Monday, January 2, 2012

Album of the Moment - Mastodon's "Crack the Skye"

I must admit I'm quite "late to the party" where Mastodon is concerned.  I grew up listening to a group called Mastedon, which is an entirely different kind of animal: a semi-progressive AOR/hard rock project helmed by one John Elefante, now more known for his pop albums than his rock material.  But in the modern age, Mastedon is mostly forgotten and Mastodon rules the minds of the modern metal masses.  I'd heard the name, seen the cool album art and heard samples, but hadn't bothered to buy any of their material yet until earlier this year when I happened upon copies of both "Blood Mountain" and "Crack the Skye" still-sealed and priced to sell at my favorite regional music store, so I thought to myself, "Perhaps it's time to find out what all the fuss is about."  So I bought the 2 CDs and took them home with me.

"Blood Mountain" is a good listen, though it gets a touch repetitive toward the end.  I probably need to give it a few more spins before I give it a final judgment.  But "Crack the Skye" resonated with me immediately.  It's a dense, brooding collection of progressive post-sludge metal that combines the thick chunky guitar riffing of their earlier material with much more atmosphere and a good melodic sense, even if the melody lines are a bit spare at times.  What struck me as well was the eerie, almost Ozzy Osbourne-esque vocals at times, and the judicious use of double-tracked vocals to include an underlying deeper-toned partner vocal which adds a nice touch.  I also appreciate the way they mix up the time signatures here and there, bust into an interesting solo once in a while, and just have loads of atmosphere in tow.  "The Czar" is a fantastic musical ride, starting out slowly and building through crescendos of riffs and swells of drums, "Oblivion" is a perfect lead-off track and single, with it's immediately engaging riff and sound, and the other songs on the album provide for plenty of listening enjoyment throughout.

I'm not ready to call myself a Mastodon "fanboy" just yet, but I'm starting to see why they have such a big fanbase.  I quite enjoy this CD, and am hoping as I collect more Mastodon material, I'll find something to love about each one.  I'm considering going all-vinyl for the rest of my Mastodon purchases, in part because I'm a collector and just love vinyl, but with music like this that has that real dense, warm feel to it, vinyl is the perfect medium, especially since they draw influences from Black Sabbath and early hard rock/metal like that as much as they're channeling Kyuss or The Melvins at times.  If you're reading this, you're probably laughing because you've heard this all before and I'm just telling you what you already know, but so be it.  I'm just glad I finally jumped on this particular bandwagon.

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