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Album Review: Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise)


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MP3: Mastodon – The Last Baron

It would seem that the negative stereotypes of prog are falling to the wayside, as artists from all genres are inching more and more into the no-fly zone of progressive.  The Decemberists jumped into the deep end with their latest, and metal-masters Mastodon further entrench themselves with their most proggish album yet.  On Crack the Skye, Mastodon presents itself as a full-on progressive metal entity, the echoes of early Metallica that resonated strongly on Leviathan are much more subdued.  You should expect as much, looking at the absolutely over-the-top album artwork (I hope the guys are as big fans of Big Trouble In Little China as their Lo Pan-ish imagery suggests).

To a large extent, this move farther towards the progressive was inevitable when considering Mastodon’s catalog and approach.  With a historian’s measure of exactitude and the flourish of a great novelist, they have always crafted epic tales, grander than most in the genre topically, and nearly all technically bombastic without overstaying its welcome.  Leviathan drawing no trivial amount of inspiration from Moby Dick, or the epic fantasy of Blood Mountain.  Crack the Skye edges towards decidedly more sci-fi fare, interdimensional and inter-temporal travel being lynchpins to the pseudo-plot.

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Bonnaroo 2008: Day 3 in Review

nice sax and tubaAs I meandered over to the Which Stage to wait for Sharon Jones, I heard strains of brass-driven jazz.  Soul Rebels Brass Band weren’t in the booklet schedule, but they more than satisfied my desire for groovy funk.  They combine a hip-hop approach to performance with jazz, funk and reggae.  Obviously really talented instrumentalists and veteran jamsters, they formed some tight, impromptu sounding grooves that really energized the crowd.

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Tres Bonn 2008: Mastodon

Mastodon are far and away the heaviest act at Bonnaroo. If you think Metallica can hold a handle to these guys, you are gravely mistaken.  Not to denigrate Metallica’s talent or show, but Mastodon are simply in a different league.

And thankfully, quite a departure from all the jam bands and hippie-friendly fare that populate the many stages in Manchester, Tennessee. I have been dying to see this band since I first heard their LP Leviathan. With their follow-up Blood Mountain, they made me a fan for life.

They are unafraid to transcend one of the major, self-imposed limitations of all music deemed heavy: the theme of naked, primal aggression.  Clearly embracing the rich tradition of heavy metal storytelling, Mastodon are unafraid to populate their lyrics with fantasy settings, an actual story, and decipherable lyrics all backed up by some of the most explosive prog-metal fireworks around and it’s a recipe for heavy aural nirvana.  A much needed alternative to all the testosterone-laden, meaningless breakdowns and primitive growling and songwriting that are flooding the heavy rock and metal genres today.  To me, Mastodon are at the forefront of metal, leading the movement in what can, and should, be.

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MP3: Mastodon – Aqua Dementia from Leviathan

4(artists)-for-1 Mostly Metal Monday

Dream Theater – Fatal Tragedy

Dream Theater – Master of Puppets (Metallica Cover)

Darkest Hour – The Sadist Nation

Wooly Mammoth – Head Full of Collision

Mastodon – I am Ahab

Isn’t that heavy metal image hilarious?

The first two tracks come from progressive metal standard-bearers Dream Theater. Almost all of them students from the Berklee school, their instrumental prowess is awe-inspiring. Fatal Tragedy comes from their prog opus/concept album, 1999′s Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes from a Memory while the second track is a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” For a previous tour, Dream Theater played several “Evening with…” format shows where they played seminal albums from rock history, namely Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Metallica’s Master of Puppets, in their entirety.

DC locals follow with the bands Darkest Hour (lead track from their ridiculously good LP Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation) and Woolly Mammoth (channeling some classic metal ala Sabbath and a load of blues-inspired rock). Mastodon rounds out your 4-for set. Enjoy!