Atlanta's Mastodon climbed to the top of the metal heap the old-fashioned way. Taking the template for success etched by Metallica, the band captured the imagination with a series of albums that offered potent heaviness and relentless experimentation. After graduating from respected indie Relapse, they released 2006's acclaimed BLOOD MOUNTAIN, an album with a fire motif/fantasy adventure concept that opened numerous doors both commercially and critically. Their latest, CRACK THE SKYE, completes their elemental cycle by focusing on "ether," while also serving as a tale of czarist Russia. The progressive metal elements that bled into their sound on BLOOD MOUNTAIN are pushed even further here, led once more by Brann Dailor's furiously technical drumming. As Dailor goes, so goes the band, and his stick work remains some of the finest this side of Neil Peart. The crackling "Divinations" follows up the contemplative, restrained "Oblivion" with furious thrash riffs and springy dueling fretwork, and "Quintessence" wraps glittering guitar arpeggios around Dailor's impossibly percolating drums. The four-part "The Czar" is a towering epic that comes off like Rush on steroids, each part with its own distinct feel. A more mature and adventurous metal album is unlikely to be heard for a long time.
Rolling Stone (p.81) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "CRACK THE SKYE is an awesome display....It's thrill-ride stuff that conjures not just art-metal predecessors such as Helmet but also old-school prog-rockers like Rush, Frank Zappa and Yes."
Spin (p.74) - "CRACK THE SKYE is a seven-song, 50-minute phantasmagoria of psychedelic song structures, cosmic lyrics, and foreboding atmosphere. Opener 'Oblivion' provides a fiery summary of what's to come..."
Spin (p.31) - Ranked #17 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2009" -- "Mastodon's fourth album is their glossiest effort yet."
Alternative Press (p.116) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Guitarist Bill Kelliher's mathy riffing is simply seismic; standouts 'Oblivion' and 'Quintessence' juxtapose burning-horizon solos and must-mosh-now thunderclaps."
Kerrang (Magazine) (p.50) - "The record rumbles to life with the ominous 'Oblivion,' the sound of thunder moving over mountains, and the menacing tone this strikes is prevalent throughout and best demonstrated on the title-track, which is one of the meanest and most overpowering songs you're likely to hear this year..."
Q (Magazine) (p.107) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]heir most mainstream to date....A sprawling prog-metal masterpiece....Richly rewarding..."
Blender (Magazine) (p.61) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "New to the mix are rich vocal harmonies, Vocoder, organ and unprecedented awesomeness....Mastodon present a prog-metal concept that would make Stephen Hawking bang his head."
Pitchfork (Website) - "'The Czar,' a four-part, 11-minute epic that's still only the second-longest song on the album, gargles and fumes and lurches for nearly three minutes before launching into its first glorious steamroller riffs."