I just can't get into this track. "Divinations" is much better. It actually opens with banjo. Banjo ?! Yes banjo. A nice heavy sound follows and the drumming is fantstic ! The vocals are better too. A good uptempo song. "Quintessence" is good to start out but they reminds me of a 90's Alternative band on the chorus. I can't get past this plus it's too commercial sounding. "The Czar" is an amazing track. It opens with bass-synths and stays fairly restrained until before 4 minutes when it kicks in. Nice. Great sound ! Impressive guitar throughout this one.

"Ghost Of Karelia" is another highlight. A good heavy track with some cool sounding guitar playing over top at times."Crack The Skye" features guest vocalist Scott Kelly (NEUROSIS) spitting out the lyrics after a minute. He trades vocals with Brent throughout. Another killer tune. "The Last Baron" is the over 13 minute closer. It opens with acoustic guitar as vocals and a heavy sound take over quickly. This sounds really good. A change in style after 3 minutes. An outstanding rhythm follows. Themes are repeated before 7 1/2 minutes. Blistering guitar 11 1/2 minutes in that lasts for a minute.

"Oblivion" and "Quintessence" are two songs (1/4 of the album) that I just don't like at all. The other songs are really excellent. I just can't give 4 stars to an album when I dislike that much of it no matter how outstanding the rest is.

Report this review (#213930)
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album was a pretty big disappointment for me. I have been a fan of Mastodon from the start so this especially pains me. I do have to say that they are all good musicians. The guitarist put down some great riffs, solos, etc and Brann Dailor is one of my favorite drummers with his extremely fill heavy drumming. However, this album does not do it for me.

First, the vocals. I was never a huge fan of Mastodon's vocals on their first 2 albums, but I am not fond of these at all. To be honest I am not sure who is singing when on each song since 3 people are contributing vocals, (including the drummer!?). I some of the harsher vocals, it fits the music well. However, most of the clean singing, (well just most of the singing) I can not stand. It really distracts me from much of the music.

Second, the music is flat out boring. Most of the solos on the album are pretty good, and I do like some of the riffs but I just can not seem to sit through a full song. I like certain parts of certain songs, but not a single one all the way through. Besides the vocals, which I already mentioned, I can not put my finger on what exactly is wrong with the music. Perhaps the band progressed too much? Even when a band, (such as Death) moves into uncharted territory for themselves, they must retain what they are. "Crack the Skye" is not Mastodon. What disappoints me most is the drumming. It is good, and you can hear traces of Brann, but this is not the drumming I have grown to love, and expect from Mastodon.

I fully admit I am a metal head at heart, and while I have grown to love most of Prog-Metal, the metal still has to be there. Maybe this album is simply too progressive for me, perhaps they have reached a sound beyond my grasp. Whatever the reason I can not listen to "Crack the Skye". This really upsets me because some of the music is really great, and the lyrics and overall concept are brilliant.

I would say this is for fans only, but I am long time Mastodon fan and I can not do this album. Therefore, by this sites guidelines I am compelled to give "Crack the Skye" a rating of 1 star.

Report this review (#213985)
Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is done.Mastodon has finally welded together a once again marvelous yet for the first time entirely a genre that is rightfully their own.It is Mastodon music. :P

The most negative thing that I would have to state about this album here is that it doesn't have the rich dyanmics that made the previous album so punchy.A good example of rich dyanamics would be almost all of the works of Primus simply because there are only three instruments playing along with only one vocal,which leaves plenty of good space out there for the instruments to have that highly satisfying punchy attack for Les's bass and Alexander's drums.This is something that I really like.I can also do with those huge walls of sounds that prog bands are so famous for doing,leaving little breathing room.But I don't know,I just don't feel that this album is superbly effective in this state.But I still would have to also state that is still very pleasurable to hear Mastodon's various textures constantly intertwining eachother throughout this monster.

They are indeed still very technical in their work and for some reason many people turn down the singer's vocals.But I can't find anything truly wrong with it as far as undeserving dissonance goes.They sing in the right keys and usually double octaves and kind of,shall we say, slur their speech just a tad.But I think this only adds to the prog in their music since their vocals are somewhat different to the mainstream and even indie vocals you usually hear.And I am ALWAYS for that!

And though Brann's drumming may not be in the limelight like in the last albums,his smooth flow throughout is still quite necessary for keeping their amazing wall of sound from being too much.I guess he has restrained himself this time because if he went all out on this album then,because the way the sound was mixed, his drumming might have become muddy.

Overall,there is not one red-headed child in this album period so the unique musical fluid that this band produces in this album is constant and wonderful throughout.The innovation of this band is truly jaw-dropping and is ever-evolving,contributing a worthy cure in Crack the Skye that could be a vital soution to the increasingly experimental majesty that is metal.

Report this review (#217257)
Posted Thursday, May 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Crack The Skye is an excellent release by Mastodon. Although there are plenty of metal bands that have groove, heaviness, along with a mystical aura, none achieve the vibe that comes along with this album. Among the heavy and melodic guitar, most of the album contains haunting singing by 3 of the 4 band members, all used in a variety of ways to help embellish the song as much as they can. Along with that you can hear traces of keyboard in a few parts, most notably in the intro to "The Czar". Of course, the metal elements definetely stand out the most, since the standard guitars, bass, and drums never stop for a ballad or quieter song. That does not mean there is no atmosphere, of course.

The album begins with the first three songs being mostly straightforward hard rock songs, "Oblivion", "Divinations", and "Quintessence". All three contain great driving melodies, catchy choruses, and a good level of experimentation. These three will please any metal/hard rock fan, though they certainly won't alienate those who can't stand brutal music, since they're pretty accessible and could easily be heard on mainstream hard rock radio.

The rest of the album is more progressive once "The Czar" comes in. "The Czar" is a lengthy, building piece with enough riffs to fill an entire rock album, with several different moods to complete it. It should please any fans of post metal, extreme metal, and heavy prog.

The album continues to mix in atmospherics and experiment with the heavy tones. "Ghost of Karelia" is definely a highlight among an album of highlights, with mystical guitar sounds and constantly changing time signatures. It gives an almost oriental vibe, just before some heavier guitars come in. After that is "Crack The Skye", which brings the album back to the more sludgy Mastodon roots.

The greatest part of the album has to be "The Last Baron" though. It begins with haunting singing above epic guitar strumming and powerful drums, and just builds. Through its entire 13 minute length it goes through emotional flowing atmostpherics, energetic and agressive thrashing, and complex technical insanity. The album would not be complete without it.

In summation, this record is essential towards anyone who is a fan of heavy prog or progressive metal, with atmospheric leanings. In fact, I would say it is reccomended towards any fan of prog, since it is not an extreme album and most of the album is filled with enjoyable and progressive melodies.

Report this review (#217907)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Yes, baby, yes. This is 'A'-rate material.

With three cult albums at their back and a major label backing them it's actually something of a surprise that Crack The Skye is Mastodon's most 'progressive' album to date. A lot of core fans have said that the album takes the band and veers them too near typical 'alt-metal' territory, but if the changes be braved, this is an incredible ride that can be listened to on repeat if need be... And need be.

The album is constructed out of a number of mid-lengthed and longer numbers - and being that Mastodon has always succeeded at both on previous albums, this seems like a natural progression for them. While the songs on the album don't necessarily need to be long to be impressive, there's still a couple of "epics" to balance out the shorter songs on the album - One for every three short songs, so it seems. But even the short songs seem to have matured from the band's old Remission days, when songs like Mothr Puncher and Blood And Thunder where the standard. Things kick off to a roaring start with the frightening chords of Oblivion that soon turn into a godly riff and an introduction of the band's new style. While their obvious Extreme Progressive Metal qualities are all still in tact, it seems that the band has torn a page out of Black Sabbath's book (especially in terms of the secondary vocals) and added a certain amount of 'doom' to their songs. This makes things seem a lot less chaotic than their older albums (which some fans may miss), but is ultimately the best step that the band could have taken for the direction of their music.

