After making two of the most exceptional metal albums ever (Leviathan and Blood Mountain, in case you weren’t paying attention) Mastodon have etched themselves one hell of a reputation in stone. So, I believe it would be fair to say that expectations for fourth effort Crack The Skye are exceptionally high. A dud in this case would be catastrophic for their reputation, but relax it’s everything but.
Crack The Skye differs greatly from previous albums in the sense that there’s little in the way of skull rattling metal but more daring prog. But don’t be fooled by this, it’s still the Mastodon we know and love, Sanders and Hinds vocals remain distinct and Brann Dailor’s drumming still kills.
Opener “Oblivion” simply fucking owns; there’s no polite way of putting it. The song immediately tells you that Crack The Skye is going to be something special. Follower “Divinations” is the punchy number with Sanders releasing a beautiful vocal delivery in the chorus. As for “Quintessence”, the guitars of the verses and Hinds’ vocals mesmerise while Sanders pummels with a thunderous “Letting go!!! Letting go!!!”
“The Czar”, this near 11 minute beauty opens in sombre effect and shifts effortlessly to and from grooves and chugging riffs. The deep and throaty vocals of “Ghost of Karelia” with a fine drumming performance are a remarkable herald for the change that has taken place in the Mastodon mentality. Featuring Neurosis mastermind Scott Kelly, the title track melds his crushing lead vocals with the ominous croons of Sanders.
The closer “The Last Baron” is the crown jewel of Crack The Skye. Reaching the 13 minute mark exactly “The Last Baron” hits dizzying heights like any prog epic should but in a distinctly Mastodon-like way, fucking jaw dropping.
Crack The Skye clocks in at just over 50 minutes and it’s 50 minutes that couldn’t go by any faster. There’s no “hits” here, just a sprawling progressive oeuvre that can only be truly enjoyed and appreciated when listened to from start to finish.