Mastodon are probably one of the biggest metal-bands to arise to popularity in recent years, and Crack the Skye, aside from being the Mastodon album I like best, is possibly their most iconic and memorable work, and certainly fired them like a nailgun nail into the metal mainstream. The album is a concept album, the story of which was explained to me in near-autistic detail by a friend once, but the finer points of which I can't remember. I still vaguely enjoy it though.
As track ordering goes, Crack the Skye really doesn't mess around. The catchy single opens the album up in unmistakable "Oh, this is really good" fasion, followed by about two songs worth of "...I think", before picking up in quality again with "The Czar". I wouldn't consider Divinations and especially Quintessence to be overtly bad songs, but they don't stick out very much to my ear. Perhaps not filler, but definitely a supermarket own-value filling between the finest-quality bread of "Obliveon" and "The Czar". By the time I'm a few minutes into listening to The Czar, however, this brief sandwich-analogy can be forgotten and cast-aside, because the song sums up what I like most about what Mastodon did on Crack the Skye - make songs which are unapologetically psychedelic, catchy, and a bit innovative. The Czar, and the album as a whole, manages to combine a very odd combination of moods and styles and make it work - manically yo-yoing between melancholy and a very cheery, bouncy vibe which the riffs seem to produce in a manner which is second to none, with tight, memorable melodies and solos which are very honest in their evocative-air, as opposed to being pretentious, as a lot of the progressive music I run into has an annoying tendency to be.
A lot of people seem to complain that most of Mastodon's drumming is sporadic and saturated with fills, but in all honesty, it has yet to annoy me, although it'd definitely the kind of thing which, when noticed, cannot easily be ignored, and I can certainly hear it now it's mentioned to me. I enjoy the drum sound though, and it's quite similar to the style in which I'd be tempted to drum, if I was any good at it. They're well produced too, as are all of the instruments. It sounds professional, neat, a little bit plain, perhaps, but it does the job. The songwriting is engaging and typically enjoyable, and doesn't seem to mess around for the sake of it, instead, and more importantly, all of the technical stuff seems to be done for the sake of the songs. As I said earlier, the songs themselves don't seem to be pretentious in the slightest. The only thing which does seem to hover very precariously on the thin line betwen being incredibly deep and incredibly pretentious, is what I can remember of the storyline. That's probably my main, and perhaps only greivance with what is, otherwise, a solid record. It just doesn't feel like a concept album particularly; There aren't any easily detectible recurring motifs through it, and to be honest, I've never really felt like listening to it as a concept album, which is something a concept album should make you do.
Crack the Skye is definitely an album with peaks and troughs. The first, last, and central tracks are magnificent, and often come close to making me really, really get into Mastodon, and the others, well, they're not filler, but neither are they quite as good. All in all though, I definitely enjoy the album.
I'm giving this a 7/10.
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