Release Date: March 24, 2009
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska

Mastodon is one of those progressive rock bands that takes a certain kind of person with a lot of patience to make it through their albums. Many of their albums, Crack the Skye included, are esoteric, lengthy and will be, for some listeners, tedious. If you want something easy to digest, this won’t be the right album. The album takes a look at astral travel, wormholes and some of Stephen Hawking’s theories, so it isn’t difficult to see the highly cerebral aspect of Mastodon’s latest release.

“Oblivion” is a strong opener for the album and does a good job of building slowly on the introduction which adds some suspense to the track. For those who might be unfamiliar with the band, it also gives a quick sense of the type of metal one is dealing with here. The vocals are easy to follow and don’t get too growly which allows listeners to actually follow the narrative that has been established throughout the album. “Diviniations” continues this narrative and while the song has a faster feel and more intense sound, it clearly fits with the style established on the first track.

Part of the narrative takes the main character to Czarist Russia and this is one of the aspects of the album that will require intense focus from listeners. The track “The Czar” is almost 11 minutes long and builds very slowly. However, if one is patient, the track is quite interesting in how it is constructed and really does take listeners on a bit of a journey. However, for those with short attention spans, the song may seem too long and too tiring.

The album’s title track has a nice opening with some interesting guitar work and a good build-up.   One has to give credit to Mastodon for their technical skills which come through clearly on some of the guitar solos and instrumental sections. This track, unlike some of the others, does have more of a guttural sound on the vocals which adds a different dimension, though it sometimes can be a bit distracting from the intriguing instrumental aspects.

Crack the Skye is a highly intelligent album, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that it will appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Established Mastodon fans will have a good idea of what they’re getting into, but for those newcomers to the progressive metal scene, this might be a bit much for beginners.

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