Progress Report: Mastodon
PROGRESS REPORT: Crack The Skye out early 2009; recorded in Atlanta, Georgia at Southern Tracks studio
You don’t need us or Mastodon vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders to tell you what Mastodon’s next LP, Crack the Skye, will sound like. It’s going to be some combination of “brutal,” “fucking” and “epic.” But the album does follow some brutal problems for the band. One setback, says Sanders, was Brent Hinds’ head injuries following the MTV Video Awards. Band members also had family problems to deal with, which made the time they spent writing and recording in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, that much more necessary. It was not only their first real break from touring in eight years, it was also one of the few times they’ve recorded close to home.
Luckily one of their top choices for producer was fellow Atlantan Brendan O’Brien, who’s recorded Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and AC/DC, among many others. They spent June working with O’Brien at Atlanta’s Southern Tracks, a relaxed experience that let them leave at the end of the day to “go home at night and sleep in our own beds and pet our own dogs,” says Sanders. That sort of routine sounds neither brutal nor epic, but the calm left room for the band to explore new ideas. “[Crack The Skye] is a departure from everything we’ve previously recorded in the sense that we kinda strapped on our aeroshells and departed from Earth for a while, and then captained to the ethereal element of the universe and kind of slept on the roof of the world for a while to get a perspective on this record.” Metaphors like that are likely why Sanders refers to his band as “this art we call Mastodon.” They wanted a creepier album, but they honed in on big classic rock sounds too — King Crimson, Yes, and Frank Zappa. Its seven tracks cover an hour, due in part to Sanders’ favorite song, “The Last Baron.” “It’s the last track, it’s 15 minutes long and it’s like an epic-journey-home-type song,” he says. “It’s a bizarre achievement for us to have a 15-minute song where we don’t feel like it’s repetitive.”
Though Crack The Skye has a story, it seems less linear this time than either Leviathan or Blood Mountain, and hints at something less tangible and more esoteric. “Basically we’re exploring the ethereal world. We’re dissecting the dark matter that dominates the universe, in a nutshell,” says Sanders. There’s a lot more. “It gets way more detailed and far beyond fucked up if I were to explain the whole thing to you.” Mastodon are on the Unholy Alliance Tour with Slayer, but they aren’t playing much from Crack The Skye. Not because it’s too hard to explain, but because Slayer fans aren’t patient people. “We just play what’s familiar to folks. We start, we punish, and we don’t stop. Then we walk off the stage. We don’t give anybody any time to dislike us,” he explains. “And we don’t allow any dead space in our sets [for Slayer fans] to throw Snickers bars or AA batteries at us.”
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