From here things only get better. The first single for the album, Divinations, is truly a sight to behold as it gets into gear with even more rocking riffs and some intense vocals that only add to the mix. Quintessence is another song that continues the shorter tune's opening trio of barrage metal, blending with the first two to create what almost turns into a suite. On the second half of the album the short songs continue to rock, although getting a lot less immediately accessible as they go. Ghost Of Karelia is another brooding tune with a lot of atmosphere while the title track, Crack The Skye is a catastrophic sounding song that has the desperate vocals trying to keep up with the increasingly dramatic instrumental section. Excellently done.

Of course, this isn't taking into account the two most impressive pieces on the album. The long songs really steal the show here, and while it is pretty typical of a progressive rock journalist to publish this (obligatory, perhaps), it's still truly impressive that a band of Mastodon's caliber, signed to a record label like Warner Bros, is capable of pulling off such opuses without creative impediment or compromise. The Czar, clocking at just over 10-minutes, is easily the album's peak, combining amazing vocal lines and time changes with air-guitar-worthy riffs and metal sections. It's hard not to be impressed or feel the shivers run down your spine at the call of, ''By the light of the moon, you must escape into the deep black of the night, fight the devil inside''. The Last Baron is also impressive, if perhaps a little bit more relaxed than its predecessor, doing exactly the same things to a slightly different formula ? while it may not pack exactly the same punch as The Czar, it still stands as one of the band's most impressive songs, rivaling the likes of even Hearts Alive from their Leviathan album. All in all an amazing album, which has stolen this reviewer's heart for pick of the litter for 2009. It's going to be a tough disc to beat, especially 6 months into the year already. Competitors may still exist, but this one is definitely a must. If you're a Mastodon fan then prepare yourself for a little more polish, and if you've never liked anything released by the band to this point then I still encourage that you give the album a shot, you'll be happily surprised. 5 scorching stars out of 5 ? amazing.

Report this review (#219215)
Posted Monday, June 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars To my belief, Mastodon are one of the more overrated bands in the area of Tech/Extreme. I do not know it seems that either it is the era of the Mega Therion(Mastodon is a mammal-beast that existed after dinosaurs)for unexplained reasons or the promotion is actually successful. Of course they have positives like the drummer's playing and some nice riffs but overall the music is a blend of what we have previously heard from other bands and is not so unique as their fans claim. Plus, the voice is horrible. Couldn't you find a more sucking singer? Many times, I find this album boring(their previous name Lethargy which means very deep sleep in Greek is more proper than this one)and uninspired, so it is not worth to deal with this. Because I have heard their previous works,this one is not better than them, so if I would give 3 stars(lenient as I am)to some of their works then this one deserves no more than 2 stars. Music only for their fans. The rest may continue their lives without learning about the American band.
Report this review (#220918)
Posted Saturday, June 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Crack the Skye, crack it with some heavy epic [&*!#]!!! This album is a great piece of unique progressive metal. What makes it so unique is it isn't completely metal, or prog. Hell it isn't even 50/50. Its a great mix of various elements of both metal and prog. It borrows the intense intricate guitar riffs of such classic metal bands as Metallica and Iron Maiden. The guitar work is very well developed, riffs the build in intensity than meld into really tight and enjoyable grooves, than back and forth again. When it comes to prog elements these guys really had an eye on some of the great premier prog bands. Elements of Wakemans and Wrights atmospheric keyboard styles are well crafted into songs such as The Czar, Oblivion and The Last Baron. The albums concept, a parapalgic whose spirit travels to space and than ends up in rasputins body after traveling through a wormhole echoe early Genesis, Camel, and King Crimson. The vocal harmonies from all band members make this a real treat compared to earlier Mastodon albums. Throughout the bands discography Brann Dailor's drumming has been very pleasing to the ears. A very unique style that borrows heavily from Jazz traditions, Dailor proves that he is a great modern drummer. One that I believe we will look back on in the future as the Phil Collins or Bill Bruford or Carl Palmer of the time, which over you prefer. Dailor is definetly developing chops equal to these greats. The whole band is definetly crafting thier skills. I feel that if they continue building on the strengths of Crack the Skye and Leviathan they will create more epic prog masterpieces.
Report this review (#221228)
Posted Sunday, June 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I found LEVIATHAN and BLOOD MOUNTAIN to be fantastic albums. Mastodon have managed to create a unique twist of metal/prog they have been fine-tuning over the years, every album up a notch. so I was very piqued to find out what their new album sounded like. I got it as soon as I could, and I can only say: It's BIG! It's huge! It's metal, it's prog, it's southern rock, it's genius!

I will not bother reviewing the album track by track. It's irrelevant. There are no weaknesses, it's utterly captivating from the opening seconds of OBLIVION to the fading tones of THE LAST BARON. In 50 minutes, Mastodon manage to carve a prism with so many facets, a world so full of creativity, imagination and emotion, it's baffling.

If you're not convinced after this review, and still want to check out highlights, listen to tracks 1 through 7, so that you too may see the light. After about 100 spins in the iPOD, I can safely say that CRACK THE SKYE is a monster album. Not even Dream Theater stands a chance anymore to make it to the top of my album year list (and I haven't even heard them yet).

In my opinion, with CRACK THE SKYE, Mastodon have ranked themselves among at the top of their genre, and among the top of metal bands in the world. All hail to the new kings, Mastodon!

Report this review (#221611)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Crack The Skye' - Mastodon (8/10)

Before listening to 'Crack The Skye,' I could safely say that Mastodon was certainly not 'my cup of tea.' While I am certainly aware of progressive tendencies in 'Blood Mountain,' there was never anything about the band that really made me want to call myself a Mastodon fan. While I am still not wholly convinced that the band is right for me, I can safely say that 'Crack The Skye' is a brilliant album, and despite being critically hailed as a bit more than it cuts out to be, a nice dose of a brand of progressive metal much unlike the more European- styled sounds of Dream Theater or Symphony X.

With 'Crack The Skye,' Mastodon craft a very dense soundscape, which at times is very easily likened to psychedelia. There is also a fair metallic dosage here, although it's not near as brutal or heavy as alot of music lodged into the 'extreme prog metal' realm. If Mastodon has anything going for them, it's that they sound very original in contrast to their other prog-metal contemporaries. It could be well-said that a substantial portion of modern progressive metal bands default to sounding like carbon copies of Dream Theater or Symphony X at the earliest behest. Mastodon -on the other hand- looks back to the band's geographical roots (the band hails from Georgia, in the heart of the American southland) and instead of typical prog-rock influence, uses Southern rock as the main external voice to the sound of the band... While I have never been able to appreciate Southern rock too much in the grand scheme of things, it's very fresh to see this melded with progressive metal.

The instrumentation in the album is fantastic. There is some great riffage here; the riff at the chorus of 'Divinations' in particular works very well in the sense that it is both progressive and complimentary to the song's spirit. The album's (or the band's, I should say) main fault seems to lie with the vocals themselves. Brett Dailor -while I have nothing truly against the man or his work- does not have a voice or style that I have all too pleasing to listen to. His belting is far too nasal (in the likes of Ozzy Osbourne) and lacking in range or feeling to get any rise out of me... It is a shame that's the problem with the album, because I'm sure that with a different singer with a more emotional vocal style, the album would have felt alot more emotionally fluid and organic. With extra added listens though, the veil falls down and the emotional quality initially hidden by Dailor's gravelly voice is seen in full view.

Despite it's few (yet pronounced) flaws however, 'Crack The Skye' is a great piece to get lost in for a little while, and is an album to look out for in 2009. As a closing note, I will say that it took me literally months of listening until the album finally hit me full force, and I realized it was such a fantastic work.

Report this review (#221634)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Mastodon ? 'Crack the Skye' 3.5 stars

Keeping things sane this time around?a good thing?

What I like most about the album is a definitive role between the guitars, unlike the usual twin guitar attack, Mastodon has a lot of rhythm and lead sections going together. The compositions are much smoother than the previous works, and naturally the songs got a bit longer. What I didn't like about the album was the vocals that reached back to some 80's hard rock acts that in my opinion came alive and died in the decade?not to be repeated. There most upsetting party by far is the melodies that were so memorable on any of the previous albums lacked here. The first two tracks had some things going, but the album just slowed down gradually after that.

