Mastodon, “Crack the Skye”

From the moment this record starts, you can sense that it is going to be a journey through space and time, the space and time of another dimension: sound. And what a bad-ass journey it is.

The fourth full length release by the heavy/thrash/hardcore/tech-metal outfit from Atlanta, Georgia is full of synaptic pressure and release. As with Mastodon’s previous releases, this album is a concept album, something that is relatively uncommon in this day and age since there are very few hippies about anymore (with the exceptions of certain groups such as Smashing Pumpkins’ last couple albums, Cradle of Filth, Green Day’s American Idiot, and several lesser-known Scandinavian metal bands). The reason is that most people don’t get the concept album idea. The fact that Mastodon have garnered such critical acclaim and popularity only proves to us how truly talented these Confederates are.

The plot of the concept behind Crack the Skye centers around a quadriplegic who learned astral projection. On his journey he flies too close to the sun, burning his spiritual umbilical cord which connects him to his body, and so he soars off to basically nowhere. Act II centers on Czarist Russia, where Rasputin and his cult are channeling spirits and bring the quadriplegic to their time. He explains his situation and foretells the assassination of Rasputin. Inevitably Rasputin is assassinated and Rasputin, as a spirit, guides the main character back to his body.

Guest musicians include Scott Kelly of Neurosis on the title track.

I first checked out this album while browsing through the local Hot Topic at the Westroads Mall, which is a 5 minute walk from my apartment. It just so happened that the day I heard it was the day it was officially released. I realized that I had been sampling for about 10-15 minutes when a store clerk asked me if someone else could use the listening station. I came to the conclusion that I would have to put on the headphones again for this album at home, this time in depth.

Crack the Skye differs from their previous efforts in a couple of significant ways. This album sounds definitely more ambient and thorough with the entirety of the release. The tracks carry more spatial completeness in their sound from the moment each starts. Sounds are way more balanced than before, and that’s no easy feat for this group, who have already shown in their previous albums, to me at least, a great head for overall sound… There is an effort to create an absolute atmosphere with each song.

There is also a definite kept pace throughout the album. We are dealing with complex time signatures, and polyrhythmic sound, but it keeps a definite tempo throughout the whole for the most part.

And it doesn’t carry nearly as hectic of a pace. Which is not to say that it is not at times frantic and driven; let’s just say that the guys slowed it down a bit for this one. But don’t worry; it’s still heavy and laden with riffs for any metal guitar lover to enjoy. You can definitely take a trip to this one.

I would call it thick (in a good way), juicy, hot and rare. The way I LOVE my steaks. Taste this one, for sure.

1. Oblivion
2. Divinations
3. Quintessence
4. The Czar: I Usurper, II Escape, III Martyr, IV Spiral
5. Ghost Of Karelia
6. Crack The Skye
7. The Last Baron

Released 24 March 2009
Reprise Records