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Crack the Skye

4.7 out of 5 stars 227 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Mastodon has taken hold of the leadership of the New Wave of Progressive Heavy Metal. The band's 2006 major-label debut Blood Mountain spun off a Grammy nomination and earned Top 5 Best Album Of The Year nods from Kerrang!, Revolver, and Metal Hammer, and a Top 10 at Rolling Stone. Now Crack The Skye, its fourth original studio album, mines subject matter from czarist Russia and astral travel to out-of-body experiences and Stephen Hawking's theories on wormholes for an unrepentantly heavy aural assault that will shake the heavens.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 24, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Reprise Records
  • ASIN: B001R4MEYI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,464 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Without getting into the debate as to whether Crack the Skye is Mastodon's best album to date, one would be wise to just point out its differences, both strengths and shortcomings, and leave it to the fans to do the ranking.

On first listen, Crack the Skye will immediately stand out for its easily noticeable absence of screamed vocals. Troy Sanders uses his clean voice on almost all the tunes, with very few exceptions. Without doubt, it will take some time to get used to his style, but repeat listens only serve to solidify one's opinion that the songs on this disc have been composed in such a style to sound much better with this approach. Pain-ridden vocals pop up only to provide contrast to the more melodious direction taken in spots. The chorus on "Ghost of Karelia", for instance, proves all the more powerful as the vocals shift from the mostly clean style to somewhat aggressive outbursts.

The guitar tandem of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher lend the songs a solid, unbreakable facade, which elevates them to a whole new level. From the apocalyptic opening chords of "Oblivion", chock full of despondent riffs and rock-based guitar solos; to the calculated riffery of "Divinations", they implant dynamics to the compositions through and through. Rather than entirely focusing on heavy, punishing jackhammer riffery, this time around they also utilise progressive metal-like jam sessions and blues-inflected passages. As a result, the constant shifting of dynamics on "Quintessence" renders the tune more creative and interesting.

The ten-minute epic "The Czar" is built upon flawless songwriting and mood construction.
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Format: Audio CD
I, like many, wasn't sure what to expect from "Crack the Skye." Early reports described it as "spacey" and "creepy," with a classic rock feel, and the introduction of mainstream producer Brendan O'Brien raised further questions about the sound. Having heard the album, I can say that the change is fundamental: "Crack the Skye" is a metallic prog album, whereas Mastodon had previously been a metal band first and foremost, though one with progressive and technical tendencies. Fortunately, the album is not entirely lacking in the old Mastodon feel, with guitarwork and drumming that should be easily recognizable for any serious fan. The basic songwriting, however, is radically different. Whereas earlier works were primarily horizontal, emphasizing the progression through various sections, "Crack the Skye" is much more spacious and vertical, with densely layered arrangements of guitars (sludgy power chords, acoustic arpeggios, frantic leads often all at once) atop synths and unconventional percussion to aid the conventional rhythm section. Perhaps most significantly, the vox, originally barked and howled, are now almost entirely ethereal, gliding melodies at the center of the instrumental maelstrom. The feel is finally different: while "Blood Mountain" and "Remission" charged over the listener, "Crack the Skye" engulfs him. Because of this, nothing on "Crack the Skye" has the sheer visceral power of "Workhorse," "Blood and Thunder" or "Capillarian Crest," and those, like myself, who are primarily metal fans may not find the change totally ideal. Personally, though I can't permanently rank it after only 15 or so listens, I seriously doubt I will ever like "Crack the Skye" as much as I do their previous three albums.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Mastodon is a rare band in the metal community; one that both enjoys and is cursed by a sort-of ongoing "sophomore album" syndrome. Every release is so punishing in it's technical proficiency and expertly crafted songwriting methods that the inevitable question is asked on the dawn of each new release: "Can they top that?" Ye of little faith prepare to be destroyed. However much Leviathan reinvented metal for you or Blood Mountain took your preconceptions of extreme music and spun them upside-down into a product which seamlessly blended infectious hooks and world-class musicianship, Crack The Skye has Mastodon outdoing themselves once again.

The sound quality has become significantly better than past Mastodon releases with A-list producer Brendan O'Brien behind the mixing board, utilizing cutting edge sound manipulation while maintaining the gritty, raw sound which captures the massive wingspan of the ferocious musical beast that is Mastodon. The instrumentation follows in suit and will be no surprise to longtime fans. Hinds and Kelliher's guitars weave fluidly together like a pair of crushing pythons locked in a twisted yet beautiful discordant harmony, backed by Troy Sanders' dependably thundering basslines and Brann Dailor's jazzy and seemingly 8-armed drum style.

As for the album itself, it's structure lays waste to the modern music critic theory of the concept album being dead. With lyrics weaving together a violent plot of Czarist Russia and out-of-body terrestrial experiences which simultaneously convey deep meaning and utter ambiguity, the room for interpretation is limitless. In a world where music is cheaply stolen off the Internet with few consequences, this most cohesive of "was that just 1 song or 10?
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8 Comments 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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