Mastodon, Crack The Skye
Dizzying masterpiece from the new kings of hard rock
This fourth studio album from Georgia-based doom metal technicians Mastodon finds the band’s penchant for progressive rock and cohesive concepts fully realized. The story of a paraplegic boy who uses astral travel as a means of escape, the album opens with the beautifully tragic "Oblivion" — sung mainly by drummer Brann Dailor — which sets the tone for the story that follows; it isn't too long before the main character gets caught in a wormhole and "lost in oblivion." From there, the boy’s soul travels through the ether into a domain inhabited by ghosts of Czarist Russia who send him to earth in Rasputin’s body. Over the course of the album the mystic takes pity on the boy, and when he is killed and both their souls freed, he helps the boy return to his body and cures him of his ailment.
While that story is, in itself, mind-blowing, the sonic execution exponentially outweighs the lyrics. Mastodon’s technical prowess has here hit its stride, Skye's 7 well-crafted compositions showcasing pure emotion in their mammoth riffs; meticulously-planned song structures move from slow-burn to crushing finale. The band’s signature dual vocals are here more focused on clean singing (rather than screaming) to tell the tale, while unexpected instrumentation — like the banjo-intro in "Divinations"— help flesh out what is Mastodon’s most masterful and compelling album to date.