"Mastodon are a full-on metal band for people who think they're too cool to like metal," writes Will Hermes in his four-star Rolling Stone review of the latest from these veteran Atlanta bone crushers. Given the band's recent elbow rubbing with such Official Cool Dudes as Dave Grohl and Josh Homme, it's not hard to grasp Hermes's point.
Yet to my ears, Crack the Skye — Mastodon's second major-label disc, after their 2006 breakthrough, Blood Mountain — is actually the foursome's attempt to prove that a few years of hipster-metal hobnobbing haven't loosened their claim on out-and-out dorkhood.
Sure, there's more melody here than on previous Mastodon albums; opener "Oblivion" even has a sweetly grungy Alice in Chains breakdown. And Brendan O'Brien's production does increase the fist-pumping factor in "Divinations" and "Crack the Skye" — the latter of which bites some of Metallica's Black Album rumble. But this is still a forbiddingly dense piece of post-prog rock, with two cuts stretching past the 10-minute mark and (at least) one about Rasputin, the creepy Russian monk who's been providing suburban basement dwellers with lyrical fodder for about a century now.
It'll take a hardy Arcade Fire fan to bang his head to "Ghost of Karelia."
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Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, the album was misidentiied as Crack in the Skye. The correction has been made above.