Crack the Skye

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Crack the Skye
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 24, 2009[1]
RecordedApril – September 2008[2][3]
StudioSouthern Tracks Studios, Atlanta, Georgia
ProducerBrendan O'Brien
Mastodon chronology
Blood Mountain
Crack the Skye
Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly EP
Singles from Crack the Skye
  1. "Divinations"
    Released: January 20, 2009[6]
  2. "Oblivion"
    Released: February 16, 2009[7]

Crack the Skye is the fourth studio album by American heavy metal band Mastodon, released on March 24, 2009, through Reprise, Sire and Relapse Records.[8][9] The album debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200, selling 41,000 copies in its first week.[10] In Australia, the album debuted at number 19.[11] It had sold 200,000 copies in the US as of September 2010, making it one of their highest-selling albums to date.[12]

According to an interview on the DVD The Making of Crack the Skye, this album represents the element of aether, which is represented by the souls and spirits of all things, a theme closely related to the context of the album. Because the elements of fire, water and earth have already been represented by the band's first three albums Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain and the band's seventh album Emperor of Sand, respectively, the element of air is the only classical element which has yet to be represented by a Mastodon album, as their follow-up studio albums The Hunter and Once More 'Round the Sun do not represent an element, nor are they concept albums.

Crack the Skye is the first studio album to feature drummer Brann Dailor as the band's third lead vocalist.

Musical and lyrical themes[edit]

The band in Southern Tracks recording studio in Atlanta, Georgia

Drummer Brann Dailor described the album as more "focused" than its predecessor, Blood Mountain: "Maybe there was a deeper heart to this record that needed more exploring ... We got more involved with feeling the vibe of the record and everything feels more creepy and spaced out and something special is going on."[13] During the composition of the record, Brent Hinds listened to In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson every day as inspiration, while Dailor and Troy Sanders listened to Pink Floyd's Animals.[14]

Vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders said in an interview with Stereogum, "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. ... Basically we're exploring the ethereal world. We're dissecting the dark matter that dominates the universe, in a nutshell."[15]

When asked in multiple interviews Dailor said the record would tell a story dealing variously with the art aesthetics of Tsarist Russia, astral travel, out of body experiences and Stephen Hawking's theories on wormholes.[16]

There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin's body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin's body through the crack in the sky(e) and Rasputin is the wise man that is trying to lead the child home to his body because his parents have discovered him by now and think that he is dead. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it's too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them down ... there are some obstacles along the way.[17]

Dailor has also said that "Crack the Skye" is meant as a homage to his sister, Skye Dailor, who committed suicide at age 14.[18]

My sister passed away when I was a teenager and it was awful, and there's no better way to pay tribute to a lost loved one than having an opportunity to be in a group with my friends and we make art together. Her name was Skye, so Crack the Skye means a lot of different things. For me personally, it means the moment of being told you lost someone dear to you, [that moment] is enough to crack the sky.

Scott Kelly, who guested on the title track, has this to say about the song:

That song was a really, really heavy song to do. That song was about Brann's sister and how she passed away, and it was a story that I was very familiar with from knowing Brann. When he decided to do that, he called me up to talk to me about it and said "this is what I wanna do" and "I really, really want you to sing the song" and I said, you know "sure, I will". I took it really seriously and I emailed with Brann's Dad a couple of times and just talked to him about Skye, and then he sent me a photograph of her actually, and I sat there and looked at that photograph of her and just kinda meditated on her and on all of the situation, and the family and then actually set all that shit up in the studio and recorded the song with her picture there, and I just really tried to do it as real as I felt I could.


Paul Romano, who had done all of Mastodon's album artwork to that point,[citation needed] created the art for Crack the Skye.[19] The piece features various ethereal images tied in closely with the overall concept of the record. Crack the Skye was released in two editions: the standard and limited edition. The latter has an elaborate packaging with a tunnel book that, when looked through, reveals three-dimensional-like imagery.[citation needed] A "hidden" picture of Brann Dailor's sister, Skye, can be seen on both sides of the tunnel book as well.[citation needed]


Crack the Skye has been released as standard CD version and CD/DVD version, which included a bonus DVD with a documentary and a track commentary. Furthermore, standard single-disc LP and limited-edition 2xLP were released. A "super-deluxe" CD/DVD version that includes a tunnel book and a lithograph of the album art sold out during pre-orders, and a "Royal Edition" with a CD of the instrumental versions of the songs and an entirely new black-and-gold artwork was released on December 15, 2009.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
The Guardian[23]
The New York Timespositive[24]
Pitchfork Media8.0/10[26]
Rock Sound[28]
Rolling Stone[29]

The initial critical response from music critics to Crack the Skye was very positive. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received a score of 82, based on 29 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim".[20]

