Mastodon – Crack In The Skye

Metal is one goofy ass genre of music. I’m far too lazy to get into the many sub genres it offers, but while I find myself so very comfortable pressed up against it’s mighty heaving chest, there’s no denying that one and all offer more than a few silly moments.

Mastodon is for the most part able to avoid this issue. Focused musicianship is wrapped around fairly experimental, prog influenced themes and lyrics that compliment the bands bursts of aggression. Let’s be honest though, I mostly respect them for their never ending need to grow beards and be kind of ponchy. They are an ugly band, something desperately needed in this time of girl pants and horrific clean singing choruses overlapped by bad death metal growls.

Mastodon is a necessary beast in the world, something that somehow stays pure and manages to possibly stink worse than any 1 bedroom apartment inhabited by yours truly. They drink a lot, probably use an unnecessary large amount of illegal drugs and continue to grow and change into something all their own. I for one need things like that, things that continue to provoke thought and allow me to write long rambling pretentious declarations of love like the one you are reading now. I kind of love Mastodon basically. So hey kids, lets review their most recent offering. 2009’s Crack In the Skye.

– Got to mention the bands consistently great artwork as done by Paul Romano. It actually does offering something extra to those willing to buy the CD and this release is no exception. Crazy psychadelic czars~! I don’t know what any of it means, but it makes me furrow my brow and consider opening that chain of Pooke clothing stores I’ve been dreaming about for going on a decade so it’s got to be meaningful. Onto the songs.

1. Oblivion – One could say a weak part of Mastodon’s act is the vocal delivery. None of the boys are natural singers so you end up with a lot of grunting, howling and occasional warbly clean singing that kind of sounds like Terry Funk. Brandon Dailor, the drummer, opens the album with some of the nicer clean vocals the band has offered. Complimented by lead guitarist Brent’s somewhat Layne Stayley influenced croon and the man grunt of bassist Troy Sander and you get one hell of a strange mash up. Also, Brent has a tattoo on his face. This has to add something to the overall package. TREMENDOUS solo about halfway through that fits perfectly into the scheme of things and never falls into guitar jack offery. Probably their most commercial song up this point thanks to the sing along chorus, except it’s 6 minutes long and grows and changes through out, requiring aqttention be paid. Yeah, you won’t hear it sandwiched between Nickleback and Chikodemono’s jug band on the FM any time soon. Oh wait, a friend just unformed me it did get some radio play. Already! ****1/4

2. Divinations – Well we have our first banjo sighting of the evening. Always gets me fired up and belligerent when that baby makes an appearance. This segues nicely into a track that might would’ve been at home on their previous album Blood Mountain just as easy as it is here. Thundering pace, guitar solos flying around the room and another pretty clean chorus leads to me standing on my balcony and howling at the neighbors. Took 5 armed men to take me down, not counting all of the firemen and ambulance response we got. Good song, I like it. ****

3. Quintessence – Jesus, I butchered spelling the name of this song a half dozen times before giving up and letting spell check do it for me. Dailor’s drumming is front and center at the start of this thing with the guitar work wrapping itself around it quite successfully. Brent’s voice does take some getting used to. It’s got a bit of a nasally quality to it while still sounding hellaciously manly. I bet it’s itchy when he kisses you too. “LETTING GO! LETTING GO!” wails somebody that I cannot identify because I’m an idiot. Now the guitars are a bit more prominent and the song forces me to consider all of those who’ve wronged me and the vengeance I must find through the blade. That’s what I got from it anyway. Some nice use of keyboard and digital effects creep in their along with ominous group chanting. Oh and now the song is just going to bludgeon me to death for a finale. Thanks boys! ****