This was still a very good album though. Buy with caution.

Report this review (#223129)
Posted Thursday, June 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
4 stars Maturity or sound softening?

This is my first real experience with Mastodon, although I have listened to some of their previous works. Comparing this one with their previous efforts is not my expertise, but nevertheless my thoughts about this are described below.

To a 'newbie's' ears then, Mastodon's sound seems to have matured over the years. This album seems to be by far the less 'spontaneous' with well-worked compositions. The element I personally thought was missing from their previous works appears here: structure. The tracks are much more set in a 'reasonable' sequence with clear couples and refrains most of the time. The sound is arguably somewhat softer than in the past and the tech-extreme moments are fewer.

The album generally flows in a slow to medium speed tempo with few but interesting breaks. The vocals are cleaner but also more diverse - a very positive aspect of this work, as the listener gets the chance to hear different singing patterns; soft, clean, aggressive, obscure, weird. At times the vocals reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne, in the way that this 'madman' tries to put some craziness to his singing.

As in previous works, the length of the songs is generally short to medium, with the exception of The Czar and The Last Baron, which in my opinion represent the highlights of the album; the former being my favourite. The mixing of tech/heavy metal with progressive elements is an area where MASTODON really succeed in. Apart from the two lengthy tracks where the prog influences are obvious (especially in the last track), the band proves that progressive metal can be even played in very short tracks (Divinations).

I have to admit the intelligent heavy metal riffs (numerous) that can be heard in The Czar are within the best that have recently been produced in the whole genre. The dynamite middle part of this track is possibly the most inspiring piece of music in the entire album, with the opening and closing 'dreamy' parts accompanying it perfectly. Oblivion, Ghost of Karelia (ala Wasted Years riff) and the title track are based on tech-heavy riffs and melodic refrains which make this album quite accessible even to non-fans of tech-extreme.

Quintessence is on the heavier side, reminding more of the band's past compositions, comprising of extremely technical and complex musical passages, but very pleasant to the ear. The closing track is probably the most complex of all - here you can experience numerous changes from straight heavy metal to eclectic prog, from extreme to completely melodic passages etc.

Overall, a more accessible album compared to the band's previous works and possibly a very good starting point for those who want to get to know them. I can't really pick out any defects in this work, everything is at high standards. Recommended to fans of tech-extreme and heavy metal in general. I personally enjoy it very much but for some unknown reason I would not consider it a perfect masterpiece.

Report this review (#225734)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars 'Crack the Skye' was my introduction to Mastodon and it captured my attention immediately.

The blend of extreme metal and experimental jazz fusion psychedelia is well executed throughout. Each song is part of a thematic master work about Eastern philosophies and Religiosity. The very off kilter time changes are wonderful on each track. It contains a multi- movement suite with songs within a song on the mini epic 'The Czar' which is worth the price of admission on its own.

Other highlights are the catchy metallic 'Oblivion' and 'Divinations'. If you can get hold of the video clip of this latter track it is worthwhile as it depicts an astronaut, very '2001'ish, trying to rescue another astronaut who is drifting in space - the effects are great and it opens up a new dimension to the meaning of the obscure lyrics.

'Ghost of Karelia' is another good track with some beautiful lead guitar work and 'Crack the Skye' is excellent. The last track 'The Last Baron' is the epic that features a rather strangled blend of jazz time signatures and crunching chunky metal riffs clocking in at 13 minutes.

The vocals by Dailor on each track range from clean to agressive growelling. The vocals compliment the sound of the tracks and there are some incredible lead guitar breaks from Hinds and Kelliher. The bass work of Sanders is excellent and there are many strong harmonies and choruses to stick in the memory banks well after the CD ends.

The riffs are intricate and complex and never dull, as you are not quite sure in which direction the tracks are heading. This is a great album and worth checking out if you have never encountered this ensemble of technical metal proggers.

I recommend this to any one who likes their prog loud and technical as this album has much to offer even the most discerning prog addict.

Report this review (#226572)
Posted Monday, July 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Ten years ago an ambitous quartet had changed the world of Metal. It will never be the same with MASTODON, who were growing better from one album to another, topping with incredible "Blood Mountain" three years ago. While critics were choking in attempts of pigeonholing them (sludge/metalcore/progressive/hardcore/thrash/groove-metal??? o rly?), MASTODONts have acquired the fame of one of the most important bands in current musicworld. I have always appreciated their attitude. I admired their math-based crucnhy riffs. I saw their influence in almost every new band I loved. But I never liked their music, not a single song. What did I need? Obviously, "Crack the Skye"!!!

I borrowed it from a friend just for the record and didn't like after the first spin. But "the rule of a second chance" has saved album's grace for me, and unfolded it in it's whole beauty. While staying heavy and groovy, MASTODON added more clean vocals, keyboards and even bluesy solos (like that one in "The Czar")!!! The new album is a definitive Bible of 21th century Prog- Metal, if you won't mind, a new SFAM - fresh and catchy, melodic and heavy, art-rocky and in the same time metal as it must be! "The Last Baron" is a future classic for it's midpart alone, I'm telling you. If you never liked/heard MASTODON, start here - there could be no better example for now! Extremely recommended!!!

Report this review (#229765)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars For me, at least up until Crack The Skye Mastodon have been a metal band with some good ideas, moments of brilliance even and improving over each subsequent release. Crack The Skye immediately benefits from having the best vocals I've heard from the band so far. It's also their most progressive album to date and full of cracking songs. They're more melodic than before without sacrificing any of the power and intensity of their performance. There's no getting away from the fact that Crack The Skye is an extremely heavy album, very busy and just when you think it couldn't get any heavier they find a way of raising the power quotient a few notches. The band plays brilliantly throughout with some of the best metal riffs I've heard in years and as usual drummer Brann Dailor is all over his kit with his trademark high speed rolls. Although almost consistently heavy throughout they also bring things down a bit at times and understand the benefits of dynamics as they do on the 4 part The Czar, one of the best tracks on an album full of highlights. Special mention should go to final track and 13 minute long The Last Baron, a restrained beginning masques a rollercoaster ride of a song which at times gets so frantic you expect it to fall apart at any moment. Simply stunning!

Mastodon's Crack The Skye should go down in history as a milestone metal album, the way that Metallica's Master Of Puppets, Slayer's Reign In Blood or Opeth's Blackwater Park are so highly regarded setting a new benchmark and finding new life in a genre that is often tired and repetitive these days. The only 2009 album that I've awarded 5 stars to and the best prog metal album since Opeth's Watershed. An essential release for prog metal and metal lovers alike.

Report this review (#231185)
Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Finally! (In my 130 reviews history, my only use of exclamation mark) And I though that this genre is forever closed for me. Well, not exactly closed, but most of bands see perfection in death metal style. I don't. And I also can't (appreciate it fully, because I can't stand it, so I can just rate other parts of it). But there, perfection meets good balance between skilled musicianship, melody and hard part, far side of metal.

Guitar work, perfect. Long solos, pleasant and heavy at one time, electric with acoustic like (if it's really acoustic, then it's amplified version) playing together. Vocals, reminding Ozzy Osbourne sometimes. Melody, I wonder how they made it, but it's here. Something that keeps you interested from beginning to the end. Oh, when talking about length, I quite like all tracks, except Last Baron, where I lack elements, that pleased me in previous tracks and see just normal hard metal (yes, again, I used this word "hard" and you probably wonder what it is. Well, you won't find it in encyclopedias, nor in other reviews/guidelines. It's something what death metal is. Hard, unpleasant, I'm still looking for the right word). OK, even Baron has its good times, but I find it worse than perfect rest of album, especially Czar. But Crack the Skye literally "cracks" this myth (or busts, after this famous TV series).

5(-), even this kind of music can break a heart of (more symphonic like music) listener like me. Thank you. By the way, kind of favourite album as I see.

Report this review (#238827)
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow. Just.....Wow.

