Friday, August 28, 2009

Top 50 albums of the 00s - #47, Mastodon: Crack the Skye

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

Metal was completely dead. Metallica was busy covering Bob Seger, and the other pillars of the genre weren't really trying anymore. "Nu metal" was played out by Korn's second record. Every metal fan I know was clinging to anything with rapid riffs, but that almost surely were in the context of overtly cheesy songs with vocals that would make The Darkness' lead singer blush. There was no real reason to pay any attention to the genre. Then, rather suddenly, along came Atlanta's Mastodon. Their first few records were crafted with a strong sense of metal's glorious history. Their second full-length was a heavy metal reenvisioning of Moby Dick! As lofty as those intentions may have been, and though it is a decent album, it never really won me over.

In March of this year they released Crack the Skye. It is both an evolution and resurrection. There are no hot licks on this record. This is not heavy metal to blast in your Camaro while the wind whips your mullet around. There are so many things going on within each song, it takes about a dozen listens to get all of it. But right off the bat, it's clear that the band decided they were going to be as ambitious as possible. Sure, it is loud and heavy, but the edgiest thing about this record is all the rhythmic transitions. Drummer Bränn Dailor seems to be driving every song. He quite simply couldn't play any busier than this. The vocals are passed from one member to another, but we don't really care about them. My buddy Nick, a devout metalhead, says that he prefers to listen to the instrumental-only version. It's that impressive.

Obviously, this is one of the newest albums on the list. In many ways, I'm still just getting to know it. If I were to recreate this list in five years, who knows whether it would climb higher or I would simply tire of it, but at this point, my money's on the former. It's just an incredibly impressive effort that keeps paying more and more dividends. The big question is, what will it do for the genre as a whole? They are breaking new ground and will hopefully continue to do so. My hope is that the kids listening to this release and thinking of picking up a guitar themselves are inspired to push the limit. It's possible that years from now, this will be regarded as a landmark such as Are You Experienced? or What's Going On. OK, perhaps that's a bit lofty, but if this record can at least flirt with such a notion, we'll all be very fortunate. Don't be afraid. Give this a spin.

Previous Entries:
#48 - Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
#49 - At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command
#50 - Rival Schools: United by Fate

1 comment:

erik said...

The guitarist came into my place last week, he looked evil.