Mastodon win the cointoss today, so we start our listening with the instantly comforting sounds of Crack The Skye. This album finds Mastodon at their most personal, emotional, and ambitious. It bears mentioning that Crack The Skye is in retrospect undeniably progressive. It's also surprisingly laidback, which is saying something for a band that had made their bones with self-indulgent guitar riffs and Brann Dailor's trademark snare drum flurries. Those fun elements are still here, but reined in enough to let the compositions themselves shine.
Less subtle? Firepower. And that's a good thing; it's hard to explain how much I'd missed listening to Priest until popping on this, their eighteenth studio album. Their sound has been retooled and updated a tiny bit, but for the most part this music wouldn't be out of place right next to Painkiller. Speaking up retooling and updating, this is with a doubt the best production that the band have ever had, thanks no doubt to Andy Sneap co-producing with Tom Allom. But while everyone sounds great, the lack of progression here is a problem. It's not an inherent failing of the album, and if you're sitting down to enjoy some Priest, I'd definitely recommend Firepower. But going up against Crack The Skye, Priest don't bring enough to the fight.
Mastodon trounce Judas Priest, and will go up against Gojira in three weeks! Tomorrow, we start the second half of the first round, with two albums released nine years apart: Isis and Ihsahn.