HistoryThis Georgia band has been the bane of simplicity and the cohort of complexity since day one i.e. 1999. Aside from early singer Eric Saner the group has kept a steady line-up and managed to find a believer in Warner Music beginning in 2005. Brann and Bill met the other two at a High On Fire show and resolved to form a band. The group’s first outing was a self-titled 2000 demo.
Like Enslaved the band focuses on separate elements on different albums and depicts the same through graphics ensconced in its logo. The band is not shy about acting as a tribute band on various full-lengths and samplers. Call Of The Mastodon was a sampler in reality. Relapse issued a DVD of the band in 2006 called The Workhorse Chronicles: The Early Years 2000-2005. Blood Mountain (and Warner) got the band an appearance on American late night talk show, Late Night With Conan O’Brien. The year after the band was featured on the Unholy Alliance DVD with Slayer, Lamb Of God, Children Of Bodom and Thine Eyes Bleed. Crack The Skye brought the band a European supporting slot with Metallica and another late night television appearance, this time on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Mastodon released a split seven-inch with Canada’s Feist in 2012 to celebrate Record Store Day. This vinyl featured Mastodon covering Feist song A Commotion and Feist covering Mastodon's Black Tongue. Mastodon picked Once More Round The Sun as the title for its 2014 album. It would be released by Reprise Records on June 24th and was recorded in Nashville with producer Nick Raskulinecz. Once More 'Round The Sun sold 34,000 copies in the United States of America in its first week of release to end up at position Number 6 on The Billboard chart. The band would be on US TV Show Jimmy Kimmel Live on September 15th. Guitar Player magazine had a 2015 interview with Mastodon's Brent Hinds who insisted he dislikes heavy metal. "I never really liked heavy metal in the first place," he says. "I came from Alabama playing country music, surf rock, rockabilly, and stuff like that…” Judas Priest and Mastodon would play Slipknot's Knotfest on October 24-25th at San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore, California. The band had a new album, called Emperor Of Sand, on March 31st 2017 through Reprise Records. Mastodon supported its Emperor Of Sand album by appearing on American network ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! on April 3rd. The Best Metal Performance at USA’s Grammy Awards went to Mastodon in 2018. The band would tour with Primus that spring. The band canceled a tour with Dinosaur JR in late 2018. The tour was dustbined "due to a critical situation of a member of the Mastodon family" according to the band. Thin Lizzy recruited Troy Sanders to play bass for the act for its summer 2019 shows. DC Comics announced a Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack featuring Mastodon. The soundtrack was released on July 16th 2021. There was no connection musically or visually to death metal. Mastodon released a new album, Hushed And Grim, through Reprise on October 29th 2021. The band had a single and a music video for the song Pushing The Tides. Opeth, Mastodon and Zeal & Ardor toured the USA in November and December. The band was nominated for a Grammy in the USA. Dailor announced he had contracted COVID-19.
MASTODON - CALL OF THE MASTODON - RELAPSE
Hit the snooze button for the cash-in mark; here comes another Relapse Records release designed to bilk milk money out of the wary customer. Call Of The Mastodon is not a new album by the band. The disc is a compilation of the recordings of a band that is no longer with Relapse and culled from singles and the Lifesblood EP.
Problem number one: labels scavenging every nook and cranny to field material by a band lost to another label.
Problem number two: This early material was released elsewhere years ago. If anyone really wants them (ah, the clamour of the masses ransacking entire urban centres in search of this material!) they could probably source them.
Music-wise, even this early material shows Mastodon as a band not content with straightforward compositions and bound to as many time changes and jazzed up metal twists and turns as possible. The couple of vocals, weak as they are, bark on top of one another as the band appeals to the whacked and the wanna-be. At least, these have been reworked for a semblance of value. The only thing worse then a title like We Built This Come Death is the silly whining that passes as vocals on the track which, in turn, beats this blatant bile of burglary. - Ali “The Metallian”
MASTODON - CRACK THE SKYE - REPRISE
There are metal bands and then there's Mastodon. Blood Mountain propelled them to the forefront of metal in 2006, and Crack The Skye solidifies their position. This is a truly great album, and you deserve to get it.
