I have long held that in the end, Mastodon is Brann Dailor’s band. He is the original reason that I started listening to these dudes from Atlanta, and while he has toned down his role more than ever, this time it’s his songwriting that stands out. Like Mountain before, thematic inspiration is coming from the band, instead of playing the middle man like they did on Leviathan (Moby Dick). The drama of Brent getting in a fight/coma, an intensified touring schedule and media attention, and hometown lives left behind; provide the lyrics on Skye with a sense of corrosive tension and loss.
For the first time Mastodon was damaged, so a catharsis is understandable. There was even some conversation about the death of Brann’s sister? Skye, being an influence for the album, but I can’t really speak on that. One thing I did notice, that no one seems to be talking about, are the parallels between the albums story line and the one obvious missing element. Looking at their catalogue I think to myself; Remission “Elephant Man,” Leviathan “Joseph Merrick,” Blood Mountain "Pendoulous Skin"; all instrumental songs dedicated to the historical figure. When I first saw the track listing I was surprised to find the familiar piece missing and heard that it would be about Rasputin. The Russian mystic turned out to be a peripheral influence, while astral travel as liberation from physical confinement (pause) is the over-arching message...any connection to Merrick, who knows?
I would have liked a little more kick, or even switching "Quintessence" with "Ghost of Karelia" in terms of album placement, but I hope further listening will prove me wrong. I did catch them on Dave Letterman show, one honest strike against the performance quality due to staging compromises, but the off-key vocals are another big strike. While touring Troy will have to get more comfortable live if he wants to due the album justice, and the same goes for Brent. I will have see Mastodon live and let them prove me wrong. I’m loyal like that.