Crack The Skye Review

artist: Mastodon date: 03/25/2009 category: compact discs
Mastodon: Crack The Skye
Released: Mar 24, 2009
Genre: Progressive Metal / Sludge Metal
Label: Reprise
Number Of Tracks: 7
Lumbering riffs, layered, Ozzy-inspired vocals and a polish not heard on prior Mastodon efforts are the hallmarks of the Atlanta band's second major label effort, "Crack The Skye".
 Sound: 9.3
 Lyrics: 8.1
 Overall Impression: 9
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reviews (7) 155 comments vote for this album:
overall: 8
Crack The Skye Featured review by: UG Team, on march 25, 2009
12 of 20 people found this review helpful

Sound: For much of their career, Atlanta's Mastodon have created music that is the sonic equivalent of dusting off centuries of accumulated dirt from a long-buried fossil. The leaden yet lengthy songs moved much like the extinct, mammothian beast from which the band borrowed it's name. Mastodon became the band du jour in both the extreme metal scene as well as among hipsters. With Crack The Skye, their second major label release, the band's tradition of artsy metal remains in full effect. Noted producer Brendan O'Brien manned the boards for Crack The Skye, so there is an obvious polish to much of the music. It's unexpected, at least from Mastodon. The clean vocals on Oblivion remind us of Ozzy Osbourne, thanks to their nasally tone. But it's the oddity of the sound that allows the song to be so charming. There are jammy moments, a sprinkling of shred here and there and through it all, the band layers nuance atop nuance in a complicated, artistic way. Quintessence is a moody song that can lull you into a trance with it's hypnotic riffing. Mastodon are proof that metal doesn't have to be quite so lunkheaded without sacrificing an ounce of force and aggression to make it's points. // 9

Lyrics: Singer/bassist Troy Sanders has evolved the most in Mastodon. He's singing for his supper more than ever on Crack The Skye, but a song like Divinations is slightly hampered by what sounds like over processing of his vocals. It's a solid slab of hard rock, but the vocals are a bit too cooked. It might take one or two or 15 listens for the vocal style on this song to stop being discontinuous. Other than that, Sanders has boldly and bravely taken a step up here, emitting words that are much more decipherable than that of past Mastodon efforts. The band remains rooted in that mythical vibe, lyrically speaking, which lets Crack The Skye be a sonic journey through and through. The album, also reported to be a bit of an homage to drummer Brann Dailor's late sister Skye, touches on themes of the art of Tsarist Russia and Stephen Hawking theories. To say that it's thought provoking and extraordinary would be, well, putting it mildly. // 7

Overall Impression: What to make of Mastodon in 2009? They're still the same crusty and extremely talented metal dudes from Atlanta. Only they're making music for Warner Bros. Instead of Relapse. The band still has more in common with former Relapse bands like Neurosis than, say, current labelmates like My Chemical Romance or Disturbed. Signing to a major label didn't equate to selling out with Mastodon; they're still churning out leviathan-sized riffs, inserting unexpected twists in the middle of a groove that can loosen your teeth from your gums. There's a bit of polish added to Crack The Skye and what the hell? It's the band's prerogative and if we don't evolve and grow, we die. The mythic Mastodon creature didn't learn that lesson. It's a good thing that Mastodon the band did. // 8

- Amy Sciarretto (c) 2009

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overall: 10
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: ace rules, on march 24, 2009
11 of 14 people found this review helpful

