Title: Crack The Skye
If Mastodon were a behemoth- as suggested in the press release with ‘Crack The Skye’, their fourth album proper- I’d imagine them to make King Kong and Godzilla look like insects playing in your backyard.
It has recently been confirmed by guitarist Bill Kelliher that ‘Crack The Skye’ is indeed a concept album about an “out of body experience” taking in such muses as wormholes, astral projection and Rasputin. Well, you certainly can’t say that lyrically the band aren’t thought provoking!
Opening track ‘Oblivion’ rumbles in- like the distant footsteps of a T-Rex, and singer/bassist Troy Sanders sounding like Josh Homme’s big brother- and there’s a charm to the vocals that make the song very alluring and I’d go so far as to say the chorus is (gulp!) catchy.
Despite the ‘prog’ leanings and the presence of several songs which surpass the ten-minute mark, there’s still room for a straight-for-the-jugular track in lead off single ‘Divinations’. A song with big riffs and more guitar licks than Van Halens back-catalogue, Sanders again charms the pants off the listener with the chorus, “No escape, binding spirits/No escape, trapped in time and space”, before ending with an almighty roar, announcing there’s a “Fire in the sky/Reminiscing majesty.”
The first song to pass the ten-minute point is ‘The Czar’. Presented to us in four sections, ‘I. Usurper’ is like the calm eye of the storm before ‘II. Escape’ whisks you back to familiar territory just before the four-minute mark. At seven minutes ‘III. Martyr’ starts off like we should be expecting things to wind down then the drums of Brann Dailor and guitars of Kelliher and Brent Hinds announce bigger plans, eventually leading to some guitar solos of epic proportion (8:15-8:50). ‘IV. Spiral’ is the song taking a bow before exiting the stage leaving you mesmerised by the whole concept.
‘Quintessence’ and ‘Ghost Of Karelia’ are both powerhouse heavy rock tunes with my only real qualm being that Troy Sanders vocals are almost drowned out by the multitude of guitars on the former. The upside of this is you do find yourself being drawn into the music more and more as it progresses.
The title track begins as a more subtle affair before we find Sanders at his most aggressive but like good cop/bad cop, the chorus has a soaring melody that appeases any listener who may’ve found things a little too scary hitherto this point; “Deep within this endless void/Searching for a sign…”. The vocoder section disorientates the message of the song, adding a new voice before Sanders pleads “Please tell Lucifer he can’t have this one/Her spirits too strong”
This merges into the thirteen-minute epic album closer ‘The Last Baron’. Bordering on balladry by Mastodon standards, the guitars seem to take on a less is more approach, and Brann Dailor beating the remnants of the devils’ soul out of his drums (3:22).
This song sums up Mastodon and more; the organised mayhem of it all; conflicting drum and guitar rhythms make it hard to follow any one instrument leaving to resigned to sitting back and trying to take it all in. The one time there appears to be any organisation, they still manage to leave you gobsmacked and in awe. The guitar duel and drum off (5:58 – 6:20), is like a very angry ‘Mars Volta’. Sections like this litter the song repeatedly going back to vocal sections that not only balance it out but let you catch your breath and give you a moment to realise and appreciate what preceded it. By 8:19 we get to what is by far the coolest riff on the album, before we head back to ‘Ballad-land’ Mastodon style.
“I guess they could say/we can set this world ablaze.” This album incinerates anything that goes near it and Mastodon are a band who are certainly on fire. Four albums in and judging by this effort I feel their initiation into heavy-rocks’ ‘elite’ (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer etc) is impending and this could be their ticket to pave a way. Coming across as a modest band, it may not be something they wish to be party to, but with music this good they’ll have the company of many people who more than appreciate what they have to offer.
Mastodon are touring the US at present but will be playing at the Sonisphere festival, Knebworth House in August ’09.
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