Mastodon releases an album that is, for me, up there with the classics. I've never heard music that can be so heavy, yet atmospheric; so "metal", yet with so much emotion. The albums that go down in history are those that sound completely fresh and new. Mastodon has achieved this on the Skye.

Mastodon has apparently come to realize that less can indeed be more. By taking just a small step back and giving their music a bit more room to breathe, they have created something magnificent. This record has moments of majesty, brutality, atmosphere, pain and everything in between. To me, this album feels like flying high above the earth and among the clouds....before being machine gunned down into the earth below.

Not to say that this album will please everyone. On the contrary, most Mastodon fans will probably question the lightening of the sound. I, for one, found it to be a big grower. I must admit, this album did almost bore me on the first listen. Drummer Brann Dailor has taken a step back, and vocalist Troy Sanders brings his growling from the forefront in favor of clean, classic rock vocals that occasionally contain some nice harmony. But the true magic of this album lies in the fact that, despite these adjustments, the music is still heavy and still Mastodon. Each track seems to serve a purpose, and they all seem to flow seamlessly. Not a weak moment here.

Highly recommended.

Report this review (#239124)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having previously heard only Blood Mountain, the MASTODON experience for me was not a fully gratifying one. While I liked the innovation and the energy that the band was capable of, I wasn't too thrilled about the senseless vocals or the lack of melody. Luckily for me, things have changed this time around.

Crack The Skye is a whole different beast, much more focused, much more controlled than its predecessor. The band has toned down on the violence a little bit, to leave more room for subtlety, melody and actual songwriting. Yes, the band is still violent, energetic, aggressive, metallic. But now it's much easier to read more than all of that between the lines of the heavy, syncopated riffing.

MASTODON has decided to adopt a much more melodic style. The first and most obvious change is in the vocals. It seems the members of the band finally decided to try to sing and add melodic hooks to their songs. Now we can hear choruses, melodies that stay with us much more immediately than the insane riffs could do in the past. The unique riffing is still here but in a more balanced approach.

The band has also changed its musical style a little. At times the songs sound much more like melodic swedish death metal a la SOILWORK than they ever did in the past, and there are a few moments when we're even reminded of grunge music by the nature of the riffs. Much more groove and style and less attack and destroy, the band seems to be trying to reach out, and maybe it's succeeding on that.

The album is not perfect, some songs are quite subpar when compared withe the best moments in the album, but in general the experience is quite satisfactory, and I can't do anything else but recommend MASTODON's latest to anybody who wants to try some original, modern American progressive metal.

Report this review (#239308)
Posted Monday, September 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Musically, this album is a delight, mainly because instead of it being a constant onslaught, it charms through both intelligent arrangements and stunning melodies. Rather than using swamped, overdriven guitars all the time, the band utilizes multiple guitars with less gain to provide the power- something other metal bands might do well to emulate. I may be crazy, but the vocals often remind me of either Ozzy Osbourne or Layne Staley, somewhat whiny and slightly growling. The drumming is outstanding- there is no other word for it. Admittedly, the conceptual story is "out there," having similar qualities to that of Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but lacking the visceral appeal. Overall, this takes no time at all to appreciate, and yet it appreciates with each listen. This is also a wonderful album for those who, like me, enjoy metal in relatively small doses.

"Oblivion" After a fantastic and devilish introductory riff, the album is off to a very strong start. While the vocals are certainly good, it's the various guitars that hold my interest. The lead does a spectacular job alternating between soaring notes and speedier licks. In any event, it is safe to say that this is one of my favorite songs in the subgenre.

"Divinations" After what sounds like a little banjo riff, the band rocks out around that theme. The grating vocals are really not my thing at all, but otherwise, this is a powerful short track that should please most folks looking for something on the heavier side. The drumming is the highlight for me.

"Quintessence" Again, it's the guitars that win applause. The arrangement is creative, and I really enjoy the segment in 7/4 time. Overall, this is a brilliant and complex composition, even if it sounds static in terms of mood.

"The Czar" The opening instrumentation immediately caught my attention. The music blends some mild exotic flavors with the band's customary all out heavy metal. The guitars are very flavorful, and there's plenty of variety to keep me entertained and intrigued. And though it's but a small constituent, I absolutely love the way the song ends.

"Ghost of Karelia" Once again, the band grabs my attention with another fascinating introduction. The guitar and bass pairing under the vocals is exceptional, so much so that it paradoxically compliments and distracts from the singing at the same time.

"Crack the Skye" I don't particularly care for the growling, though the sung melody is spot on. The guitar driven music is at once brawny and full of subtleties.

"The Last Baron" A terse acoustic bit gives way to a battering of drums and that slightly whiny lead vocalist. This is one of those rare pieces that, while not really memorable (usually a bad sign for me) jumps out each time I hear it, making me say, "Hell yeah- I love this!" Without a doubt, the refrain anchors this spiraling piece and serves as a definite highlight of the entire album.

Report this review (#239850)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An excellent (and original) prog metal album!

This was my introduction to American progressive metal band Mastodon. The first time I heard this, I was immediately captivated by the vocal melodies, the use of multiple guitars, and the overall magic feel of this album. 2009 has been a year filled with great albums, and this is surely one of the reasons why. The songwriting skills of the band are magnificent, and the use of layered guitars that rarely have any distortion at all really adds a nice touch.

"Crack the Skye" is without any weak tracks, but the main highlight is the closing epic "The Last Baron". Of course, this album isn't quite worthy of the title "masterpiece", but it does come close.

The type of music that is played here is a blend of your traditional Dream Theater prog metal, groove metal, and a lot of modern rock/metal elements. The vocal style is mostly clean vocals with some nice tradeoffs between the multiple vocalists. There are a few moments with "harsh" vocals, but they aren't death metal growls or anything like that. I'll explain each song in a little bit more detail next.

THE MUSIC:

"Oblivion"- It opens up with a nice riff with just a guitar, but then the entire band comes in. The short, but excellent opening is incredible. The three amazing vocalists have excellent tradeoffs, and that is part of the reason why I love this band. It has their trademark use of many guitars, and the solo near the middle is superb. This is an excellent start to the album.

"Divinations"- It starts off with the nice guitars again, but then continues the riff in another great opening from Mastodon. It continues a riff with some tradeoffs between two vocalists. This part is excellent, and the chorus is cool as well. It has some nice use of harsher vocals that add a really nice layer to the music. Another great song!

"Quintessence"- The guitar harmonies are what makes this a great song, and the songwriting is very good. It features some nice transitions and some good instrumental passages between sections. This isn't the best from the album, but it still isn't weak or anything like that.

"The Czar"- Some organ chords open up the song, and are then followed by a nice guitar melody. The whole band soon comes in, with a rhythmic bass line that impresses me every time. The vocals during the beginning are in a lower style, and a fair amount of the song has a groove metal sound. The song does progress from the opening section into a really cool part with some melodic metal riffs. This goes back into the earlier section, resulting in a very epic feel. This song is probably the second best on "Crack The Skye", only surpassed by the closer.

"Ghost of Karelia"- This starts out with a nice riff with guitar and keys. The intro is excellent, and maybe one of the best from the album. The rest of the song has nice use of the opening riff, and some excellent progressions.

"Crack the Skye"- One of the reasons why I love this album is because almost every song has a fascinating introduction. This song has some of the harshest vocals on the album, and this song actually reminds me a lot of Cynic. It has the alternating use of growled vocals and electronically distorted clean vocals. This song is very good, but is not the best on the album.

"The Last Baron"- This is what makes Crack the Skye an awesome album! It has excellent riffs, the perfect blend of emotions, great vocals, and just pure perfection. I really don't even know how to describe this song. It defines the word "masterpiece", and is one of my favorite prog metal epics I've ever heard. Without this excellent song, Crack the Skye would barely be above average. An awesome end to an album!

This album is incredible, and deserves its spot in every prog metal fan's collection. So why don't I give this album a 5 star rating? Simply because I know Mastodon can achieve even greater heights. They've been improving so much after every album, I'm positive that within their next few releases they will make an album that completely blows my mind. As I write this, this is Mastodon's best album, but I'm sure a 5 star masterpiece is coming in the near future.