Sound: After getting into a fight with SOAD bassist Shavo Odadjian, an inebriated Brent Hinds was hospitalized with brain hemorrhaging. A devastating experience for Mastodon at the time but it would later result in amazing music written on an acoustic guitar by It's main music contributor. The overall wibe on the record is a Classic Rock, Creepy, Psychedelic, Metal, Mastodon kind of sound. Just listen to the intro in Oblivion or Ghost Of Karelia and you will know what I'm talking about. They have even used a keyboard player to raise the tension on the more Psychedelic/Proggy tracks Quintessence, Oblivion, The Last Baron and Crack The Skye. I think it makes the songs fit into the spaced-out theme that is on the album real good. Guitar: Even though the album consist of a lot of amazing harmonies and "moods" as I want to call it, written mostly by Mr. Hinds, the riffs on Crack The Skye is top notch as usual. I have to say that Brent and Bill is in my opinion the strongest guitar force in Hard-rock and Metal right now. The best riffs can be find in the last, crazy 13 minute long song The Last Baron but also in the singles Oblivion and Divinations. There's also a lot of soloing going on which there has not been a lot of during previous records. Brent is using the old school approach to his playing and it brings flavor to the songs. I especially like the ones in Oblivion and The Czar. Bass: As on the previous records, Troy Sanders has become famous for his fluency on the bass and way of using distortion pedals (and on this album even a Taurus foot synthesizer). This makes Mastodon sound more dynamic and broader and helps to get the creepy sounds that these songs needed and have. Drums: We all know Brann Dailor as a force behind the drum kit and on this album he is continuing to develop. And by developing I don't mean adding more fills and different techniques as there could be a little too much of on previous records. Brann has matured behind the drum kit and the focus is more on adding groove and feel to the songs which was necessary on this record I think. // 10

Lyrics: Lyrics: Mastodon has since Blood Mountain continued to develop their writing skills. The lyrics go real deep on this one and the themes are about astral travel, out of body experiences and the Tsarist Russia. Quiet spaced-out but it's just what an album like this need. Singing: Brent and Troy have during a course of three albums developed their singing/screaming skills and this album is not an exception. They have chosen to lay of the screaming a bit but it was necessary to make it fit with the music, the vocals is exactly right for this album. Even drummer Brann Dailor is contributing on the opening track Oblivion and I got to tell you that he sounds great, who new he could sing. My favorite vocal part on the album is still Brent's aggressive performance on first single Divinations. Also, as on the two previous records the Mastodudes invited Scott Kelly from Neurosis to do some screaming on the title track Crack the Skye, another genius move by the guys because on a Mastodon album you need some screaming. // 10

Overall Impression: I'm gonna to go out on a limb and say that this is the best Hard Rock/Metal album of the decade. If someone can tell me a better one, do it! The Last Baron, Oblivion and Divinations stand out as the best tracks but I have to say that I like em' all SO much. I've really missed an album like this since I got into Psychedelic Rock a la Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, but don't get me wrong, there is plenty of Metal stuff going on too. This is an all time classic and I'm recommending it to everyone that is into Metal and Rock. // 10

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overall: 9.3
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: thelastbaron, on april 01, 2009
4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 10

Lyrics: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 8.7
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: GuitarHero_jp, on march 30, 2009
3 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: Well this is Mastodons 5th effort (If you count 'Call Of The Mastodon') and their 3rd concept album. If you didn't know already, Remission is based on fire (although not a concept album), Leviathan is based on Water and Blood Mountain Ground. Crack The Skye is based on an element called 'Ether' which is mainly what space is. I feel that Mastodon have created a different feel for each album and this is deffinatly different to other Mastodon albums. It has more of a space feel to it and is allot more melodic. Blood Mountain was no doubt there most progressive effort to date and Crack the Skye has probably beaten that. They have introduced keyboards, more percusion and acousitc guitars mixed with electric. There is a guest appearance from Neurosis Scott Kelly (who also appeard on albums such as Leaviathan and Blood Mounatin) on the albums title tarck. // 9

Lyrics: The concept of the story is complicated, Brann Dailor said "There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. He is lost in space and is sucked into a wormhole. Spirit's send him to a Russian cult and use him as a Divination and they find out his problem. They put his soul inside Rasputin's body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin's body through the crack in the sky(e) Rasputin tells the child to leave and go home. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it's too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them downthere are some obstacles along the way." Pretty complicated story huh? As for the singing, there is deffinatly more melodic vocals and catchy chouruses on this album. Just listen to Oblivion or Divinations to see what I mean. There are allot of different singers on the album to make a change from just Troy singing. For example, drummer Brann Dailor sings for the first time for Mastodon in the verse for Oblivion. Brent (Hinds) sings the chorus for the same song. The verse to Divinations is shared by Troy and Brent. Brent has always done allot of singing for the band, as heard on Capillarian Crest from Blood Mountain. Scott Kelly who has appeared on previous Mastodon albums sings on Crack the Skye. He deffinatly suit's the song as the band said it is the heaviest song on the album. // 8

