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Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise/Sire/Relapse)

19 April 2009
We all saw this coming: MASTODON has finally let its prog flag fly high. The Atlanta band has displayed art rock tendencies since its first album Remission, so arguably Crack the Skye is the record the quartet has been working toward all along. While it would be unfair to say that Mastodon is no longer a metal band, it’s clearly more concerned with melody, texture and sophisticated song structure than it is crushing skulls and grinding teeth. Indeed, the quartet has at this point pretty much shed the death metal elements on which it depended in the beginning – instead of crashing dynamics, knee-twisting time shifts and woodchipper larynx abuse, the music revolves around soaring tunes, gruff crooning and, most importantly, organic development of loud to soft, dark to light. (There’s also a storyline to follow, but it’s so convoluted even the band doesn’t take it seriously.) Tunes like “Divinations” (which opens with a banjo), “Ghost of Karelia” and the title track (which co-stars SCOTT KELLY from NEUROSIS) open up the Mastodon sound, keeping it challenging while making it more accessible at the same time. Make no mistake – the band has not entered the realm of EMERSON LAKE & PALMER or YES; the music is still identifiably Mastodon. But Crack the Skye is definitely a step forward and a record of which the band should be extremely proud.