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Album review: Mastodon's 'Crack the Syke'

March 16, 2009 |  5:06 pm

Mastodon240 Once a metal band has penned the tale of a Cyclops-Sasquatch (named Cysquatch, naturally), where else is there left to go topically? For the ambitious Atlanta band Mastodon, whose 2006 album "Blood Mountain" was one of the year's big genre-crossovers, the next move is to a place that Sun Ra, David Bowie and Lil Wayne have gone before them -- the mind-bending mysteries of the cosmos.

"Crack the Skye" is Mastodon's most involved album to date, relying on hyper-intricate guitar arrangements and production nuance in service of its freaky inter-dimensional mythology. There's all manner of wormhole travel, interplanetary necromancy and inscrutable subplots on Russian occultism here. But it's ably bolstered by the flurried riffs of "Divinations" and baroque dirges like "The Czar" and "The Last Baron."

Singer Brent Hinds' nimble cackle is in fine form, and though devotees of Mastodon's breakout "Leviathan" might find it a touch brooding, "Crack the Skye" is a headphone album for those commuting on the Nostromo of "Alien."

"Crack the Skye"
(Three stars)