Overall Impression: This album only has 7 tracks, but I'm gonna review them all for ya anyway. 01.Oblivion: starts with a relativly slow riff by Mastodons standards, but then picks up. Brann sings the verse and gives quite a strange effect. He has a clean vocal style and is allot different to Troy and Brents style. The chorus is brillianty catchy which you wouldn't expect from Mastodon. This song has one of my favourite Mastodon solo's. It's really bluesy and that's what I love. 02.Divinations: I fell in love with this song as soon as it came out and they made a video for it! I couldn't wait for the album to come out. The things I love about this song is the catchy verse and then going into a melodic chorus. This song also has a good solo. 03.Quintessence: I'm not really sure what to say about this song although it is brilliant... If that makes sense? Lol. My favourite part of the song is the 'Let it go' part before going into another melodic chorus 04.The Czar: this song has four parts to it: I Usurper II Escape III Martyr IV Spiral and it goes on for 10 mins. Usurper has a great intro, it gives a feeling of being in space before going into the verse. This then breaks into Escape and picks up the pace with a great riff. 05.Ghost Of Karelia: starts with a percussion intro and breaks into a great main riff. The only part I don't like in this song is the 'Whoah' bit in the verse. You'll see when you hear it lol. 06.Crack The Skye: the title tarck has one of my favourite riffs on. In the intro. The verse has Scott Kelly from Neurosis on vocals to give a heavy effect for the song. It mixes well with the Double bass from Brann and the low guitar tuning. When Troy comes in with the singing it gives a great effect, again very melodic. It's a great build up song for the epic closer. 07.The Last Baron: well for those of you who loved Hearts Alive from Leviathan, here is another 13 min epic. It may not have as many riffs as Hearts Alive but it certainly closes the album perfectly. It starts with an acoustic riff and Troy starts singing only 8 seconds into the song wheras on Hearts Alive it takes him over 2 mins for the singing to start. There is a bit in the midle of the song that I don't like. it's a really progressive riff and kinda just mental shreddy riffs. But the ending to the song finishes on a great epic solo from Brent. And yet again, the Mastodon lads do not dissapoint! I strongly reccomend any Metal or Rock fan to buy this album! And if you can try to buy the special edition with the bonus dvd, it's worth a watch. I'm glad I blew my money on this album! // 9

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overall: 7.7
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: unregistered, on march 27, 2009
1 of 8 people found this review helpful

Sound: I would say if you loved 'Blood Mountain' and 'Leviathan', you may be disappointed when you hear this for the first time. Sure, Brent Hinds' hybrid picking style is still there in all it's glory, Brann Dailor still fires off on the drums, but it's just missing something. And that something is power. Sure the album is plenty pretty with melodies and harmonies and lyrics you can actually hear, but it lacks the darkness and crunch that elevated their previous releases from just prog metal novelty. The huge riffs of 'The Wolf Is Loose' and 'Blood And Thunder' just aren't here, and neither is the fury from 'Siberian Divide'. Indeed both 'Quintessence' and 'Ghost Of Karelia' are reminiscent of the penultimate track from 'Blood Mountain' but both just meander around Brent Hinds' trademark sound, leaving you without the payoff of 'Siberian. 's huge riff towards the end leaving you unfulfilled. 'Divinations' is the obvious single and features some of the albums best riffs and a cool surf rock section towards the end. But it just seems like Mastodon by numbers, a bit formulaic. 'Oblivion' may be the best song on the album, heavy, churning riffs and a more metal sound than the rest of the album. I suppose you could call it a ballad, it's slow but there is a hint of darkness to it. 'The Czar' is one of the few songs which showcases Troy Sanders bass, on a light and ethereal track driven by Brent Hinds vocals and riffing. It chugs forward from intricate Radiohead-esque beginning, to a Randy Rhoads circa Bark at the Moon riff, to more angular clean riff and back to the beginning. Pretty Cool, but it doesn't really make you feel anything like, say the end of 'Capillirian Crest' did. 'Crack The Skye' the title track is a bit like 'Sleeping Giant', a bit like early Mastodon. It features Scott Kelly from Neurosis again and is a real standout. The sludgy metal riff of the verse gives way to a soaring chorus and a glimpse of what Mastodon are truly capable of. 'The Last Baron' is a good ending for the album. The intro reminds you of 'Pendulous Skin' but goes on a bit too long at 3 minutes. Then it steps up to the plate with a rapid riff and lots of bass drum from Brann. Then it does what Mastodon does best, rapidly and effortlessly moving from complex riff to complex riff in an impressive fashion. // 8

