Crack the Skye, by Mastodon
Suggested by Alex Hamilton
I want to like Mastodon. I really do.
Crack the Skye is my first foray into their world, and during my listen I felt charmed by its progressive metal leanings. The songs are nuanced and complex, with sludgy gurning guitars that swirl with an ominous ferocity. There’s an epic feel to each, and that’s hammered home with the track lengths in places. Thirteen minutes for The Last Baron? Over ten for the multi-part The Czar? Have a word with yourself.
The songs are swollen and anthemic, over-indulgent in places, but never boring, and definitely rocking. Vocally, there’s some fine harmonising on show, and more than a hit of the bombastic Ozzy Osbourne in places. Apparently, the band has multiple lead vocalists, so it’s hard to know exactly where to heap the praise. This is a modern metal sound, charged and explosive, but never short of melodious and appealing.
The song titles are a little cryptic, mind. There’s Oblivion, a fine metal name, alongside Divinations, Quintescence, The Czar: Usurper / Escape / Martyr / Spiral, and more. Like the considered and constructed music they marquee for, the titles illicit intrigue, so I fire up the Big Square Fact Machine and trot along to Google.
When asked in an interview to describe the album, bassist and singer Troy Sanders shared the following insight into the band’s creative process…
“Crack the Skye is a departure from everything we’ve previously recorded in the sense that we kinda strapped on our aeroshells and departed from Earth for a while, and then captained to the ethereal element of the universe and kind of slept on the roof of the world for a while to get a perspective on this record. … Basically we’re exploring the ethereal world. We’re dissecting the dark matter that dominates the universe, in a nutshell.”
What in the blue hell is all that crap?!
It gets worse! Apparently, the album tells a story, in the grand old Prog Concept style, of a paraplegic that can travel astrally through space. One day he astrally saunters too close to the sun, burning his umbilical cord that tethers him to his body. Suddenly, he’s sucked through a wormhole to Tsarist Russia, where he inhabits the body of Rasputin, and they run into the Devil too because why the hell not?
Mastodon, it seems, have supped from the well of total lunacy.
While I enjoy the music, especially the slow build of the aforementioned thirteen-minute standout The Last Baron, I can’t read such asinine guff without formulating a negative opinion of the guffees. As I’m consuming more and more Cool New Music, I’m afforded the luxury of being whimsically discerning, and I’m telling you straight, proclamations that you captained yourselves to the ethereal element of the universe to get perspective on your fourth studio album does not propel me headlong towards the earlier three.
I’m giving Crack the Skye a tempered 7/10. It would have been higher, had the band not presented themselves as waffling idiots.