As for now, this is a highly recommended album!

4 stars.

Report this review (#243121)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
LSL
5 stars 5 STARS... a classic instantly. The best album of the year, in competition only with riverside and motW album's. They perfected the formula of the first album's going to a more progressive zone, with influences of King Crimson, Rush, Genesis and Pink Floyd. For me the band was always Progressive Metal, as they like very much progressive rock.

This album crack the skye really... The opener track with that prog solo and The Czar are the best tracks of the album. But all the tracks are really good, The Last Baron maybe a little repetitive but it still good.

...And sorry for my bad english i'm argentinian and don't speak very well tihs language...

Report this review (#244428)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I had never really listened to Mastodon before a friend of mine came by one day saying that apparantly their new release was great. To my surprise I found it on spotify and put it on, thinking that we'd keep it on in the background while playing video games, both skeptical due to our idea that Mastodon was more of a heavy metal band than anything. It ended with the console turned off and the volume of the music increased.

This album has something that's becoming increasingly rare on the metal scene. It has soul. This is something I can see myself playing to my kids in the future, like my dad played 2112 by Rush to me.

The production of the album feels very dense, very fitting to the atmosphere Crack the Skye has. It reminds me a bit of older school mixing. Unlike many other metal-bands who seem to be aiming for a crisp, clean sound, Mastodon chooses to stand out not only musically. There aren't really any weak tracks on the album and I'm always left with the impression that the album was made to be enjoyed as a whole. The tracks flow perfectly through each other with a sense of both direction and purpose and its finale is breathtaking.

Crack the Skye is so far the best album of the year for me. An honest, unpretentious and heavy record with fantastic hooks, musicianship and song structure.

4,5/5

Report this review (#248029)
Posted Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Crack the Skye is the fourth full-length studio album by American experimental/ progressive metal act Mastodon. The last couple of albums by the band have elevated Mastodon to stardom in the metal world and deservedly so IMO. A new release by such a prolific act always comes with a lot of hype and it´s always interesting to see if the artist can live up to that hype.

Crack the Skye sounds unmistakably like Mastodon but the band keep developing their trademark sound, exploring new territories. The music is more melodic and IMO more memorable than earlier releases by the band. The multitude of influences from traditional heavy metal, thrash metal, sludge metal, progressive rock/ metal, psychadelic rock and hard rock as usual give Mastodon a unique sound. They´ve toned down the technical playing a bit on Crack the Skye and I especially noticed that Brann Dailor´s otherwise highly adventurous drumming is now more restrained. There are seven tracks on the album. Two of them are pretty long. The Czar is an almost 10 minute long affair while the closing track The Last Baron is 13 minutes long. I regard the latter as one of the most progressive songs written by the band so far. All songs on the album are high quality compositions and several are favorites of mine in the group´s discography. The above mentioned The Last Baron is an excellent song, the opening track Oblivion is also quite the experience ( note the melodic and powerful guitar solo) and the same can be said about Crack the Skye, Divinations and Quientessence. The Czar and Ghost of Karelia haven´t really blown me away yet, but that might come with further listens. They are definitely not bad songs. The vocals on the album are the most melodic Mastodon have done so far. The raw vocal style is still present on the album but the clean vocals are more and more prominent. I enjoy this development.

The production is professional and well sounding.

Crack the Skye is the Mastodon album so far, that has most progressive rock leanings and older fans might miss the more aggressive side of the band on this album. For those of us who enjoy the band´s more experimental and melodic side Crack the Skye is probably the best album they´ve made so far. I´m still not a hardcore fan but it´s hard not to bow in the dust for a release like this. A 4 star rating is well deserved and I fully understand those that feel Crack the Skye is a masterpiece.

Report this review (#253924)
Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
horsewithteeth11
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In a concerted effort to not get to the end of 2009 and realize I have 2538973 new albums that I haven't written reviews on, and then beating my head against a wall or with some blunt object, I have decided to force myself to start cranking out more reviews for albums of this year. And one of the good ones to do is one of the first albums I was looking forward to: Mastodon's Crack the Skye.

Before this album was released, I thought that Mastodon was a relatively good modern progressive metal band, but not one I felt was really that high-caliber. I enjoyed Leviathan some, and Blood Mountain was okay (I thought their debut was horrid though), but I couldn't really understand their high praise in both progressive and metal circles. However, with an album such as Crack the Skye, I believe Mastodon has decided what course their music is going to chart. And it's quite honestly one that I'm looking forward to. The biggest difference with this album in comparison to their first three is the amount of clean singing and overall melodicism that is a much more prominent aspect of their music. Brann Dailor has also decided to restrain himself for this release. While he is a drumming madman on all other Mastodon material before this, albeit in a good way, on here he sounds in control. It is almost as if he is examining a new way to drum on this album. Or maybe it just fits the music better. Regardless, this is an album that continues to defy categorization for me. It's kind of progressive, kind of metal ala Ozzy Osbourne crossed with Neurosis, and kind of hard rock. For those who don't really care for extreme metal, this is one of the few albums in the genre I could highly recommend to most.

While 2009 has managed to produce lots of good music in my opinion, this one is close to the top of the game. It might be there already, but only time will tell. 4 stars for now, but with time this might improve to 5.

Report this review (#254645)
Posted Sunday, December 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Crack the Skye is a really nice introduction to the musical universe of US act Mastodont. on this occasion exploring a musical blend that is somewhat uncommon.

While the guitar mainly has a downtuned sound akin to Black Sabbath, the compositions themselves also contain stylistic elements that will sound familiar to fans of bands like Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Metallica. Without ever sounding derivative of any of the bands mentioned.

From a select few light, atmospheric passages to just as few heavy and brutal black metal tinged sequences, to all the variations of style in between these two extremes, this is a quirky album. Shifts in pace and sound are frequent, the development often unpredictable, and while there are enough intense metal moments to satify most ardent metalheads there are also passages more difficult to take in - subtle disharmonies and dissonances as well as multiple-layered constructions with details enough to cater for fans of truluy sophisticated music as well.

The end result is a modern sounding vintage album, or perhaps a vintage-sounding modern one. Hard to describe, defying stylistic boundaries by the truckloads yet clearly a metal album from start to finish. And a treat it is too, for those looking for sophisticated, innovative progressive metal. And of course a highly recommended one at that.

Report this review (#254779)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I shall conclude 2009 by briefly mentioning my favorite album experience that the year had to offer.

This is actually this band's fourth studio album it also happened to be the first Mastodon release that I have purchased. Although I have previously seen the band perform at Metaltown Festival 2007 in Gothenburg I wasn't all that interested in their style or the direction that the music was going for. Well, that all definitely had changed after listening to this release!

After reading a great deal of praise and positive reviews given to this album I decided to give it a go. Although the concept aspect of Crack The Skye feels too far fetched for any album's standards the music manages to balance out those flaws quite well. The two longer tracks, titled The Czar and The Last Baron, are the definite highlights although I personally prefer the latter slightly more due to the bombastic conclusion it offers to the whole experience.

This release was definitely a great surprise for me and I will probably check out the rest of Mastodon's discography in due time. Until then, I would definitely like to recommend Crack the Skye as an introduction album to this band and their sound. The music here might be considered a bit too metal for a progressive rock album but I still think that Crack The Skye deserves the to be included into a solid prog rock music collection!

***** star songs: Divinations (3:32) The Last Baron (13:03)

**** star songs: Oblivion (5:52) Quintessence (6:35) The Czar (9:46) Ghost Of Karelia (5:24) Crack The Skye (5:54)

Report this review (#258638)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars After seeing this album placed highly in several best-of-year lists, I decided to get it to see what the fuss was about. After several plays, I'm still trying to work out what the fuss was about. As prog-metal, it is pretty ordinary, and lacking in any real inventiveness. All its elements are done much better by other bands, and apart from a few memorable moments, which prevent me from rating it with one star, it is really forgettable. I can only assume that those who rated it highly are not familiar with prog-metal, and I think that if they listened to some of the excellent tracks available on Progarchives, they would realise how ordinary Mastodon are.
Report this review (#259407)
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

"Crack The Skye" is an album to remember, for being not only Mastodon's best album yet, but also a great example of how prog metal can have a more alternative sound.

