With the release of Crack the Skye (Reprise), the deep-fantasy maniacs of Mastodon marched the fine line between relentless thundering barrage and ridiculous high-concept pretense. (You have to have some pretty bitchin’ flame-retardant stage backdrops to sell Rasputin, astral travel, and Stephen Hawking’s wormhole theories to metal’s great unwashed.) As it turns out, either the competition is really thin or the intelligence of Metal Nation — especially its recently ascendant D&D faction — has once again been cruelly misunderestimated. That would explain why Crack the Skye debuted at #11 on the “Billboard 200” album chart, and why Mastodon duly ax-slapped both Metallica and Iron Maiden in our poll. As long as the grooves are deep, the bass is bowel-looseningly low, and blastbeats reliably rise and fall in the mix, even brainiac wizard metal can find a way to trump the old masters in the hearts of the faithful.
3_Lamb of God