Lyrics: This is essentially a vocals driven album. Troy and Brent have obviously worked on their voices, and it shows. This album showcases much more clean vocals from the two than previous efforts, and it gives Mastodon a more unique vocal sound, separating them from their previous stereotypical metalcore screams. Like 'Blood Mountain' the lyrics are often atmospheric, but Brent and Troy craft a more meaningful series of songs through their improved vocals, and the lyrics now mean a lot more than previously. 'Oblivion' is a perfect example of this. Troy cries out with passion 'how can I tell you that I've failed? '. Brent sounds world weary when he sighs 'Now I'm lost in Oblivion' and the whole song is vocally a cut above what they've accomplished before. 'Crack The Skye' deals quite explicitly with Brann's sister Skye's suicide. 'Momma don't let them take her/ Don't let them take her down'. This is a departure for the band, as is the fact lyrics are clearly audible on this album. Before, they were really just a fifth instrument, without carrying much message. Problem is, there is little subtlety and rhymes seem clunky overly simplistic. For example 'Enemies poison deep within my second sight/ Wasting valuable time' which doesn't look too bad but it just sounds horrible on the album. The chorus of 'Oblivion' only narrowly avoids this fate. // 7

Overall Impression: This may be the rebirth of prog rock, but that's not why I bought the album. I wanted heavy, sludgy riffs and mad breakdowns and it doesn't deliver. However, this is an album that grows on you and it is a great achievement. 'Oblivion' and 'Crack The Skye' are what I'll be listening to for the rest of the year. Ultimately, though, as a bass player, there's nothing here I'm itching to learn unlike 'Crystal Skull' and 'Colony of Birchmen' from their previous album. In fact the whole rhythm section of Bill, Troy and Brann seem underrepresented on the album which is driven by Brent Hinds. Brann Dailor's madcap drumming just isn't as noticeable, Bill Kelliher's solid rhythm work and heavy metal sensibilities are missing, and Troy is barely audible for much of the album. So should you buy the album? Probably yes. Its a grower and features some great songs and riffs. But if you are going to buy one Mastodon album, I'd recommend you buy 'Blood Mountain'. // 8

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overall: 8
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: Argonaut, on december 01, 2009
1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: A band as heavy and technically skilled as Mastodon were never destined to be a Groove Metal band forever. From the new masters of progressive southern metal comes a fiery debut of a new style. Like a lot of Mastodon's creations, this is a concept album dealing with Astral Travel, alternate dimensions, Imperial Russia, Rasputin and that most lovable of characters, the Devil. This is a complex album that may take a couple of hard listens before you can truly understand the genius behind it. Difficult riffs and eerie atmospheres make up a suprising amount of this album, but that fits, and only serves to further the epicness of this story-by-music. This is an incredible album, and probably one of the best of the year. My only criticism is that its not very accessible to people who haven't heard Progressive Metal or are used to Groove Metal's more straightforward style. // 9

Lyrics: A change-up of singers led to a different sound in the album, but this benefits the change away from heavier forms of metal, towards a more progressive mood. The lyrics are pretty narrative and deal mainly with the story in hand. Thats fine if you want to listen to the whole album from start to finish, but it does mean that various songs lyrics make little sense as singles. // 7