Mastodon have been increasing in popularity over the years,becoming world wide famous in 2006 with "Blood Mountain" and being universally appreciated with their 2009 release, "Crack The Skye". This last album is most definitely their best one to date, beating their mind blowing 2004 release "Leviathan".

Although Mastodon has always been a good, respectable band, with "Crack The Skye" they reach a whole new level, and they are now considered one of the great Progressive Metal bands out there, and this one the best Prog Metal album of the year. While the older releases had a harder, more extreme, and very sludgy sound,"Crack The Skye" is a lot more progressive influenced, which is noticeable even in the length of the songs, almost all above the average Mastodon track. The style hasn't changed much, but there is a huge difference; the Sludge Metal sound is gone. The hooks, the riffs, the melodies, all of these elements are mostly typical Mastodon style, but the sound is completely different, maybe a little softer, but definitely still pure, strong metal.

This was my first Mastodon encounter, even though I knew them a little before getting this album, so I wasn't mind blown immediately. In fact, it took me a few listens to appreciate fully all of these songs, all of them pretty ambitious, although not exactly full of experimental moments, to the point where one might think this is your average wanna be mainstream Heavy Metal album, when it intended to be the contrary. "Crack The Skye" is the final chapter of the four part project, which is formed by Mastodon's four albums released thus far.each album concentrates on one of the four elements: if "Remission" was fire, "Leviathan" water, "Blood Mountain" earth, than "Crack The Skye" is air. The concept of the album in fact is quite spacey, but I won't tell you no more.

The album has seven songs, the shorter ones, like "Oblivion", "Quintessence", the title track and "Divinations"and are more in you face, aggressive,with the typical Mastodon-like fast rhythms, even though some progressive hints are present. But the longer ones, like the mini suite "The Czar", which has an amazing build up, or the closing chapter "The Last Baron" are full of experimentation, that make the band a lot more interesting than what they apparently are.

"Crack The Skye" is an album to remember, for being not only Mastodon's best album yet, but also a great example of how prog metal can have a more alternative sound. I would recommend this to anyone who likes metal and prog, for sure.

Report this review (#261625)
Posted Tuesday, January 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is the first album that i listen from this american band called Mastodon, and i Will stop here. There are good few momments in this album, but the problem that i have listen to this is the type of voice from the singer, horrible, sometimes reminds me the style from Ozzy and Rob Zombie, and sometimes sounds very Nice, really, but the most part of the songs sounds horrible. in terms of the progressive aspect, this band lacks deeply in it, i hear more metal style than progressive stuff, industrial momments, trash and more trash. CZAR is a interesting track, as i said, there are good momments of instrummental parts, and the melody is very repetitive, I enjoy this kind of music with friends, but to listen to this and pay all my attention this is not my cup of tea. If you like Rob zombie this will be a good album for you, but if you like more tight and fine compositions forget it. this band like another bands of the genre are good musicians just listen Ghost of karelia, and all the instrumments sounds very good, amazing, but i think that something is missing here, the songs are good but lacks in creativity, these type of sounds have been heard before, so there is nothing new, I will recommend Two Songs: Oblivion and The last Baron, this last one it is very nice, with good feelings in the vocal parts, and the melody is very epic and transports into a different World, 3:56 is an example of that, very good as well, But I Prefer bands Like Into eternity than Mastodon.

2. 5 stars

Report this review (#269433)
Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
jampa17
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Prog Metal with growlings. That's it and there's nothing wrong about it.

I know many progfans do not enjoy this particular sub genre and especially the growls, but this album is really a jewel of music made in a musical way. Heavy fast riffing with some moody atmosphere set the scene for this album. Even the growls are used only in a controlled way and have a good melodic leads overall.

If you are into prog metal or Opeth you would really appreciate this album. This one in particular seems to be better oriented in avoiding musical onslaught for a better balanced moody-metal approach. And I'm very pleased with it.

The singer sounds a lot like Ozzy Osbourne, very theatrical and dark and the musicians are at the top of the game (as most of the prog metal musicians) and the result is quite entertaining and impressive. The bands know how long the compositions should go and the album is pretty short in comparison to other bands obsessed with filling every minute available with some technical virtuosity. Just over 48:00 minutes it's enough for them to prove they can compose, can play loud and remain interesting.

The production is not crystal clear (in fact, it sounds a little cheap but I'm sure it's on purpose). The sound is not polished, which gives a little raw ambient to the result and makes the album a little heavy than what actually is. Don't know about the lyrics, I just enjoy the mood, the performance and the very interesting journey through their music.

Now, if you don't like the metal, the growls and the technical aspect of prog, this is not the band for you. I know I'm pleased for knowing them, and though they are not in my top 5 favorite Prog Metal bands, They are surely a band that I should like to dig in. 4 stars is fair for a great contribution to any collection... especially for Prog Metal fans.

Report this review (#269837)
Posted Friday, March 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars As you can see in my lists this is my choice for the best 2009 album. The main reason is obvious. They jump from alternative to progressive metal in a completely natural way and that is a feast for people who share love with Tool, Metallica, The Mars Volta, System of a Down or even King Crimson and Dream Theater. I really appreciate they effort to make a lap forward in their career keeping they classic metal sound, including growls, dirty guitars & battle drums, with the new exciting vocal range. Blood Mountian was a "straigh to your head" album. You didn't need many tastes to enjoy it. It was metal injected to your blood without anaesthesia. Crack the Skye is more like a journey to unkowned and stranger lands. Few alternative rock bands can risk their reputation writing stuff (lyrics included) so pretentious as Quientessence, The Cszar, Ghost of Karelia and The Last Baron and improve. This magnus opus proves progressive rock is not yet a museum piece. And last but not least I wanna congratulate them for the incredible work in the special edition cd (art, making of, etc.). I admit I first downloaded the album but after one listening I needed to buy it... in a compulsive way!
Report this review (#270058)
Posted Sunday, March 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Each time I play this album I wonder why I don't like it more then the 3 stars I gave it. But after less then 20 minutes into each hearing I remember it again. This is one of those albums where the sum is less than its parts, where each song individually would easily own 4 stars, but where all of them together make for a weary experience. The reason? Those inadequate vocals again.

Crack the Skye is a logical continuation of Blood Mountain. The music has grown a lot and I would rave about this album had it been instrumental. Mastodon gave up the gruff singing almost entirely. Not a bad idea as such, given they weren't very good at it. Unfortunately, the nasal wail that has come to replace the harsh vocals isn't much convincing neither. The vocals sure have improved since Blood Mountain, but it still comes as a surprise that even with 3 band members in front of the microphone, they all seem to share the same limited range and a fervent determination to surpass Ozzy's whining tone.

Ok, enough whining on my part. The songs are strong, inspired and powerful, displaying a band having fun at whatever they do, mixing metal with psychedelic Eastern melodies and adventurous song structures, throwing in lot of variation and dynamics. Mastodon have come a long way since their debut. A way of growing ambition and musical confidence. Unfortunately they never got the energy back since they lost it after releasing their debut.

If only they would add a dedicated vocalist. Could I suggest Chris Cornell maybe? That would fire my interest!

Report this review (#273824)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars We proggers are typically brave souls, but once in a great while, a band comes before us that we are afraid--perhaps even terrified--to experience.

Mastodon was one of those for me.

After reading about the band (and seeing pictures of the guys), I was fully expecting a punishing onslaught of self-inflicted pain when I finally decided to introduce myself to Mastodon. Then I saw reviews take a different tone with Crack the Skye.

As usual, I'm glad I didn't listen to my inner wimp, because this album has some killer prog. Mastodon are reaching the potential, and taking the progressive steps, that so many tech and/or speed metal bands could not--or would not--take.

