Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mastodon's "Crack the Skye" - A plot to write home about

Mastodon's fans already know that the metal group is a little pretentious, in a Dungeons and Dragons sort of way. The band's concept albums have grown increasingly ambitious, though 2004's Moby Dick-themed Leviathan is still my favorite for its mad, raving Captain Ahab (Oh, and the song titles are terrific: "Blood and Thunder", "Iron Tusk" and "Aqua Dementia" all have very growlable names). And it goes without saying that Mastodon's cover art has always been part of the experience:

Awesome, or super awesome?

Leviathan also had the most coherent story; the band's first album, Remission, was about "fire," Blood Mountain was about "earth" and running around from place to place disoriented and confused, and their just-released Crack the Skye (incidentally the "aether"-themed album, proving they've run out of real elements) sees them taking a page from the The Mars Volta school of epic incoherence. In the words of the band's drummer:
"There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin's body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin's body through the crack in the sky and Rasputin is the wise man that is trying to lead the child home to his body because his parents have discovered him by now and think that he is dead. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it's too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them down…there are some obstacles along the way."
Crack the Skye is about physics, history and that grand old standby: good versus evil. And, from what I've heard so far, it's also pretty awesome. It doesn't bludgeon you as much as Blood Mountain, and the longer track lengths give time for some really sprawling compositions. It might be their best record so far. [Edit: Scratch that. It's now officially my favorite.]

Sample tracks (just click the "play this track" near the top of the page. Wait until you see the little player bar on the bottom before you click):

The Czar (A little over the first six minutes)

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