Overall Impression: Obviously there are holes in a lot of progressive albums, usually recurring ones like accessability and song length. Crack the Skye is no different. However, it is a truly remarkable album with some amazing features that take the best of Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock influences from Neurosis, Pink Floyd, Exhorder and The Mars Volta. // 8

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overall: 10
Crack The Skye Reviewed by: Shotgunmerc, on july 17, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Let me start this review out by saying that Mastodon is one of those rare bands where there are few things you can take from one album and say that it is similar to a past album. If you were to listen to their debut, "Remission", or even its successor, "Leviathan", and then listen to "Crack The Skye", you'd probably tell me that there are two different bands playing. But never fear, we have the same winning crew of four behind the music here. And boy do they hit a home run here. On those previous albums, Mastodon was heavy. I don't know how else to put it, those riffs were f--king heavy. "Blood And Thunder"? Head banging masterpiece if I ever heard one. Here on "Crack The Skye" we still get those headbanging riffs, but it's like the band took a step back and really ironed out what they wanted to sound like. Their prog influences really shine on this record. Songs like Oblivion go from thick and chunky to huge and spacey in the blink of an eye. You have two 10+ minute masterpieces in "The Czar" and "The Last Baron". You have a f--king gong in "Ghost Of Karelia". A gong! What more need I say? All in all, Mastodon nailed their sound on this album. I'm sure much of the improved sound quality comes from producer Brendan O'Brian, but these guys have definitely stepped their game up and this album is a force to be reckoned with. // 10

Lyrics: Drummer Brann Dailor wrote most of the lyrics for this one, and for the first time he provides lead vocals. He's the first voice you hear on this album, and you have to wonder how in the hell he stays in key while playing those monster fills he's come to be known for. He also does backing vocals on "Crack The Skye". Other than Scott Kelly's appearance on that track (which we'll get to in a moment), the remaining vocals are done by the usual team of bassist Troy Sanders and guitarist Brent Hinds. In the past, their vocals could be incomprehensible at best, but they both really improved on this album. Hinds singing in the chorus for "Oblivion" is really catchy. You can actually understand what Troy is saying on this album. Now, Scott Kelly sings on the song "Crack The Skye". That song is absurdly heavy, matching even early Mastodon in terms of sheer force, and Kelly's vocals emphasize that. Lyrically, this album has two stories behind it. Like "Leviathan" and "Blood Mountain", it is a concept album. The first story, and the one that most people know, is about a paraplegic boy who gets lost in space after an Icarus-like incident while astral traveling. And if you think that was way out there as far as the topic of a song goes, you ain't heard nothing yet. I won't go into much more detail so as to not spoil the story, but I will say that he has a long, long journey home, and his tale is told brilliantly. The boys in Mastodon did a fine job with this story, although one has to wonder how much weed they were smoking while coming up with it. The second story is mostly about Brann. The album was named after his sister, named Skye, who committed suicide at the age of 14. Brann has said in an interview that most of the songs on this album are actually a fantasy narrative about how he could have saved her. This side of the album is much more apparent on the title track, but once you sit down and read the lyrics, it becomes a bit more clear. Skye would be proud of Brann though; "Crack The Skye" (the title track) sends shivers up my spine every time and I never get tired of listening. A fitting tribute for a loved one. // 10

Overall Impression: This is the best prog/metal album of the past decade. I would put it up against anything else in the genre. It has an amazing (although strange) story behind it. The execution from each band member is incredible. Brent Hinds in particular does a stellar job with his solos. The music itself is immaculate; you get the sense that these guys made no mistakes at any point in the recording of this album, and yet the technical level on display by each band member is amazing. This is probably about as close to a perfect album as you can get; I literally cannot find any faults in it anywhere, except that at just about 50 minutes exactly I wish it was longer. Do yourself a favor: log off UG right now, go to your nearest record store, and buy this album if you haven't already. // 10

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