If you don't like the heavy vocals (as I generally don't), do what I do...listen to only these 3 tracks: Oblivion, Czar, and Last Baron. I don't know if the boys intentionally kept these free of death growls, but I'm glad they did, and the vocals that are present are generally quite impressive, I must say! These tracks are alternatingly hypnotic and crushingly heavy. It's amazing to me in particular how powerful the drumming is without ever seeming mechanical or overly technical. Couple that with plenty of killer grooves, expertly transitioned, and you have some incredible music. In addition, it's important to note that Mastodon rarely kill time soloing here--this is simply tight songwriting coupled with musicianship.

Overall, I don't love the whole album, but I love nearly a half hour of it. Without a doubt, Mastodon add a new dimension to my metal/heavy prog playbook!

Report this review (#316244)
Posted Friday, November 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm sure I dismissed this band a while ago as one of those new American metal bands that are crap, silly tattoos and earings, but.....this album is a masterpiece.

The pot is full of ingredients, if I can mention a few to make it worthwhile for some to listen: Late Ozzy era Sabbath, the creative bits of Metallica, middle eastern, psychadelia, Zepp and the first post hardcore outfit, Fugazi: All blended together with a creativity beyond most of the 'staid' progressive bands.

These guys have created their own sound, influences appear...and then change. You never get a chance to say "oh, that sounds like so and so", it constantly shifts and that's magic. Progressive, more so than most of the newer progressive stuff on PA.

It's heavy, because, because it's full on, it tests you. Yes there's yells and growls in some songs, but you can tune out. The guitar work is tastefull, solos faithfully channel Iommi/Blackmore, drumming is manic and skillful. Vocals are like Ozzy, but not really, they're well worth listening to.

Whilst this doesn't fit the 'normal' mould of progressive, it is progressive because it doesn't. Essential.

Report this review (#340589)
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
4 stars Quintessence

Mastodon is well known as one of the most powerful bands in the modern progressive metal scene. With a fresh, creative style, young, fierce spirit, and the capability to make incredible music, they have a lot to offer. Through four studio albums, the band has shown their technical ability, willingness to experiment with their sound, and amazing ability with the music they make. On their latest offering, Crack the Skye, the band displays a much mellower, progressive sound, full of incredible experimental dissonance and sludge metal overtones. The entire album is an experimental powerhouse, packed to the brim with the band's finest music crafted yet. Overall, this album is truly a marvelous showing of 2009 and easily the band's best.

One thing that is obvious about this album's music even in the first few seconds is the infectious dissonance that is perfectly insinuated between the melodies and harmonies. The band's compositional quality is not that of what one would hear on an everyday progressive metal album, which makes this album truly unique in a really spectacular way. The band crafts their music in such a way as to keep that epic metal that they're known for while procuring a wonderful progressiveness about their music as to appeal pretty much any experimental metal fan.

The whole atmosphere of the music on this album is also quite incredible. To augment the dissonance about their music, the band inserts very subtle and appropriate filler aspects similar to what The Mars Volta has done; they use very quiet and subtle strings, chorus, and mellotron/Hammond fills to really fill in the gaps of their playing in a truly incredible way. It adds spectacular colour and depth to the music, and making the entire album a real blast to ride on. The whole album is brimming with genius compositions, and the great sludge- inspired insinuations add a nice flavor to the already experimental metal. Overall, musically, this is a truly wonderful album, and the band's best so far.

In the end, Crack the Skye is easily one of the better metal albums of 2009. Chock full of fantastic melodies (sludgey and scratchy but still fantastic), a wonderful experimental feel, two sublime epics (Czar and The Last Baron), and so much more. The band has truly shown their true colors here, expressing their willingness to morph the very sound they pride themselves on and their ability to delve into uncharted territory in the musical spectrum. Overall, this is truly a great album, and I recommend it to every metal fan out there. 4 stars.

Report this review (#463209)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Doesn´t need any introduction to the album really, and no track by track either when it´s a couple of years the album saw it´s release date. I know the songs pretty well by now, and it´s simply a record you need to be in the state of mind to listen to all way through, a non stressfull mode basically, thou there are some catchy and more (poppy) parts it simply has the same problem as Porcupine Tree albums, especially their latest "Incident" it´s brilliant and psychedelic but lacks any real of punch and straightforwardness such as Remission. That´s where the minor issue is for me, it tends to get pretty heavy at times, and even in the heavy drone intro of "Oblivion" it sorta makes me want to tune my sterious up, but it doesn´t chance, the production simply lacks the punch that makes you go headbanging and go yeah! The times the riffs indicates that, the riffs and parts in general has much energy and is nicely composed and very catchy at times, but something just tells me that it lacks some punch in the heavier parts, but i will highly recomment it either way, Brent Hinds Osbourne like voice has never soundet better and Troys roars are still here to be found. - And plus that, Brann Dailor is allso singing, and if there´re a Neurosis fan or two i could tell those who doesn´t know yet that Scott Kelly himself is participating on the title track.
Report this review (#478618)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is definitely Mastodon's proggiest album yet, especially when you compare it to the Call of the Mastodon EP or Remission. They have been primarily a metal band. Yet in their previous albums Leviathan and Blood Mountain they have led slightly away from pure bone- crushing metal to adding some slight technicality to their music. However, it couldn't really be related to prog until this album.

This album has the least amount of tracks, yet each of them last longer than Mastodon's albums traditionally do. The shortest song on here is about three and a half minutes while the longest song lasts thirteen minutes.

The album starts off with Oblivion, introducing us to a traditional Mastodon opening riff. Oblivion strikes me as something different because it is the only song that the drummer Brann Dailor (an excellent one at that) sings for. His voice is definitely the most melodic of the four band members. His voice soars and energizes before switching over to the normal singer. The next song is the single Divinations, which opens up with Brent Hinds banjo playing. It then afterwards delves into typical Mastodon.

Quintessence gives us something new to the table as opposed to Divinations, where the album starts to get the more ethereal feel to hit. It then leads into the ten minute epic The Czar, which is a fantastic song that builds up to a great climax. It also perfectly portrays the ethereal elements of the album. Ghost of Karelia is also another fantastic song. Crack the Skye features powerful vocals by Scott Kelly. The song (and the album as a whole) is dedicated to Brann's sister Skye, who committed suicide when she was fourteen. Knowing this makes the song even more powerful.

And then we come to the last track, the Last Baron. I have incredibly mixed feelings for this song. There were some parts of it that were good, yet the song itself was just overblown. They were able to make the long songs work with The Czar, but not with this. It definitely is "proggy", but it takes a lot of patience to get through.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this album. It shows great evolution and ideas on Mastodon's part, even though they plan to go back to the traditional sound on their next album. This album should be an interest to prog metal fans or anyone who likes rock with spacey elements.

Report this review (#482664)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I Still Don't See It

My first couple of listens to this album gave me that "hey I might have found an extreme metal album that I actually like" feeling, but then I gave it the earphones and reading the lyrics test and it failed quite miserably. I have a difficult time with most extreme metal vocals as I don't particular care for the death metal growls or the incessant atonal screaming. While listening to this album the first couple of times I was pleased that the vocal style mostly didn't bother me. However, with this listen for preparing the review with the earphones on and the lyrics book open I realized how horrible the singing really was. It wasn't so much that they growled or that they screamed but more so that the singing just didn't match up with the music. The voice reminds me at times of Layne Stayley from Alice In Chains and at other times of Ozzy Osbourne, both vocalists who I think were/are great. The problem was that this voice just didn't seem to match up well with the music. I constantly had that feeling that one gets when you are listening to music on your car stereo with the windows down and the car next to you is blasting music that gets intertwined with what you are listening to. I don't really know of a great way to explain it other than to say that the vocals just don't fit the music for me. It just seemed as though one person sat down and wrote lyrics and started singing them in one room and the rest of the band members were in separate rooms playing their instruments to the beat of their own drummers so to speak and then the producer took all of these separate parts and combined them and called it a song without actually making sure that the pieces of the puzzle fit. My other problem really is that the lyrics really aren't very good and not much thought really went in to filling out the songs with the lyrics. The capital sin here was that on each and every song they would come up with a stanza and then rather than coming up with new lyrics for the rest of the song or adding or completing the story they would just go back to the original stanza and repeat it. I know that many prog fans don't consider lyrics to be that important, and that quite frankly there are many prog bands that just aren't very good at writing lyrics. I love prog music for the music itself and the skill that the musicians have playing their respective instruments, but my favorite prog music is the music that has good lyrics that speak to me, or in the cases of songs with "bad" lyrics where the vocal style is such that it is in harmony with the music that is being played to support it. I'm afraid that in the case of this album neither of these is the case. I see on the album page that there was a bonus disc release with strictly instrumentals, and although I don't have this version, I have a feeling that this would be a case of addition by subtraction. Musically this feels like a 3 star, good but not essential, but overall because I just don't like the lyrics or the vocal style I would have to say that this is a 2 star for fans only of this style of music.

