Troy Sanders - lead vocals, bass, bass synthesizer
Brent Hinds - guitar, vocals, banjo
Bill Kelliher - guitar
Brann Dailor - drums, percussion, vocals
"Crack The Skye" is the 4th studio album (Mar 24 2009) released by Atlanta, Georgia-based progressive/sludge metal band Mastodon, a band thats known for its heavy experimentation, technical proficiency, and quirkyness. Having said that however don't expect this band be a clone of other big prog bands like Dream Theater or Opeth, rather Mastodon has carved out its own little niche in the vast worldwide pentagram of metal.
With this new release Mastodon embrace prog, sludge metal, and the occult even more with clear influences of czarist russia along with Sander's and Hind's tortured Black Sabbath vocals wailing out over the shred. Their escalation has sidestepped the need for heavier riffs and faster soloing by importing aesthetics and polished production. The new album is clearly going for a cleaner, more melodic, more spacious sound devoid of the high compression that plagues many of today's metal releases, and in turn, the four musicians have responded with their most disciplined performances on record to date.
"Divinitions" starts with a brief banjo intro before kicking into a hard driving beat with some catchy riffs and a ripping guitar solo. Scott Kelly from Neurosis has become a regular guest on Mastodon albums, and he returns with guest vocals on the album's title track "Crack The Skye".
The spacey, synth-laden bridge and hardcore-inspired choruses of "Quintessence", the slow-burning jam of "Ghost of Karelia", are compelling examples of how Mastodon has broadened its sound, but its on the album's two epic tracks "The Czar" and "The Last Baron" where the album peaks. Mastodon's skills are pushed to the limit on the 11 minute "The Czar" with layers of keyboards and guitars that are sometimes funky and other times very technical. The album wraps up with the 13 minute "The Last Baron" which being masterfully arranged, is truly the appropriate song to bring the proceedings to a close. It's an epic track that twists and turns its way through various textures and vibes without being repetitive.
Lyrically, CTS tackles a lot of different subject matter instead of focusing on a single element. As mentioned before the influence and imagery of old Czarist russia is pretty strong in this album (and especially in the eye catching album cover art) and everything from astral travel to russia's historically infamous mad monk Rasputin is covered.
Crack the Skye is an intriguing album especially for listeners new to the band. While the metal is tempered with classic rock and prog elements, this 50 minute album is still a challenging release with a lot of depth and should increase their fan base while maintaining their core audience.
4. The Czar: I. Usurper - II. Escape - III. Martyr - IV. Spiral
5. Ghost of Karelia
6. Crack the Skye (feat. Scott Kelly)
7. The Last Baron
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