4. The Czar – Maybe I’m just a lazy music fan, but when I find out a song is going to be at least 10 minutes before hearing it for the first time, I am usually indignant. 10 minute songs work on a success scale of about 47% of the time. That doesn’t even mean I necessarily LIKE the song the other 53% of the time, it just means it doesn’t shit it’s Dockers and remains competent. This thing though? One of my favorite songs currently in existence. Brent’s voice is wrapped up tightly by Troy’s deep sexually controlling vocals for support on the verse and it works to great effect. Let’s get some synth and keys in there too! The organ is so prominent in it’s initial appearance while never taking away from the rest of the instrumentation. “It’s your own fault, this is what you wanted.” is droned in a defeated sad manner. Then the guitars kick in, slashing through the sludge like speed of the track and we’re off to the races. “Fight the devil inside.” You could do a training montage to this section, but only if said training focused on the cleaning and eventual use of cannons and the battle axe. Drums smash face. Now there’s the part where you can thrash around like an asshole at the show and bump into me spilling my 9 dollar BEER YOU SON OF A BITCH I SAID IT WAS 9 DOLLARS DIDN’T YOU PAY ATTENTION? THE BEER AT CONCERTS IS EXPENSIVE. I AM THE FIRST TO DECLARE THIS.

Song is still going and we’re back into me doing push ups while dressed like some sort of Nordic Viking. I will only finish your family after tasting each member’s blood and possibly their sex juices. Man and woman alike!

We’re now 7 minutes in and the highlight of the album is upon us. A chorus of angels sing us to thy resting place and now is the time where you envision yourself doing something needlessly epic, the misery of life swarming around you as you chop down a once mighty oak. I…guess? This part is really good is what I’m saying. And then the guitar solo, a gift from the shelf of the finest of Metal. It makes me stare at myself defiantly in the mirror, demanding some sort of reaction from my own weakened reflection. “You are no man, JUST A SHELL” I belch at myself. The song continues back into never ending misery before finally falling silent in the ambient noises that the body of the tune contains. I’m spent. 2 billion stars.

5. Ghost of Karelia – Really interesting vibe to this one, it certainly gives off the haunted vibe the title semi promises. Really soft vocal delivery and a decent amount of calm works it’s way in. Flows so well within the context of the album (What an asshole I have become), you kind of need this piece for a cool down after the rash you probably got from rubbing your body provocatively during The Czar. We get a few time signature changes and a slight bit more aggression. Really good, not quite up to par with the rest in my humble opinion, but still very nice. ***½

6. Crack The Skye – Great opening that should be the entrance theme to some sort of ominous mid card wrestler. Keys are present again! Always a nice contradiction. Hey Scott from Neurosis is loaning his vocals to the party on the verses and of course, it is psychotically heavy. Scott growls and snarls his way through, leading us to the almost heoric delivery on the chorus courtesy of Brent and Troy. Groooooowl. Like man growls though. Beat your lying lover to this song and then repent as the wonderful chorus kicks in. The song is just plain ol’l heavy, children screaming, dogs and cats living together, pure pandemonium. ****½ my 3rd favorite track.

7 . The Last Baron – WARBLE! So much vocal WARBLE. Caps lock when I say WARBLE. This song gives you no doubt that horrific shit is about to go down. Escalating vocals and a quiet pre-chorus that asks “Please, Please take my hand, please take my soul to the end so we can always be around.” The construction of this 13 minute anthem must have been the queen of all bitches because despite the length, it never drags, it never gets old. It just makes you anticipate the next ridiculous leap the band is prepared to make. Grab your nation’s flag and wave it at a Klan member to this song. Dailor’s drum are so so very wonderful. The lyrics have gone mad. I am out of descriptive terms and things are just now really picking up. Madness flows through all the little WARRRIOOOORS of the mind and I give up. This is wonderful and I shouldn’t have to tell you why. Also, my hands hurt from typing. ***** Brent, show me your tattoos.

Final Thoughts: There is no short comings on this release, everyone brings their A Game and it is no place for the weak or lazy. So I should probably get away from it.

Favorite lyric: Spiraling up through the crack in the sky, leaving material worlds behind. I see your face in constellations, the martyr is ending his life for mine. – The Czar

Rating: There aren’t enough stars in the SKYE (SEE WHAT I FUCKING DID THERE?!) to give this thing, so we’ll just go ***** and call it the best album released in 2009. Poignant, sweet, strange and maddening, all the things I love wrapped in one very sweaty ball.