At this point one has to wonder if Mastodon have devoured an entire forest of trees worth of acid or they're just fucking with us. Truly it's getting hard to tell when the concept behind their latest major label backed effort, "Crack The Skye", involves not only a crippled young man's voyages with astral projection, but also wormholes, golden umbilical cords and of course infamous Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin.
Suspicions of excessive hallucinogenic consumption aside though, Mastodon have always approached their music with as much creativity as the colorful themes behind it and in this regards "Crack The Skye" is no different. An engaging, near spiritual, journey through heavily layered progressive metal; the band have willfully abandoned much of the blunt aggression that defined them in the past. In it's place is tension and a worship of late 60's/early 70's psychedelia as elements of Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin all bubble up to the surface in trace amounts.
Aiding in this intently mature approach is a wealth of production nuance, instrumental diversity and craftsmanship. It's hard to say if this is a byproduct of working with heavyweight producer Brendan O'Brien on this effort, or just a massive creative shift, but few bands have ever interwoven both majesty and mastery together in a compelling and existential manner such as this. Furthermore, it is also this constant juxtaposition of both regal-like eccentricity and primal surges that ensures "Crack The Skye" remains consistently engrossing throughout.
If anything, Mastodon have focused on both melody and structure here and the resulting windfall is impressive. The band are now able to compliment each other to such a degree that they are able to fortify entire songs from any of the structural damage intended by the occasional seismic shifts of aggression. Basically, rather than a series of part changes, the songs now sound as though they are organically evolving as they run their course.
In fact, sans a few blatant thrusts, much of the complexity and technique applied here is refreshingly heartfelt, especially in a genre often plagued by theory wank and instrumental excess. That said, the distance the band have put between themselves and their heavier aspects will surely upset more than a few listeners. But in the place of this seeming lack of prominent hostility, an even heavier robustness has emerged, guarantying that "Crack The Skye" is Mastodon's most lysergically precise effort to date.
(4.5 / 5)