Crack The Skye is easily their most progressive album, and it's obvious from the first track, the crushing Oblivion. The album contains two extended tracks, The Czar and The Last Baron, both of which are really great. But this also shows through in the doomier atmosphere. The album is noticeably slower and darker then previous Mastodon efforts, and the sound on Remission and songs like Island and The Wolf Is Loose has been completely omitted in favour of a much more subdued tone. This works quite well. Although I missed the faster, angrier songs at first, the album won me over almost immediately.
The other thing towards the atmosphere is the vocals, which now are completely clean. This is actually a pretty daring move, because the lyrics are now half-intelligible -- not to mention the move away from the vocals on stuff like Leviathan. Personally, I don't mind. It actually adds texture to a lot of the songs (especially Quintessence) to have real singing.
Speaking of texture, check out Brann Dailor, the dude behind the drums with the earring and the sneer. Anyone who has heard Mastodon's previous work knows how insanely skilled he is (and if you haven't, go buy it right now). On Crack The Skye, he's more subdued too. Although it loses the aspect of being able to say "Holy shit..." at the drum pyrotechnics at any point, his performance fits in with the album and the band. Mastodon in general feels much more unified, and a lot of that is due to Dailor delivering a performance sans constant insane fills.
The melody stands out too. This is their most melodic album yet, and it has a polish few metal albums have. It works, very well. The guitars actually take some solos, keyboards are added (with great effect), and the melodies on the title track and The Last Baron stand out especially. The polish and finesse is generally huge.
Honestly, Crack The Skye just kicks ass. I'm trying to think of a way to describe it in terms that really give you a feel for the scope of the thing, and I can't do it. It is self-contained, and there's really nothing for me to add except my admiration. In seven songs and 50 minutes, it manages to completely accomplish blowing your mind in a memorable and original way. There is no filler (and there was on previous albums). Every song adds something to the table, from the mind-blowing Ghost Of Karelia to the epic The Czar to my personal favourite, Divinations, which takes banjos to a new level (and I will describe no more than that). If you like any kind of prog, doom, or modern metal, you will like this album.
As for the story, you can follow it if you want to, and you should probably try at least once. If you can't, that's cool. The story is about like a Russian dude who cracks the skye and travels through some wormholes and stuff. I don't really know, because I gave up part way through the album. It's not essential that you follow it, but you should at least try.
If there's one flaw, it's probably a strength too - the lack of faster, thrashier stuff. As I said, it works really well, and it's what they were trying to do. But I can't pretend I didn't wish there was more songs then Divinations that really brought the speed. It really doesn't matter too much, but I just think a lot of people will wish there was more flat-out anger.
Crack The Skye is a great album. Words don't do it justice. It's an experience you need to have. One thing I will say against it is that the more expensive version of it with the "scores", meaning a version of every song with no vocals, is largely pointless. I see no reason to omit the vocals; the scores version suffers. Just buy the normal one and save three bucks, and you'll love it. Every once in a while, there comes an album that really makes you sit up and say "Wow." Crack The Skye is that album. Mastodon is that band. - Max V.
MASTODON - CRACK THE SKYE - REPRISE
The opening of Oblivion, the album opener, is South Of Heaven inspired. It sounds like a heavy rock version of the aforementioned. Oblivion continues to exude a bit of a heavy grunge feel. It is certainly not capable of making heads move much, it is almost like Alice In Chains and Black Sabbath got together. Divinations makes the listener wonder if Mastodon attempted to make a stoner type album with Crack The Skye.
Quintessence begins to bore if the listener is expecting more punch. The Czar is a four part almost 11 minute song. It drags on, probably for the sake of its story or concept. The four parts, Usurper, Escape, Martyr and Spiral, predictably offer slow and higher tempo segments without overwhelming too much. Ghost Of Karelia keeps up the tempo a bit longer. The title track offers the first appearance of somewhat angry vocals but it is then followed by some metalcore-type fully clean vocals. It really doesn't help and it's been too many years since one can call this original or different. The Last Baron is 13 minutes long and once again musically doesn't go anywhere a song this long hasn't gone before.
Crack The Skye is a Rasputin themed concept album, 50 minutes long and explores a few new realms without much originality in the musical department. The lyrics are more interesting, adventurous and weird. - Anna Tergel