It'll probably take Mastodon fans a while to warm up to Crack the Skye. The band's latest trades some of the brutal crunch associated with albums such as 2004's Leviathan in favor of an artsier, more intricate sound. Producer Brendan O'Brien, who worked most recently with Bruce Springsteen, pushes the vocals up front and accentuates melodic passages even on the aggressive title track, which begins with guttural growling before introducing a soaring chorus and studio tweakage that'll have aficionados screaming "Prog!" Still, multiple listens make it clear that the album isn't the sort of compromise performers talk themselves into when they're desperate for more airtime. Numbers like "Divinations" and "The Last Baron" are accessible yet challenging, with structural twists and turns every bit as intricate as they were in the past, if a bit more subtle. Unlike its prehistoric namesake, Mastodon, performing with Intronaut and Kylesa, is evolving in ways that should ensure its long-term survival.
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