Report this review (#488660)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Good Buye

As I'm relatively new to this band (I only heard LEVIATHAN apart from this one), I'm not going to go on at length about how CRACK THE SKYE is different from the previous albums and how good or bad the change turned out to be. Maybe it's more progressive, less metal or more eclectic. One thing is certain - I bought this record for 5 euros (brand-new!) and I'm damn glad about it.

Mastodon is one of those eclectic modern metal bands that constantly balance between progressive creativity and commercial appeal. Despite the fact, that CRACK THE SKYE is not completely free of mainstream leanings, it is very original and powerful album. I haven't heard such an amount of different influences - ranging from old-school prog rock through sludge, psychedelia, groove metal and stoner rock to hardcore and metalcore - for quite some time. Besides, I think that real, honest energy and unrestrained creativity is what I like most about this record. Not to mention technical prowess and interesting - somewhat stoner/hard rock - vocal delivery from every band member.

CRACK THE SKYE is a solid album with a few uninspired moments (e.g. the title track (whye, Mastodon, whye?) but generally it's full of very good or even mind-blowing pieces ("The Last Baron" and especially its middle part left me speechless) and interesting rhythm experimentation ("Ghost of Karelia"). Not to mention all of these catchy and ass-kicking groovy riff rides running through the whole album. "Divinations" is certainly one, 3 minutes long ride.

CHECK IT IF YOU LIKE: Kyuss, Baroness, groove metal (e.g. Pantera), hard rock, Tool.

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 10/10: The Last Baron 9/10: Divinations; Ghost of Karelia 8/10: Quintessence; Oblivion; The Czar 6/10: Crack the Skye

Report this review (#528701)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "Spiraling up through the crack in the sky..."

Before listening to 'Crack the Skye' my only previous foray into the world of sludge metal was through the ultimately disappointing 'Precambrian' by The Ocean, and to be completely honest I wasn't exactly blown away by this album to start off with. But over time, I grew accustomed to the nasal drawls and really started to appreciate the intricate musicianship. Nowadays it's one of my very favourite releases from a congested year of very high standards. In short, it has proven itself to be a masterpiece.

A concept album which follows the astral journey of a paraplegic through space, and ultimately into an alternative Czarist Russia. With an underlying story as interesting as the music itself, Crack the Skye would easily win the award for 'Best Concept 2009' if it wasn't for the unfortunate coincidence that it was released in the same year as Kalisia's 'Cybion'.

Musically it is by far Mastodon's most progressive to date, the rampant drumming is still there, but has been toned down and given way to more carefully constructed compositions. The two which stand-out are the two longest, The Czar and The Last Baron. That said, there isn't even a hint of weakness on this release and the other five are also excellent.

The Verdict: Mastodon's finest hour.

Report this review (#536543)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10

The masterpiece I knew it would be.

Mastodon at its apex; nothing more. I have watched as they gradually evolved their sound, but Crack the Skye is the culmination of this evolution and more. The vocals are at their best, instrumentation too (even though the style of Brann Dailor is simpler here, although he can still melt your brain), and prog influences are even more notorious. Why else this album could be the best rated of them here on the site?

Anyway there is virtually no weakness in Crack the Skye. This is one album that surpasses their expectations. I easily found and pointed negatives on its predecessors, but after repeated listening I find no this. Opening overwhelming Oblivion extended to the end of The Last Baron (who along with The Czar is constituted as the best moment of the album and are probably the two best songs I've ever heard of Mastodon so far) there is not a single flaw on this album immaculate.

Five stars complete.

Report this review (#942795)
Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As you might expect from an album named after one of the more obscure 1970s progressive rock bands (Crack the Sky, no "e" on the Sky), this Mastodon album has a certain nostalgic vibe to it - it feels, in fact, like Mastodon taking a stab at making stoner metal, right down to the vocals which sound a lot like Sabotage-era Ozzy Osbourne. (Indeed, if you Crack the Skye do you get a Hole In the Skye?)

Of course, this is stoner metal filtered through Mastodon's distinctive sludgy-prog aesthetic, so this isn't purely an exercise in nostalgia - instead, it's a lightning raid on the past, plundering whatever works best for the purposes of Mastodon's compositional goals and leaving behind what doesn't work for them and in this way advancing their sound even as they pay tribute to their influences.

Report this review (#1029538)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always considered Mastodon to be one of the better heavy metal bands of the 21st century. They seem to be focused on creating a heavy, yet melodic atmosphere, as opposed to many others who seek only to be brutal or hardcore. They started off rusty with Remission and refined themselves with Leviathan and Blood Mountain. From a progressive rock standpoint, Crack the Skye is their most refined album. Featuring two epics as well as an entire album drenched in psychedelic and eastern tinged melodies, it's a treat to both fans of the band and any potential newcomers.

In addition to the prog influence, the band has some fantastic drumming on their part thanks to one Mr. Brann Dailor, a jazz influenced drummer who cites Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson as influences. I bring him up because not only is he a great drummer, but he is also a great singer, as his sections of the album's opener Oblivion show. As for the song itself, it is pure Mastodon; extremely heavy, melodic, and catchy. The same can be said of its follow up Divinations. This formula is repeated with Quintessence, which alternates between it's heavy and psychedelic parts rather than merging the two together.

The album's first epic The Czar is reminiscent of the traditional prog epic; a larger than life plot (Rasputin and attempted assassinations on the Czar of Russia), diverse instrumentality, and sum's up the band or album's sound wonderfully. It starts off quiet and slowly builds and builds until it climaxes with heavy guitars before descending (or ascending) into a mystical psychedelic melody. Easily one of Mastodon's best.

Ghost of Karelia reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden's "Wasted Years" and continues the album's mixture of heavy, psychedelic metal. The title track is probably the weakest song on the album, that really fails to try anything new, but on it's own, it's still decent. The Last Baron, the album's second epic and closer, starts off loud and bombastic, and just keeps on soaring. The vocals alternate between respect and awe and intense fear of the song's subject, which balanced with the album's signature style creates a mesmerizing piece that perfectly finishes this album.

A great intro album for progressive fans who want a little bit of taste of both prog's more extreme side and metal fans who want to see metal get a little experimental.

Four stars easily.

Report this review (#1499353)
Posted Monday, December 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1839638)
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After their good debut album Remission, the excellent Leviathan and the bit disappointing Blood Mountain, Mastodon finally achieved true greatness with Crack the Skye!!!

This album is the perfect mix of all that this band made before adding an extra prog layer to their music, containing this album true epic progressive masterpieces like The Czar and The Last Baron, mixed with incredibly good shorter tracks with the typical Mastodon eerie sound and insanely good instrumental work but also more accessible.

It's hard to explain because this album really has everything that this band has to offer condensed in a single record but more progressive than ever, making it a true masterpiece of modern prog-metal.

Best Tracks: there is no fillers here, but I specially love the longer ones.

Conclusion: Crack the Skye is an amazing album from start to finish. The band achieved a perfect mixture between technique and accessibility, power and progression, brutality and melody, making this album a clear peak in their career.

Sadly, although Mastodon maintained always a good level of quality in their music, they have been not able to regain the magic of Crack the Skye in another album yet.

My rating: *****

Report this review (#2079400)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2018 | Review Permalink

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