14 March 2009

Addendum to Crack the Skye

This afternoon, in between working on some posts for Tilzy.tv, I've been taking in another listen to Mastodon's latest to see what kind of effect it has on me during non-drunken weekend hours. It's not as terrible as I originally thought, and "Divinations" (the song with the awesome video) is pretty rad, but overall this is an album of filler material.

While chatting right after the first listen, I made the comparison of Mastodon to Tool, with the caveat that Mastodon was able to squeeze in one more awesome album before releasing a steaming pile of overproduced radio bollocks. I absolutely hate everything Tool released after ├ćnima and although I'm enjoying Crack the Skye more than Lateralus (10,000 Days was just an abomination in my book), that isn't saying much.

As I said in my initial post a lot of the vocals on here are just too saccharine and radio-safe (though I'm typing to Scott Kelly rocking on the title track and this part I do like, until the background comes in and ruins it). One thing that's apparent is that these guys are trying new things and experimenting. While that's great and ultimately necessary, I'm wondering why nobody told them that they don't have the chops to sing, nor does the vocal style they've appropriated fit with the rest of their sound.

The most egregious examples of all my issues with this album can be found in the fourth track, "The Czar". This track is little more than consumer pabulum and makes me question a lot of the decision-making of everyone involved in its production (kinda like the film Showgirls). Every track on the album (the final track, "The Last Baron", was not on any pre-release copies, so I've yet to hear it) has at least a few parts that rip, only to be pulled back down by what is presumably an experiment gone awry, but after a decent intro "The Czar" afterward fails in almost every respect.

After Blood Mountain came out it was pretty clear that Mastodon had crossed a bridge. No longer were they going to be beasts of sludgy, hardcore-influenced prog metal, but that was fine. A maturation process occured for them as a band and, though it took me a couple listens to really get into parts of that album, I really came to love it. I don't get that vibe from this latest effort at all. With a few more listens I'll come to accept it and enjoy parts of it, but overall I'm just not happy with the results. I was expecting something different, but they took some different turns than I would have.

In an email about this to my boy Wayne over at Hooks So Big I mentioned that the vocals weren't my biggest problem, but after this listen, I think they actually are. "The Czar" sucks and all, but the title track and the opener, "Oblivion" could have been fucking killer ripping tracks that were undone by shitty vocals (Scott Kelly excluded). I concluded that email to Wayne by saying this:
I NEED THEM TO ROCK ME LIKE AN AFGHAN ADULTERER not rock me to sleep. you know what album has great clean(er/ish) vocals, great melodies and harmonies and also rocks the fuck out? Enslaved's Vertebrae. i can't stop listening to that motherfucker and it keeps getting better. that's what i was hoping from mastodon and they didn't really deliver.
So I guess these are my final thoughts on the matter for a little while. As a topic of conversation this album has certainly been on many, many people's lips, which is a good thing. Intelligent disscussion about music is always a good thing, some measure of consolation here at least. I'm still torn on whether or not I want to see this performed live, but as far as I know the shows are sold out or anything, keeping my window of opportunity open lest I decide to take the leap through.

Anyway, time to put on some Morbid Angel and get back to writing for work.


Wayne said...

You at least like Mastodon enough to have given it another critical go-through, so that says something about why you're so let down here.

Regarding Tool...
10,000 Days has TONS of filler, but the stuff that record does, it does VERY VERY WELL.("Jambi" fucks my shit up every time) I also really enjoy Lateralus quite a bit. Probably the best Danny's drums have sounded, production-wise.

Do you tend to like King Crimson, Zappa, Yes, and groups of that ilk. Mastodon dropped those names pretty heavily as inspiration for CTS>

Ajax said...

I agree, but I think the album is better than just filler. The Czar is a weird track for sure. But I think there are more hits than misses here.

ms said...

The album is okay. The imagery reminds me of Tool's Lateralus tour big time. I think Brann and Mastodon were inspired by it and didn't directly rip it off since it is after all Alex Grey/astrologically based. The album is like Soundgarden's Superunknown, as their most critically acclaimed and most successful saleswise. But on the ensuing tour they never could pull off all the songs live. Far too melodic and not a natural part of the band's sound. I hope Mastodon doesn't end up the same way Soundgarden did back in 97', broken up.