Mastodon, “Crack the Skye” (Warner Bros.) [3.5 STARS]

SHARE Mastodon, “Crack the Skye” (Warner Bros.) [3.5 STARS]
SHARE Mastodon, “Crack the Skye” (Warner Bros.) [3.5 STARS]

The problem with a lot of the so-called “prog-metal” genre is that the bands either skimp on the unrelenting bottom of great metal in their effort to be pointlessly complex and “progressive,” or the invention and melody of great progressive-rock is barely discernable amid the thunderous metal assault. The Atlanta quartet Mastodon gets it right on both counts, and on its eagerly anticipated fourth studio album, it also adds a wonderfully dark and disorienting psychedelic swirl (a la vintage Hawkwind) and an even more ambitious conceptual construct than on its 2004 epic “Leviathan” (nominally inspired by Melville’s Great White Whale).

The story is graphic-novel gonzo, involving a crippled young man who projects himself into an alternate universe via astral travel and meets up with Rasputin, though as drummer Brann Dailor told Billboard, “It’s all metaphors for personal s–t.” As focused as the lyrics are obtuse, the concise, powerful production of Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine) keeps things firmly rooted in the requisite dinosaur thump even as the vocals acquire a new melodic edge (relatively speaking) and the guitars veer off into the psychedelic stratosphere in a way that suggests that Mastodon is only beginning to come into its own and show us what it’s really capable of.

The Latest
The Magic won the lottery Tuesday night and landed the top overall pick for the first time since they got Dwight Howard in 2004.
The honor comes with a $25,000 grant for the Hyde Park theater company currently in the midst of its 67th season.
The enrollment reached 100% of freshmen at four Chicago Public Schools during the last two years, according to the report from the CPS inspector general.
The settlement before a lawsuit was filed marks the latest chapter in the story of the now-defrocked priest Daniel McCormack, one of the most notorious pedophiles in the history of Chicago’s archdiocese.
It takes a little time to assemble, so consider the process a meditative exercise with comforting results.