Amongst the positive reviews received from critics was Total Guitar's Nick Cracknell who awarded the album a 5/5 rating, describing it as "even more ambitious in scope and sound than 2006's Blood Mountain. Embracing elements of prog and country, but above all classic rock, Hinds and Kelliher literally add new dimensions to the band's ever-expanding sound." Decibel, who named Blood Mountain as their number 1 album of 2006, gave Crack the Skye a 7/10 rating as reviewer Joe Gross responded that "Crack is clearly designed as a grower, not a shower, the sound of a band that grew tired of people not responding to their ground game, so they put the ball in the air. Who knows when it will come down?" Clash's review was particularly glowing in its praise for the album, saying "no metal release of 2009 is likely to be as important as Crack the Skye." The review praised the album's expansive sound and emotion, and finished by claiming that the album is "surely destined to become the stuff of legend". Reviewer Nate Chinen of The New York Times noted the album's "ambitious vision and vivid execution".[31] The New Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones lists it as one of his favorite albums of the year on his personal blog[32] and, in an article for The New Yorker, called Crack the Skye a "deeply entertaining album".[33]


Crack the Skye was named amongst the most well received albums of 2009 by numerous music publications. Classic Rock magazine placed it a No. 3 of its Top Albums of 2009, while Kerrang! place it at No. 4 in its Top Albums of 2009.[34] Time magazine placed "Crack the Skye" at No. 3 on its Top 10 Albums of 2009 list,[35] and Rock Sound named it their Album of the Year for 2009. In addition, Spin magazine listed it as the 17th best album of the year.[36] Rhapsody called it the 7th best album of 2009.[37] The album was also voted the No. 1 Album of 2009 by Metal Hammer's critics and contributors.[38] In 2014, TeamRock put Crack the Skye at No. 57 on their Top 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time list, commenting: "Mastodon's 2009 album has the blood and thunder from previous releases, but takes everything to a new musical level. A restive and sophisticated piece of work from the prog heavyweights".[39] The album was honored with a 2009 Metal Storm Award for Best Alternative Metal Album.[5]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Mastodon, except "Crack the Skye" (additional lyrics by Scott Kelly).

4."The Czar"
  • I. "Usurper" – 3:45
  • II. "Escape" – 3:08
  • III. "Martyr" – 0:35
  • IV. "Spiral" – 3:26"
5."Ghost of Karelia"5:24
6."Crack the Skye" (featuring Scott Kelly)5:54
7."The Last Baron"13:00
Total length:50:03
  • The Making of Crack the Skye – exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary
  • Track-by-track commentary – video commentary of the album by the band
  • Photo gallery – slide of various images from the band


  • Rich Morris – keyboards, synth and mellotron
  • Scott Kelly  – lead vocals on "Crack the Skye"
  • Brendan O'Brien – production, mixing, backing vocals


Chart (2009) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[11] 19
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria) 42
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders) 26
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia) 73
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[41] 13
Danish Albums (Hitlisten) 37
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) 56
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista) 6
French Albums (SNEP) 106
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[42] 36
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)[43] 38
Irish Albums (IRMA)[44] 37
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) 23
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista) 6
Scottish Albums (OCC)[45] 27
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan) 23
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade) 58
UK Albums (OCC) 34
US Billboard 200[46] 11
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[47] 4
US Top Hard Rock Albums (Billboard)[48] 3
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[49] 4
US Top Tastemakers (Billboard)[50] 1


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Silver 60,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


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  3. ^ "Mastodon: New Interview, Performance Footage Available". September 11, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Buchanan, David. "Mastodon The Hunter". Slant Magazine. Retrieved October 30, 2018. Crack the Skye was a gift to heavy metal that the band will likely never top, a culmination of all the insane solos, proggy detours, and thunderous sludge riffing that had defined the first decade of Mastodon's career.
  5. ^ a b "Metal Storm Awards 2009 - Metal Storm".
  6. ^ "Divinations – Single". iTunes Store. Apple. Archived from the original on June 18, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  7. ^ "Oblivion – Single". iTunes Store. Apple. Archived from the original on June 18, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
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  13. ^ Mastodon On New Album And Supporting Metallica and Slayer, The Quietus (November 4, 2008)
  14. ^ Farber, Jim (May 8, 2009). "Mastodon brings mammoth change". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on December 10, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
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  18. ^ "Mastodon Talk Doomy, 'Timeless' New Album". MTV. February 12, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
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  20. ^ a b "Mastodon: Crack the Skye (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
  21. ^ "Mastodon - Crack The Skye - Album Review". AbsolutePunk. March 24, 2009. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  22. ^ Jurek, Thom (March 24, 2009). "Crack the Skye - Mastodon: Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  23. ^ Johnston, Emma (March 15, 2009). "Rock review: Mastodon, Crack the Skye". The Guardian. London.
  24. ^ "New CDs". The New York Times. March 23, 2009.
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External links[edit]