Sound — 10
Mastodon are one of perhaps a handful of bands in recent years whose sound has genuinely evolved from record to record. From the crushing brutality of Remission to the the hallucinatory and seasick inducing riffs of Leviathan and then the psychedelic and frantic efforts of Blood Mountain, Mastodon have undoubtedly proven their ability to create albums which are not simply a collection of interesting tunes but are rather magnificent standalone works of art. Their latest offering, Crack the Skye, is perhaps their most focused album to date and also their most personal. The Skye of the title comes from Skye Dailor, Brann's sister, who commited suicide at the age of 14. In terms of sound the album is far more brooding than Leviathan and Remission, focusing more on building an enveloping sonic landscape through the use echoing riffs and arpeggios, which draw the listener in to the song. The first track, Oblivion, is a great example of this, featuring Brann, Troy and Brent to sing the verse, pre-chorus and chorus respectively; the overall effect of this is quite stunning, as each of the boys' melodic singing turns effortlessly melt into the next one. Bearing all this in mind, however, the Divinations track which follows is a pure blast of Mastodon paddywhackery, featuring a banjo-sounding intro, classic anguished screaming and a rip-roaring legato solo from Brent. The two songs which for me best encapsulated the mood of the record were The Czar, a song in four parts, which is about Grigori Rasputin (within the context of the album's stroy), and The Last Baron. These two songs are epic in their scope, feature a variety of contrasting heavy and ponderous riffs and spaced-out guitar parts, which overlap and repeat to form an elegant and stunning whole.Overall, Crack the Skye is a genre-defying sonic triumph.
Lyrics — 8
There are two ways which one can look at the lyrics of Crack The Skye. The first is in the immediate sense of each song. In this respect, the lyrics when combined with the music serve to paint an abstract picture, which can conjure up any number of emotions, ranging from hope to fear to deolation and loneliness. The second way (which can actually be combined with the first) is to look at each line in the context of the overarcing story and concept of the album. For example, Oblivion deals with the time when the protaganist's link to his body is burned while on one of his out of body experiences, the Czar deals with Grigori Rasputin on the night of his murder by members of the Russian nobility. However, as standalone tracks they exhibit a sense of desperation and have a decidedly trippy feel. It is this multi-layered effect of the lyrics which gives them their striking nature.
Overall Impression — 10
The overall impression I have of the album is an exceptionally positive one. Mastodon are successfully carving out a position for themselves as the Led Zeppelin of the modern day metal world, crafting albums which spawn a mythology, an aura which the listener feels an ever-growing need to be a part of. Although Mastodon have clearly been influenced by artists both classics and contemporary, it is more in terms of ideology and ethics than sound, as they are a band who constantly sound fresh and unique, an anomaly in a sea of soundalike and trend-following bands.