Mastodon, Kylesa, Intronaut | Metro | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Mastodon, Kylesa, Intronaut Recommended Member Picks Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Thu., April 30, 8 p.m. 2009

The endorsement of indie-rock tastemakers falls upon metal bands in an oddly arbitrary way, but that’s actually a blessing. Metal thrives on marginalization, and if the formula for crossover success weren’t so inscrutable, the genre might be more diluted by musicians courting the mainstream. Mastodon shone blindingly bright as the Pitchfork fest’s token metal band in 2007, but their fourth full-length, Crack the Skye (Reprise), is anything but an attempt to cater to their non-hesher audience—their brilliant, oddball brutality is more extravagant and difficult than ever. The themes of the band’s previous albums have corresponded loosely to the classical elements of fire (Remission), water (the Moby-Dick-inspired Leviathan), and earth (Blood Mountain), and Crack the Skye completes the set: its overarching narrative, just as impressionistic and nonlinear as the others, is infused with notions of air and the heavens, and involves a disabled scientist losing his way on the astral plane and ending up sharing Rasputin’s body during the death throes of czarist Russia. You can imagine you’re hearing undertones of Slavic orientalism in the pummeling, dazzling music, which can lash you into a trance state deep enough that you start to picture onion-dome cathedrals spattered with glowing star-stuff and blackening blood—while you’re in its thrall, the story might actually seem to make sense. You’ll be too incoherent to explain it when you emerge, though, and I bet that’s exactly the idea. —Monica Kendrick

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